Our customers are fantastic about letting us know that they love their countertops! They already have chemistry WITH them… but how many people know the chemistry ABOUT them? In this lesson, you will learn about the chemical elements that make up your countertops!
Granite’s striking patterns form when magma cools slowly beneath the Earth’s crust, allowing certain minerals to accumulate. Quartz and feldspar are the most abundant of these minerals. The stone also contains smaller amounts of mica and crystalline amphiboles. This may sound minuscule, but the ratios differ slightly in each slab, giving granite a one-of-a kind look accompanied by its signature glittering appeal. Homeowners can thank the specific mix of minerals for the unique beauty of their granite countertops.
Amphiboles and quartz are composed mainly of silicates, making them highly nonreactive. What does that mean for homeowners? It means that they do not have to be overly cautious with their granite countertops. Unless they cook with industrial strength hydrochloric acid, they are unlikely to harm granite with typical kitchen substances. Although granite is extremely durable, it is not indestructible. Homeowners do still need to take some precautions, such as employing trivets and hot pads when cooking.
Marble is a metamorphic rock. It is chiefly composed of calcite and dolomite, which typically appear in the form of the sedimentary rock: limestone. It also contains smaller flecks of other minerals scattered throughout, such as: quartz, mica, pyrite and graphite. In marble, these elements are subjected to extreme pressures and reformed into a new crystalline structure. The result of all of this is a gorgeous, “marbled” look.
Unlike granite, marble is a reactive stone. When it comes into contact with acids, even weak ones such as vinegar, the calcite within it begins to dissolve. If a small amount of vinegar is spilled, do not panic. Minuscule amounts of weak acids will not ruin a marble countertop. However, frequent exposure to common acids, like vinegar and lemon juice, will degrade marble overtime. For this reason, it is crucial to seal these countertops well. In addition, this stone is porous, adding to the importance of sealants. They serve as a layer of protection to help marble countertops become much more reasonable for kitchen use.
Quartz, a man-made material, has gained significant popularity with its ability to mimic the look of natural stone, like granite and marble. Resins in quartz are modeled after the sticky fluids plants form that harden over time. They are then mixed and poured to harden permanently into a stone-like substance. Specifically, quartz countertops are made using silica tetrahedra, each of which contains four oxygen atoms and one silicon atom.
These resins are incredibly tough because their reactive agents bond strongly to one another during the curing process. Their strong bonds make them unlikely to react with other chemicals or compounds that they may encounter in the future. Why do bonds matter when it comes to durability? It is because a chemical reaction is simply a rearrangement of atomic and molecular structures to form new structures. Since the bonds in quartz are so strong, they are very difficult to rearrange. This material well resists the degradation that acids, bases and other compounds can present.
Soapstone is a natural stone composed mainly of talc, which makes it a softer material. Talc is actually the same mineral used to make baby powder and is at the very bottom of the mineral hardness scale. Fun Fact: Diamond is at the top of the mineral hardness scale, but nobody has made diamond countertops available… yet. Some soapstones contain higher percentages of quartz, which drastically increases their strength and durability.
Talc is very nonreactive, which means that homeowners need not worry about spills dissolving their soapstone countertops. However, talc is organophilic. This means that it is attracted to organic compounds such as oils, and likes (philic) to bond with them. What does that have to do with anything? Talc’s desire to bond with organic compounds makes it easily subjective to staining from common cooking ingredients. For this reason, one must ensure that their soapstone countertop is well treated to create a buffer against spills. Because talc is so dry, curing soapstone against water is quite important, otherwise it will suck up liquid easily and potentially damage the structure of the stone.
Lamination is seen every day in schools and offices. It simply involves taking a piece of otherwise flimsy paper, running it through a lamination machine to coat it in plastic, and like magic it becomes a sturdy, waterproof resource. Laminate countertops are not all that different. Plastics used in countertop applications are non-porous, which makes them resistant to water, oil, and heat. Most laminate consists of several layers bonded together. Because the plastic is hot when applied, laminate is an extremely flexible material, able to be folded down the create molding or up to create a backsplash. Because Laminate countertops are made with paper, the options are virtually endless when it comes to color and pattern.
Now you not only have chemistry with your countertops, but you also know the chemistry about them! If you are warned about exposing your countertops to certain substances, you can confidently respond with why that is. Stay tuned for our next Cameo Course!