How to Clean and Refinish Corian® and Other Brands of Solid Surface Countertops

Corian® Sonora - matte finish

Image 1: Corian® Sonora in a matte finish

With the holidays right around the corner, you’re probably thinking about cleaning and getting the house in order before all the guests arrive. Two questions that come up quite often at this time of year are:

  • What is the best way to clean and refinish my Corian® [solid surface] countertop?
  • How can I remove stains from my solid surface countertop?

Whether you have Corian®, Avonite Surfaces®, LG HI-MACS®, Staron®, Mystera®, or any other type of solid surface countertop, the basics are the same since they are all made of acrylic-based resin material and fillers (except Aristech®’s STUDIO Collection® which is a more translucent resin).

Consider the Finish and the Color

Consideration of color is important when it comes to the use patterns and the way stains and blemishes are approached because darker colors show use more than lighter colors.

Before using any type of cleaner or performing any repairs on your solid surface countertop, consider the degree of shine on the finish and the color of the solid surface. The degree of shine on the solid surface finish is achieved by using increasingly finer grits of sanding abrasives. For a glossy shine, after using the fine abrasives, polishing with a buffing pad and polishing compound is the final step of the process. We mention this to assure you that what we discuss below is in keeping with the way the finish was originally applied to your countertops.

Examples of Shine

Examples of shine can be seen in the images of this article. Image 1 is done in a flat/matte finish where none of the objects on the countertop have a reflection. Image 2 has a satin finish denoted by the “not so distinct” reflection cast by the objects on the countertop. Image 3 presents a semi-gloss finish with a moderately distinct reflection. Image 4 shows a gloss finish where the reflections of the objects are distinct.

For our discussion, we will look at two categories of finishes: (1) flat/matte and (2) satin/semi-gloss/high gloss. Lighter colors with flat or matte finishes are the easiest to care for and repair. Darker colors with a flat or matte finish are also relatively easy to maintain. However, darker colors with a moderate to high gloss finish are more challenging. Both will be discussed below.

Image 2: Corian® Aqualite in a satin finish

Standard Cleaning for All Solid Surface Finishes and Colors

For daily care of your Corian® countertop, no matter what type of finish or color, it is best to wipe it down using soapy, warm water. Non-abrasive, ammonia-based cleaners or regular household countertop cleaners are also fine to use. Do not use window cleaners as they tend to leave a waxy residue that will dull the surface and also tend to show up more on darker colors.

Be sure to wipe up water or any other type of spill as soon as possible. Leaving any type of liquid to sit on the countertop until dry will create a build-up due to the remaining minerals or other substances from the water. Microfiber cloths are ideal for wiping up spills.

Flat/Matte Finishes on Solid Surface

Most Stains on Flat/Matte Finishes

For the flat/matte finishes, care of the surface can be a relaxed proposition. Solid surface does not absorb liquids and as a consequence stains that are left to dry are only a slight bit more work to remove than a stain that is fresh. Fresh stains can be wiped up easily with a dry cloth or paper towel and most dried stains can be wiped up with a wet cloth or paper towel. If not, then see the next section.

Resistant Stains on Flat/Matte Finishes

With daily use, and intermittent attention to clean-up, your countertop may appear mottled or spotty. This results from minerals or other substances in liquid that have remained on the surface once the liquid has evaporated. To remove these deposits, apply a mild abrasive liquid cleanser, i.e., Soft Scrub®, to the spots. Take a damp cloth or sponge with a non-abrasive surface and rub the area in an overlapping, circular motion until the spots disappear. Rinse the area with plain water and dry it completely. You may need to repeat this process for extra hard water marks or apply CLR® or Lime-A-Way® and let it sit for a few minutes. Again, rinse with water and be sure to dry the surface completely. Ordinary multi-surface or household kitchen sprays can be used to remove most common household stains caused by things like coffee, tea, red wine, lemon juice, vinegar, ketchup and the like.

“Permanent” Stains on Flat/Matte Finishes

If you somehow wrote on your solid surface with permanent marker, or perhaps spilled nail polish on it, those would be considered permanent blemishes on most surfaces. On a flat/matte solid surface finish it is very easy to remove. For the permanent marker, use the mild abrasive mentioned above with a wet paper towel. For the nail polish, scrape it off with a piece of plastic, or your fingernail, and for anything remaining, use the mild abrasive treatment.

