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Should You Polish Your Natural Stone with Baby Oil?

When I didn’t want to spend $5-10 on spray bottles of commercial cleaner for my travertine and granite I went researching to determine the best method of cleaning.  I determined a basic mix of alcohol and water would do the trick. Read all the details here. This led to some great questions and comments. One of the ones that came up most often was “Can you polish stone with baby oil?” How can you get those granite countertops gleaming?

What is Baby Oil?

Personally, I needed to research for myself before I was going to try the baby oil solution. Baby oil is just mineral oil. Also known as, petroleum jelly (the one marketed for babies from that big company says 100% pure).

So, the next question, I suppose, is what is mineral oil? It is a by-product of petroleum production. The World Health Organization rates unrefined mineral oil as a known carcinogen. Fortunately for humanity, the stuff sold for cosmetic purposes is highly refined and safe for use on skin. If you are worried about the toxicity level don’t use the stuff from the garage, but the stuff from your pharmacy should be A-OK.

If you are here because you want something natural then, I suppose, that would depend on your definition of natural. It came from the earth a while ago, but it is highly processed. But, if you are just worried about is baby oil safe for my stone? Then the answer is maybe.

The Problem with Baby Oil

It doesn’t seem likely that buffing your stone with oil will cause any damage to the actual integrity of the stone. And, when we say buffing we are talking about a small amount sprayed onto a clean rag and then nice round circles.

Some commenters expressed a concern expressed that this would attract dust but I see no reason this amount would attract dirt or grime. This is the same idea as dusting with a dusting spray (or if you like to keep it Hippy, an olive oil based spray).

However, some of the major companies that produce granite cleaners and sealants say that using mineral oil on sealed or unsealed granite can cause discoloration over time.

We don’t want that!

However, you will have to consider the source being that they are in the business of selling their own much more expensive granite polishes.

What’s in the Bottle on the Shelf?

Which leads me to inquire – what’s in that expensive stuff, anyway? Here are the top sprays from Amazon (MSDS Sheets are linked):

  • Granite Gold Polish: 60-100% water (hmm), 7-13% Proprietary Ingredients, .1-1% Kathon CG (an antimicrobial preservative made up of isothiazolinones which are generally considered safe to humans, but cases of eczema-like allergic reactions have been reported and they may cause aquatic toxicity), and <.1% fragrance.
  • Weiman Granite Cleaner & Polish: Dunno, doesn’t even list water…now that’s proprietary. Although it does say you shouldn’t touch it or breathe in the spray and if you have sensitive skin to use gloves while applying. That sounds fun.
  • Gel-Gloss, Counter Gloss Granite and All Natural Stone Surface Cleaner and Polish: So props for no proprietary B.S., but you know, you still don’t want to actually touch the stuff or breathe any in (I hope the warnings are for huffers). Looks great, little full, lotta sap acid. Anyhoo, the list – 62.8-65.7% Glycolic Acid (hey, your dermatologist can give you a skin peel when you’re done polishing your counters!), .5-2% Methoxyacteic acid (umm, it’s corrosive), .4-1.2 Diglycolic Acid (I’m not a chemist but I think it’s used as a stabilizer in this product), 30% Water.
  • Tri Nova Granite Daily Cleaner: no MSDS sheet available on their website (however, I emailed them and the sent it to me, it is linked in the product title), they do tell a reviewer on Amazon that the ingredients are (drumroll, please)… proprietary. The MSDS sheet lists Water, 5-7%, Polydimethylsiloxane (the most widely used silicon-based organic polymer…according to the great and powerful Wikipedia – it’s used in a lot of cosmetics and Silly Putty, generally considered safe to people and the environment), and 4% Proprietary Surfactant (the thing that keeps it all mixed). This one doesn’t sound so dire if you inhale or touch it – they recommend the usual, fresh air, eye wash, don’t ingest.

So, the answer is – I don’t know what’s in most of them, but you don’t want to, you know, touch any of it…

The long and short of it is, that the commercial products are probably fine (except that one with all the acid, what’s with all the acid?! I’m sure there were chemists involved, but it seems so wrong) so long as you don’t have any major skin allergies.

Especially, if you are just polishing once or twice a year. The baby oil/mineral oil/ probably any darn oil will polish (personally, I would stay away from anything citrus – just in case), but may discolor with frequent use. But, again, once or twice a year probably fine. I mean it’s stone. It’s been around longer than us and will be around long after us. I’m low key, my granite is in good shape, so the simplest solution is the one I will be using.

If your granite is not in good shape it may be time to get some professional help to get it back to pretty and then you can maintain much easier. Or, if it’s not in good shape try whatever before you have to go the expensive professional refinishing route. What do you have to lose at that point?

How to Simply & Beautifully Polish

Here’s the basic trick to polished counters. When you clean use two rags. I know, two?! That’s twice as much laundry! But, it works. Spray and wipe to clean with one rag. Then use your dry rag to buff so there are not any streaks left. That’s it. Sweet and simple.

Happy Polishing!

What’s worked well for you?

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