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Marble is a popular and expensive household stone - limestone veined by impurities resulting in its mottled appearance (colors vary). It is used for fireplaces, hearths, table tops, food cutting boards, rolling pins, pestle and mortars, bathroom sink tops and floors. Because of its semi-porous nature it stains very easily and requires special care and maintenance to avoid permanent stains, yellowing, chips and scratches. However, serious damage may require professional intervention.

Basic marks and dried stains require a mild abrasive (basic bathroom variety), washing with water and drying with a lint free cloth. Bad stains may need a special marble cleaner. This can be bought at any hardware store, but be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions. Certain other stains will need specialized treatment.

Grease stains are unsightly and seep into the porous surface, but the damage is not permanent. The grease needs to be drawn out of the pores using acetone, 2 lint free cloths, uncolored blotting paper, a clear plastic sheet and acid free tape. Begin by moistening a cloth with the acetone and dabbing the stain. This should remove it. However, if the stain remains, soak the blotting paper in the acetone, laying the paper over the stain and covering with the plastic sheet. Tape this in place to keep out the air and retain the moisture, and leave for one hour. Then remove the paper and plastic and check again. Repeat if needed and wipe over with a cloth and allow to dry.

Acid stains (wine and fruit juices) eat through the polished surface. Shallow stains require polishing, but deeper ones need a special marble cleanser. Note that professional help may be needed.

To polish the surface use a medium abrasive (French chalk, pumice powder or tin oxide), 2 lint free cloths and a detergent solution (soap flakes dissolved in warm water with 3 drops of ammonia). Apply the abrasive with a cloth and rub over the stain in a circular motion. Check the area and repeat if needed. Then wash with the detergent solution and dry with a cloth.

Coffee and tea stains discolor the stone or leave ring marks. The best bet is to avoid putting mugs and glasses on the surface.

To remove ring marks use a weak borax solution (10ml borax to 300ml warm water), 2 lint free cloths and clean water. Begin by rubbing the mark with a borax solution soaked cloth. Repeat if needed and wipe the area clean with a cloth moistened with the water. However darker stains on a pale surface require a bleach solution (20 parts hydrogen peroxide to 2 parts water), 3 drops of ammonia, clean water and a lint free cloth. Start by pouring the bleach solution over the stain and adding the ammonia. As the mixture begins to bubble, rinse immediately with the water. Rinse again to ensure the peroxide/ammonia solution has been completely removed and dry well. Repeat if needed.

Yellowing on the surface can be a sign of age or neglect. To remove the discoloring use a detergent solution (refer to acid stains), 2 lint free cloths and warm water. Washing the stain thoroughly and check. However if the stain is deeper follow the hydrogen peroxide procedures used for coffee and tea stains.

Unfortunately marble chips and scratches easily. Chips can be easily fixed using coarse and fine sandpaper, a lint free cloth, white spirits, an epoxy resin adhesive, talcum powder, a small flexible filler knife and a vegetable dye to match the color of the stone. Begin by sanding the chipped area with the coarse sandpaper. Moisten a cloth with the white spirits and allow to dry. Then mix the adhesive with the talcum powder and dye until smooth, opaque and the color matches the stone. Continue by filling the chip with the talcum powder mixture until it's just higher than the surrounding area. Leave to harden and sand with the fine sandpaper until the area is evenly level with the surrounding surface.

Scratches come in two varieties - fine and deep. A professional should fix deeper ones. However, fine scratches can be removed by using an abrasive powder (French chalk or putty powder), an electric drill with a buffer attachment and a lint free cloth. Simply buff with the abrasive until the surface is smooth and the scratch is gone. Remove any dust with the cloth.

Every marble surface needs regular cleaning and, occasionally, re-sealing. Use a weekly cleaning regime to ensure a stain free surface. Wash with a detergent solution (refer to acid stains) and a lint free cloth. Then dry well. Re-sealing the surface with wax keeps dust and grime out of the pores. This should be done at least every three months dependent on usage. A special marble sealer or silicon wax is recommended, but never use furniture polish as it may discolor the surface. Make sure to dust the surface prior to waxing with talcum powder and a lint free cloth. Then apply the wax onto the entire surface and buff as required. For a high sheen use an electric drill with a lambswool polishing pad attachment.

Basically anyone can use these basic professional methods to maintain their marble's long lasting beauty. It can save hundreds of dollars. However it is important to remember that if the marble is of financial or historical value, or if the damage is severe or irremovable then an expert must be consulted. Usually the best way to avoid stains, yellowing, chips and scratches is to properly care for and maintain the marble surface. Most of all though, always keep in mind that if in doubt ask for help.