Although solid surface is nonporous, on occasion you may want to disinfect your countertops. Corian®, and other brands of solid surface countertops, with a flat or matte finish can tolerate diluted bleach, powdered abrasives, strong detergents, ammonia, oxalic acid solutions and dilute hydrochloric acid or trisodium phosphate solutions. These are not recommended for semi-gloss or gloss finishes as they may dull the finish. Acid drain cleaners should not be used on any solid surface.

Image 3: Corian® Lava Rock, a veined solid surface, in a semi-gloss finish

Satin/Semi-Gloss/Gloss Finishes on Solid Surface

For darker surfaces with a sheen to gloss finish, the challenge is to remove the stain without altering the degree of shine. Stains are usually either minerals from hard water or foods like mustard, wine or similar food stuffs. Each can be treated differently.

First, however, it is highly recommended that a small amount of CLR or vinegar (for hard water stains) or diluted bleach (for food stains) be applied to an out-of-the-way area to see if the shine is impacted by these types of liquids. If the shine is not impacted, then proceed as suggested below.

Hard Water Stains

If the stain is the size of a glass, cover the entire stain area with a piece of paper towel slightly larger than the stain area. On top of the paper towel, apply the CLR per the instructions on the bottle, or pour on the vinegar, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Keep the paper towel wet by adding additional CLR or vinegar. Remove the wet paper towel, rinse with water and dry it completely. Repeat if necessary. Performing this procedure several times is a lot easier and more effective in the long run than any solution that uses an abrasive.

Food Stains

If the stain is from food, then use the procedure above, but instead of CLR or vinegar, use diluted bleach (3/4 of liquid household bleach mixed with 1/4 water). If that works, then rinse with water and dry the surface.

If it does not work, repeat the process again. If that fails, it will be necessary to abrade away the stain with SoftScrub®, or a similar mild abrasive, and a damp sponge or paper towel. Rub as small an area as possible that will include the stain. Once the stain is removed, the next step will be to restore the sheen/shine so it matches the surrounding area.

Refinish the Solid Surface

It is simple to just say “restore the shine so it matches the surrounding area,” however, in reality it can be challenging. As mentioned above, the finish on solid surface is achieved with abrasives of ever-increasingly smaller grit. The finish you have now was done with a random orbit sander using finer and finer grit sandpaper. The finer the grit, the more the sheen.

You can try to emulate such a random orbit pattern by hand and it may work. Whether you try by hand, or use a random orbit sander, below are the grits that are typically used for accomplishing a finish:

  • Matte finish — 280 grit (60 micron) followed by a Maroon non-woven pad (scuff brite);
  • Satin finish — 400 grit (30 micron) followed by a Gray non-woven pad (scuff brite);
  • Semi Gloss finish — 600 grit (20 micron) followed by a Gold non-woven pad (scuff brite);
  • Gloss finish — 1000 grit (18 micron) followed by a White non-woven pad (scuff brite) and polishing compound.

For more tips on finishing detail see: Guidelines for the Perfect Finish

Image 4: Corian® Deep Night Sky in a gloss finish

To achieve that last boost in shine on those dark colored Corian countertops, you may want to use a polish such as Countertop Magic®, which is safe for food contact areas. Furniture polish can be used on surfaces where there is no possibility of food contact.

For gloss finishes, due to the skill and technique required to restore the glossy finish uniformly throughout the countertop, you can always contact a professional if you are unsure of making the repair yourself.

Damage Prevention

Even though solid surface can withstand heat, it is best to avoid placing anything hot directly on your solid surface countertop by always using a hot pad or trivet. This includes placing trivets under any appliance that generates heat, such as your toaster, toaster oven or electric skillet. Be careful of overhanging pans on the stove as they can scorch the surrounding surface.

Any spills of harsh chemicals, such as brush or metal cleaners, paint stripper, oven cleaners, acid drain cleaners, or any cleaners that contain methylene chloride, should be wiped up and flushed immediately with lots of soapy, warm water. Non-acetone remover can be used with a nail polish spill. Damage to the surface will likely occur if harsh chemicals are allowed to dry on the Corian® surface. Such damage, however, can also be fixed.

Corian®, as well as any other solid surface, can be scratched or gouged. Always use a cutting board for food preparation or any time you are working with sharp utensils.

Solid Surface is Low Maintenance

Solid surface is designed for beauty and easy care, requiring little or no time to maintain. That means you can spend more time with family and friends throughout this holiday season.

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