Kitchen countertops undergo a lot of wear and tear relative to other home surfaces, and so finding a durable countertop is important for any homeowner. There are many options to choose from and ways to make any countertop more durable.
The most durable countertops for kitchens are natural stone countertops, which are heat resistant and can handle large amounts of impact without wearing down over time. They can also be protected from stains, scratches, and bacterial growth with the use of a protective sealant.
This article will discuss the most durable kitchen countertops on the market and ways to make your countertops even more durable after they are installed.
What Makes a Kitchen Countertop Durable?
Kitchen countertops are made from many different materials, some of which are more durable than others. They can also be cared for and treated with various materials to prevent damage and restore the material to a better state. There are many different kinds of wear and tear that can affect a kitchen counter, each of which requires its own kind of durability.
Kinds of Wear and Tear
Kitchen countertops are heavily used and susceptible to all kinds of wear and tear, more so than most other surfaces in your house. They also require special consideration because they need to be sanitary and safe for food handling.
The following are the most common kinds of wear and tear that you will find affecting your kitchen countertops:
- Bacterial contamination
- Stains from dyed or colored food
- Heat stains and burn marks
- Scratches from chopping
- Cracks from age
- Mildew, especially in grout
You will find that there are many ways to make your countertops more durable, but there are also several things that you can do to prevent this kind of damage from happening in the first place.
Protecting your countertops comes down to picking the best starting materials and understanding how to care for and maintain the counters that you have. Different materials are more prone to different kinds of damage than others, and so you should consider what your counters can and cannot withstand based on the materials.
Natural stone counters, for instance, tend to be very heat resistant, where the laminate is more likely to burn. That means that when you are working with a laminate countertop, it is especially important that you do not put hot pans and skillets directly on the counter surface, whereas you will not need to be as careful with hot items if you have a stone countertop.
Granite countertops are some of the most durable and long-lasting countertops on the market because they are made of a hard, solid stone. Because of the stone’s nature, granite countertops are unlikely to be damaged by heat and can handle direct contact with hot pots and pans.
Granite countertops work well with sealants, which keep stains from setting into the surface. Without a sealant, granite countertops can be susceptible to stains because of the stone’s porous nature.
To check whether your granite countertops have been treated with a sealant, sprinkle water and see whether it has been absorbed after fifteen minutes. If it stays as beads on the surface, your counter is treated with a sealant, and that sealant layer is still intact.
Honed granite countertops are much like the traditional polished granite countertop, but with more of a matte finish. They are just as resistant to heat and scratches, and just as durable.
Like granite, quartz holds up very well to heat and has the added benefit of being stain-resistant as well. It is made from quartz particles that are bound together with resin, so the surface is non-porous and unlikely to take in stains. It is also unlikely to scratch and is impact-resistant.
Quartz countertops are relatively low maintenance and do not need to be sealed because they are already built with resin. They need to be cleaned regularly, and even though they are stain-resistant, you can make stains even less likely by cleaning stubborn spots with a combination of hydrogen peroxide and flour, left to sit overnight.
Glass countertops are similar to quartz in that they are built with resin and are very resistant to scratches, stains, and heat. They are made from either crushed glass or large shards of glass, which changes the counter’s look but does not have an impact on durability.
Glass countertops are non-porous and easy to clean, and so are very unlikely to capture bacteria and are very resistant to stains. For a glass countertop that will be long-lasting and resistant to cracking and scratching, choose one that is at least one inch thick and tempered.
Recycled countertops are typically made from a mixture of concrete, glass, paper, plastic, and resin. They come in a variety of textures and have some differences in durability because they are made of different materials. However, because they are consistently made with a kind of resin, they are resistant to scratches, dents, and the collection of bacteria and mildew.
Soapstone is very heat resistant but can easily be scratched or dented. However, you can sand a soapstone countertop to remove these imperfections. Countertops made of soapstone are unlikely to stain and are very hard, and do best when treated regularly with a mineral oil like the Pure Organic Food Grade Mineral Oil.
These countertops are also known for their antique feel and appearance. The dents from use can be considered an addition to the historical look. Soapstone is also bacteria-resistant, making it a more hygienic choice than some other countertop materials.
Slate does not usually require a sealant because it is non-porous and is naturally resistant to stains and water. However, some choose to apply a sealant for extra protection, and there is no harm in doing so. It is softer than other stone countertops, which means that it can scratch and break more easily, and a sealant can provide protection against that kind of wear.
Slate can be cleaned with a damp cloth and a stone cleaner like the Lavenet Concentrate pH-Balanced Cleaner and should be thoroughly dried after a cleaning to prevent mineral deposits from forming. However, you should avoid using the following cleaners on a slate countertop:
- Oil-based products besides mineral oil and corn oil
- Products containing lemon
- Products containing vinegar
- Products containing wax
Wood or Butcher Block
Wood countertops are easily scratched, so you should always use a cutting board and regularly sand and oil the wood. They can last a long time when cared for properly and should be treated with a sealant to avoid cracking and bacterial growth, as well as water and stains. Wood countertops are naturally very resistant to heat damage.
Although some use a wood countertop as a direct working surface, you are safer using a cutting board for food preparation if you want to protect your countertop against scratches and damages. Even small damages can add up over time and prevent the wood from remaining durable in the long term.
Plastic laminate countertops are generally resistant to staining and heat. Because they are coated with plastic, they are very easy to clean and unlikely to promote the growth of bacteria. Although the only necessary care is usually a simple cleaning, if you notice a stubborn stain on your laminate countertop, you can treat it with a mixture of baking soda and water.
However, these counters can be prone to chipping and scratching, so you may consider treating them with a sealant.
You may also like: How to Remove Hard Water Stains on Laminate Countertops?
