What Causes Etch Marks?
All sorts of limestone, polished marbles, marble-onyx, travertine, etc., cannot escape from pH-active liquids because these stones are calcite-based. Most pH-active fluids have an acidic content, which can damage these calcite-based stones easily. In a layperson’s language, any acidic solution can etch the surface of travertine or polished marble, etc., by hitting the upper layer directly. In simple terms, it means that this direct action can leave a corrosion mark that may appear like a water stain or a water ring. It may, for that matter, take any random shape.
Stone floors typically have a pretty low absorbency rate, and this type of surface damage does not relate in any way to the absorbency. The surface damage exclusively depends on the chemical makeup of the stone floor. The chemical composition almost always refers to only one gullible component mentioned earlier: calcium carbonate or CaCo3 (popularly termed as calcite by stone care professionals).
Solutions for Water Rings
If you try to remove the so-called stain by poulticing, it will never give you the desired results because it is not a stain at all, even if it may appear to be a typical water stain. It is a tricky situation that calls for a small but full-fledged project involving the restoration of the damaged surface. You will have to polish the affected surface again to restore the stone floor to get back to its near-original position.
What could be the solution to such a tricky problem? Remember that you will not be able to use the usual marble polishes such as wax etc., as they are not going to work. Marble polish will be ineffective because you cannot polish a stone by just buffing up the surface. Like gemstones, you will have to polish the surface friction or abrasion techniques. Now you will appreciate why I suggested that you will need full-fledged restoration.
But don’t lose heart yet. You will not require a professional stone restoration team for a specialized restoration treatment. Some marble restoration kits or items are available out there in the marketplace. These products or readymade kits will do the work without the need for professionals. However, they are effective only in three-fourths of surface damage cases of etch-marks. These products may not work in the rest of the issues because the etch marks are too severe to treat. You will have to rely on the honing treatment before applying polishing products on the surface.
What If You Have Got an Actual Water Stain?
First, you have to find out if it is a water stain or an etch mark. You can follow this time-tested rule with no exceptions.
The rule: “An actual stain is always darker than the material which got stained.”
Note: If the so-called “stain” is lighter than the material itself, it is a corrosion mark (popularly known as the etching mark). Otherwise, it can also be due to bleaching (popularly referred to as a caustic mark).
Solution for Water Stains
After you establish that it is a natural water stain, get ready to restore the stone. If you are wondering about how to remove a water stain, it is generally easy to remove. It is as simple as removing a fabric stain! You have to poultice the stone floor by absorbing the staining agent out of the stone. Although several poulticing kits or products are available in the market, they are of limited use because there are various types of stains out there, and you are never sure if the kits are always going to work.
The stain removal processes are diverse, and we will cover guidelines to remove all types of stains in a separate article where you will be able to use different chemicals and means to remove stains. We will suggest solutions that will use only those chemicals that are readily available in the market.
It is imperative to note here that natural stones are complicated, and their maintenance starts at the initial stages of the whole thing, i.e., the specification stage. There are too many instances where customers witnessed non-serviceable situations because the stone care professionals such as contractors, installers, and specifiers specified the wrong stones for the project.
Appropriate Installations Techniques
Similarly, the same logic applies to installation methods that people use to install natural stones. If you use the wrong installation techniques, it is sure to result in installation failures.
Education Is the Key
How can you expect to solve those installation issues as a maintenance professional? Hence, it is critical to address the problem at the initial stages of specification and installation. The stone industry leaders need to seriously address the situation and educate installers and specifiers thoroughly by issuing practical and credible guidelines.
Low Maintenance Rule
If you want to see satisfied customers in the field of any tangible product, you must ensure that your end product is relatively easy to maintain and service. Such a practical and fundamental rule can never be more accurate than in the industry of natural stones, where customers give extremely high weightage to the maintenance factor.
What do you think could be the solution to the typical issues of the natural stone industry, which depends heavily on the recommendations of professionals? Why not nip the evil in the bud and solve those issues at the very beginning when you get the stone specifications and installation techniques that are conducive to low maintenance?
Reactive Approaches Will Not Work
For the last 20 years or more, a whole army of stone-ignorant marketing gurus has been dispensing an easy-to-remember guideline: “Seal every stone you come across and use a neutral cleaning agent to take care of it.” It is not even close to being the correct answer for a much bigger issue we raised. Going on record with these ignorance-laden guidelines, will it ever work? It has not worked for the last 20-plus years because it will not work if we try to be reactive instead of proactive and addressing the real issues. If we always indulge in firefighting activities instead of creating awareness, it will never work because it could not.