Tips and Tricks for Cleaning a Marble Mantel

Shannon Lee

Many old houses come with several mantels, either placed over fireplaces or simply used as a way to draw the eye to a certain point in the room. Fine marble mantels are a great find, but after years of neglect they can look yellowed, stained, and a far cry from their glory days.

Cleaning a Marble Mantel

But there is hope for that beautiful marble, if you are willing to give it several tries with different cleaners until you find the one that works. Here's how:

  • Soap and water. Start with the basics; use a gentle liquid detergent mixed with water to gently scrub the mantel. Use a toothbrush to get into tight spaces. Never use steel wool or other harsh abrasives to clean porous marble.
  • Ammonia or hydrogen peroxide. If stains remain, this may be the answer. Organic stains, like coffee rings, might respond quickly and easily to hydrogen peroxide mixed with water. Try ammonia, either full-strength or diluted with water, to get at tougher stains.
  • Bleach. You can use bleach, but only if it is properly diluted. Bleach can cause etching on marble, so be careful not to use too much, and wash it away immediately after you finish the cleaning. Also, remember to never mix bleach with ammonia--it creates a toxic gas.
  • Poultice. This might be the answer for deep stains. Make the poultice with a piece of absorbent material, such as gauze, shredded toilet paper, or thick cloth, that has been saturated with a cleansing solvent. Place the poultice on the stain, cover it with plastic wrap, and seal it down with painter's tape. Leave the poultice in place for at least 24 hours, longer if possible, until the absorbent material has begun to dry. The type of marble you have and the kind of stain you are dealing with are all factors in determining which poultice solution you use, so do careful research before you try this!

Some old and deep stains might not come out of the mantel. Try all that you can, but if you find that nothing works, look at the stain as a mark of character and history that is determined to stay with you.

If the marble mantel has lost its luster after all that cleaning, turn to gentle wet-sanding, buffing, and polishing with a soft cloth or commercial polish to help return the marble to its original beauty.

About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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