Clean up stained marble


Marble countertops. (David Phillipich for Aidan Design)
April 24, 2013

QWe have a marble table that over the years has picked up several stains and some scratches. What can be used to remove the stains and perhaps polish the surface? We suspect acids from fruits and pickle juices, etc., may have caused some of the stains/blemishes.

Washington, Va.

AThe Marble Institute of America, a trade group representing companies that supply and work with all kinds of natural stone, publishes guides to stain removal and polishing through the consumer section of its Web site, www.marble-institute.com. Marble, like limestone, travertine and serpentine, is a calcareous stone. So acids, including fruit and pickle juice, will indeed etch the surface.

Stains from coffee, tea, fruit and other foods fall within the “organic” category, meaning you should be able to remove them with hydrogen peroxide plus a few drops of ammonia. Use a 12 percent concentration of hydrogen peroxide, sold for bleaching hair, not the 3 percent product for general household use sold in grocery stores and drugstores. (Combining a little ammonia with hydrogen peroxide doesn’t present the health risk that mixing ammonia and chlorine bleach does; that produces a highly toxic vapor and should never be done.)

Another option for removing the stains is to haul the tabletop outside and leave it in the sun for a while. UV rays from the sun bleach almost anything.

Once the stains are gone, you should be able to remove the etch marks by sprinkling the surface with water and then a marble polishing powder, sold at hardware, lapidary or stone-supply companies. Rub the powder over the surface with a damp cloth, or use a buffing pad with a power drill set at low speed. Polish until the surface gleams.

If the stains persist or you can’t get the surface shiny, get help from a company that installs and refinishes stone.

I’m downsizing and find myself with several items — china, stamp albums — inherited from relatives over the years that seem just too good to toss. I’ve inventoried and discarded or donated what I could, but am stuck about the rest. Is there a service that would help me sell or auction the china or stamp albums? I don’t want try to auction them myself, and don’t mind paying a modest commission for someone to do so.

Arlington

Amy Marguello, who runs Great Estate Solutions in Annandale (571-263-7287, www.greatestatesolutions.com), suggests a couple of options. If you have only a few items to sell and each is valued at more than $30, you can take them to ezAuctioning in Alexandria (703-842-7541; www.ezauctioning.com). The company has a drop-off center in Old Town where customers bring items they want to sell on eBay. While you wait, the company assesses a likely selling price, based on past eBay sales. If you decide to proceed, they do the rest, including photographing the items and writing descriptions, getting them listed and answering questions from would-be bidders. The fee structure depends on the value of the items. (There is a fee calculator on the company’s Web site that factors in eBay fees and ezAuctioning’s fees.) Marguello said the company pays promptly, unlike some other auction services where customers have waited months for their money.

Another option when there are just a few items is to go to Treasure Trove Thrift and Consignment Shops, with locations in McLean, Annandale and Springfield. The stores charge consigners an annual fee and keep half of the selling price, but the money goes to Inova Fairfax Hospital. “So it’s for a good cause,” Marguello said. “And they’re very good about paying.” The stores accept consignments only by appointment. At the store closest to you, in McLean, you can schedule an appointment by calling 703-356-8704.

If you have more than a couple of items to sell, a company that specializes in estate sales, like Marguello’s, is a good way to go when you don’t want to hassle with making the sales yourself. Marguello offers free consultations to assess the best way to dispose of specific items. Often, she finds that people who start out thinking they have just a few items wind up realizing that they have a few items in each room and that it adds up to enough stuff to warrant having an estate sale — one where you can have a company like hers do all the work.

HHave a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

The Checklist Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in April, such as tuning up outdoor furniture, at washingtonpost.com/home.

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