Home Improvement

Looking after your bathroom marble splash-backs

Marble makes a big statement in home décor. It recalls the classic pomp and style of ancient Greece and Rome, giving your house a sense of elegance and stature. It can also offer the gloss and shine of modern industrial design. However, it does date your home, because it has an ‘elderly statesman’ feel to it. You can balance this by using it in small doses.

When you’re looking for just a touch of marble, you can use it in hints and accents rather than large swathes. Instead of marble floors, walls, or countertops, you could apply it to a smaller portion of your home. Good examples are soap dishes, bathtub edges, sinks, or backsplashes. These limited areas work best with tiles.

While marble is beautiful and tasteful stone, it’s susceptible to etching and staining, because it’s a porous calcite material. You can minimise the damage by the type of finish you select. There are two main options – polishing and honing. Honing produces a matte finish which is great for hiding etches and stains, so it’s good for kitchen surfaces and decorative sculpture.

Polished marble does get slippery though, so it shouldn’t be used on floors that are likely to get wet. Avoid polished finishing for bathroom floors or poolside paving, since it can cause accidents. You can use it in a fountain though, because people rarely get into those. You can embellish the fountain with a highly polished statue for additional glamour.

On the other hand, honing your marble gives it a matte look. It may seem dull and utilitarian, but it’s subtle, and it doesn’t show etches and stains as much. Patina and food damage is therefore less distinct on honed countertops and floors, making it a more suitable finish for kitchen floors. Also, if your marble is in a small area like a backsplash, polish helps.

Backsplashes – both in kitchens and bathrooms – don’t come into contact with a lot of food. In your kitchen, you can avoid food damage by emptying leftover food into garbage disposals or bins before you place them in the sink. This way, your kitchen backsplash, just like your bathroom backsplash, will avoid acid stains or etchings.

Bathroom backsplashes are likely to be exposed to soap, scum, shampoo, toothpaste, perfumes, shaving cream, body lotions, make-up, and medication. Soap-related products are mostly alkaline in nature, so they won’t stain your backsplash. If any of your body products are acidic, avoid using them in the bathroom sink, since they could stain the surface.

Soap-scum has the same calcite base that marble has, so it does minimal damage even though it looks unsightly. Whether your marble is honed or polished, it needs to be sealed. This fills in the pores so that foreign matter can’t seep into the stone and cause permanent stains. It also prevents water from seeping through.

Marble needs to be resealed every year or two. Your backsplash is a much smaller area, so it may not need to be refurbished as often, but you should keep a close eye on it. Well-sealed marble responds to water in the same way that glass does. The water droplets will bead onto the backsplash and drip down. Steam will condense and flow downwards as well.

If you look at your backsplash and there are no water droplets sliding down into the sink, it’s possible that the water is seeping into the pores instead. The water can widen the holes in the stone and cause cracks. Worse, it can reach the wall behind the marble, causing it to weaken, crumble, or develop mould and breed germs.

This kind of damage would be hard to detect and repair, because it’s hidden behind the marble. By the time it peeks out, it may be irreparable. Every morning as you brush or shave, check the backsplash for droplets, just in case. You could even use a spray bottle to test its response to water. Squirt a few drops and see if they bead and drip or seep into the surface.

Seepage needs immediate resealing, so call in the experts. Apart from selecting the right finish and renewing your layer of sealant, bathroom backsplashes need some daily maintenance. Unlike the kitchen, your bathroom is unlikely to be exposed to tomatoes or acidic foods. If you like some wine in the bathtub, use a coaster to prevent etches.

Your glass is unlikely to contact the backsplash, but it may spill a few drops. Wipe them off immediately to avoid staining. Check the ingredients of your bath and body products. Anything citrus scented may be a risk, so avoid using it near the backsplash. After every use, dry the backsplash with a damp cloth or sponge. This prevents scum build-up.

You can also vacuum your backsplash with a soft brush attachment to remove accumulated dust that might mix with bathroom fluids and beauty products to form grime. Avoid scented liquid detergents that may contain traces of acid. Use a specialised stone cleaner instead.

If your backsplash does get stained, apply a poultice, cover it in plastic wrapping or cling film, and hold the plastic wrap in place with tape. After 24 hours, scrape off the poultice and the stain will go with it. Reapply the poultice is the stain isn’t gone. Once the stain is off, wipe with a damp cloth as usual, to remove all traces of the poultice.

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