Tile countertops resist heat, cuts, and stains. Also, tiles are easily replaced if they break or crack. They are made from either stone slabs or ceramic, and tiles are adhered to a mortar with grout to hold them in place. Although the surface can be uneven, it is easy to clean and reliable over long periods.
Some tile is glazed, which makes for an extra non-porous surface. With or without glaze, these surfaces tend to be so hard that you can use them as working surfaces, but not with knives, because the hard tile would dull the knife blades.
The grout used to hold tiles in place is usually made from either cement, sanded cement, or epoxy. Cement grouts need to be sealed to protect against bacterial growth and last when cleaned and scrubbed, where epoxy grouts are hard but do not require sealing.
Stainless steel countertops do not allow bacteria to set in or build up over time and are considered the most hygienic countertops on the market. They can easily be cleaned with soap and water and are unlikely to stain.
Stainless steel countertops are also resistant to heat and do not rust, which means that you can leave hot or wet pans on the surface for long periods without worrying about permanent damage.
However, stainless steel is more likely than other materials to scratch and dent and can wear down over time. It is best to choose thicker stainless steel if you are going to choose this material.
How to Protect Your Countertop Against Wear and Tear
In order for a kitchen countertop to be truly durable, it needs to be resistant to all kinds of wear and tear. However, you will find that your own needs depend most on how you use your kitchen and your countertops.
No matter what kind of material your countertops are made of, there are ways for you to increase their durability and protect against wear and tear.
Use a Cutting Board
Even the most scratch-resistant countertops are susceptible to damage from knives, and so, working with a cutting board at all times is a good step towards avoiding wear and tear on your countertops. Although some counters are sold as working surfaces that do not need a cutting board, cutting boards are always a good idea when you are looking to extend counter longevity.
Avoid Applying Heavy Pressure
You will also want to avoid applying heavy pressure to your counters, whether that be by standing on them or stacking large, heavy items on top of them. This can cause stone countertops to break and others to dent, even if they are treated with a protective coating.
Apply a Protective Sealant
Sealants work by filling in the pores of your countertop material and providing a hard surface that keeps liquid and bacteria out, as well as grout and mildew. They are best applied after a thorough cleaning so that the sealant can harden properly and so that you are not sealing in any stains.
They need to be applied semi-regularly, with the exact time between coatings depending on how porous the starting material is. Less porous stone like granite requires sealing about once a year, where something more porous like marble needs to be applied every few months.
If cracks or breaks do happen, you can also use a sealant or epoxy mixture to fill them in so that they do not continue fracturing and cause an even bigger problem. This should be done as quickly as possible in order to minimize damage.
You should find a sealant appropriate for your countertop material because using the wrong kind for your material can alter the appearance in a negative way or fail to provide enough damage protection.
- For natural stone countertops, try the StoneTech BulletProof Sealer, which works its way into the surface and blocks out oil and water-based stains. It protects the appearance of natural stone and does a particularly good job covering marble, which other products are often unable to thoroughly coat because it is so porous.
- For wood or butcher block countertops, you can either treat the countertop by letting it soak in mineral oil once a month or apply a more long-lasting sealant like Waterlox Waterlox QT MED WD Seal/Finish, a food-safe and wood-friendly finish made from tung oil and resin. Waterlox needs to be applied three to five times, with a 24-hour waiting period between coatings.
- For laminate countertops, you have many options, as most oil or water-based finishes will work well on laminate, even if it is painted.
You can even try an especially durable epoxy resin finish, like the ProMarine Epoxy Resin. This resin is resistant to sunlight and fills in any craters, plus dries quickly and leaves a smooth, shiny surface.
- For tile countertops, try the Aqua Mix Sealer’s Choice Gold sealant, which maintains the tiled look and feel while providing a protective coating over both the tiles and the grouted areas. It works just as well with natural stone tiles as it does with ceramics and porcelain and is designed for use in the kitchen.
- You can use a similar coating for stainless steel countertops as you would use for a natural stone countertop. The SimpleCoat Natural Stone and Stainless Steel Sealer, for example, can safely be used on both and is safe for food surfaces.
Clean It the Right Way
Cleaning your countertop the right way can both protect against stains and bacterial growth and make sure that you do not wear down your sealant or underlying material in the cleaning process. The right way depends on the kind of material you are working with, and some are higher maintenance than others.
- Most natural stone counters like quartz or granite can be cleaned simply with gentle dish soap and microfiber cloths, although there are also a number of specialized cleaners on the market. But besides ordinary dish soap, the only tougher stain remover you should need is isopropyl alcohol. You should avoid using acidic cleaners like acid and vinegar, as they can wear the stone.
- Marble countertops can also be washed with water and dish soap, but here, you need to be especially careful not to use any kind of acidic cleaner, like vinegar or lemon juice. You also do not want to scrub marble countertops with any abrasive sponge or cleaner, as it can wear away and scratch very easily. Baking soda and water will work to remove deep stains.
- Wood or butcher block countertops need to be scrubbed first with water and dish soap, then rinsed with hot water and sprayed with white vinegar. The vinegar works as a sanitizer and can be wiped off with a damp cloth after a few minutes. Make sure to dry the countertop afterward to remove any remaining moisture.
- Tile countertops can easily be wiped clean, but the grout itself needs special cleaning, especially if it has not been sealed. Grout can easily collect particles of food and stain, and so should be treated with bleach and scrubbed with a scouring powder.
- Stainless steel countertops can easily be cleaned with a simple soap and water solution and do not require any other kind of special treatment.
Natural stone countertops tend to be the most durable, but you can make any countertop more durable with the application of a sealant and proper care. Understanding your countertop material is a good first step towards making sure that your countertops will last a long time.