Marble Stain or Etch? How to Tell The Difference

Before beginning any treatment on your marble surface, it’s important to identify whether your marble is stained or etched. Stains and Etches get treated differently!

How do you tell the difference between a marble stain or etch, you ask?

Here’s a simple way to tell the difference! If the affected area is darker than the natural stone’s color, it’s likely a stain. If the affected area is lighter than the natural stone’s color, it’s likely an etch.

Some examples of each to help give you a visual understanding:


Notice the large blot in the middle of the counter-top image below. You can clearly see the marks are darker than the stone’s natural surface.


Alternatively, notice the large blot in the middle of this counter-top image. You can see the marks are lighter than the stone’s surface in this example.

stain or etch

Why the problem?

Okay, so now we can identify between marble stain or etch, but what causes them?

The most important thing to keep in mind about your natural stone is that it is absorbent. Like a sponge, your stone is porous – meaning that liquid spills can seep into the stone and cause these discolourations or dullness. 

Marble staining occurs when a liquid is absorbed into the stone and is trapped beneath the surface. It is essential you ensure your surfaces are always properly sealed to prevent stains from occurring in the first place. 

Stone etching is mostly caused by acidic liquids. The acidic liquids corrode the stone surface, eating away at the finish, resulting in the etched look. It only takes mere seconds after spilling for these deficiencies to appear!

Common household liquids that can be responsible for your discolourations include bleach, citrus, citrus-based products, alcohol and alcohol-based products, sodas, ink, rust, urine, coffee, cooking oils, and hand lotions… to name a few.

Many make the mistake of using improper cleaning products for their stone floors or countertops. Always be attentive about the make-up of certain cleaning products, as many can lead to damaging the stone, sealer, and even making the affected areas worse.  We highly recommend MC24 for marble floors and R311 Spray for countertops as daily cleaners. 

Treating stains vs etches

  1. Remore Stains with Poultice – To safely and properly remove stains from marble surfaces use wet poultice to absorb the stain from the natural stone.  Learn more about stain removal and how to use poultice here
  1. Remove Etches with the Marble Refinishing Kit -We put together a simple DIY solution to remove marble etching. The Marble Refinishing Kit contains everything you need to properly and safely remove etches. Learn more about the Marble Refinishing Kit here.
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The Marble Clinic

The Marble Clinic

Natural Stone Professionals; specializing in the restoration, repair and maintenance of marble, granite, terrazzo & more.


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7 years ago

I’m not that much of an internet reader to be honest but your sites really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back later. Cheers

7 years ago

Please help. I sanded and polished my black marble hearth to remove etching and now there is a huge milky area with tiny bright white dots all over it.

P. oriold
P. oriold
3 years ago

Do you have a kit to restore shine to a travertine bathroom floor? I’d like to try the kit before committing to having floor professionally done. Bathroom is very small approx 6×4.
Would one kit do the job? Thanks you for your help.

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