Many homes and commercial properties throughout use marble for the floors, countertops, vanities, and even architectural features. Marble is a luxurious natural stone that is richly colored and durable. No one can deny the prestige that comes with brilliantly shining marble floors, either. Yet, all that richness does come with some disadvantages, such as being prone to scratching and staining in highly trafficked areas.
This means that you need to do a little maintenance to ensure your marble floors continue looking pristine. Polishing marble floors can either be done professionally or DIY—if you have the right tools and know the process.
That’s why we wrote up this how-to guide, so you can polish your floors without a hassle.
A common misconception is that, because marble is a natural stone, it must be like granite—hard and resilient. Yet, while marble is indeed durable, it is a softer stone than granite. Not only that, but it is porous and largely made up of calcium carbonate, like limestone, which is weak to acids and caustic chemicals.
In simpler words: you can scratch it, stain it, and erode it over time.
Even if marble surfaces are not frequently used, you should still reseal it every 6-12 months or so. That will prevent any stains and superficial damage. But if the damage is noticeable, then you will need to have your marble floors honed and polished.
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What To Do Before Polishing a Marble Floor
Before you begin polishing marble floors, make sure the floor is clean. Dust off any loose dirt and grime then use a gentle marble floor cleaner to prep the surface for honing and polishing. If you don’t clean off the marble floors before you start polishing, you will end up scratching the surface even further.
Also, while you can use a number of simple cleaners to wipe the floors clean, most companies recommend staying away from any cleaning solution that contains vinegar or lemon juice. You can also make your own by using a quart of warm water, dish detergent, and baking soda. Use a gentle scrubber instead of an abrasive one.
Dry vs. Wet Marble Polishing
Did you know that there was more than one way to polish a marble floor? No? Well, let’s explain then. There is a dry way and a wet way. Both of them are similar, there are some steps that are different, so we’ll break both of them down.
How To Dry Polish a Marble Floor
To dry polish marble flooring, you will need some diamond sanding pads, a corded orbital sander, and a vacuum with a soft brush attachment. Be sure to have cleaned the room of furniture and other obstacles, so you have access to all parts of the marble flooring. Don’t forget to sweep up dust and dirt.
From there, you can follow these steps:
- Choose a starting location. The best place is the far corner of the room. Work to the side and move backwards. That way, you are always heading towards unpolished marble and prevents you from dragging dust onto the newly polished marble.
- Choose the grittiest pad first. The coarsest/lowest number pad is always the first one you use. Usually, it’s either 50, 64, or 100, depending on the set you purchase. Move the sander in even strokes, and never hold it in one spot for too long.
- Vacuum in between changing pads. Always remove the dust created by sanding before you increase the grit. Don’t worry if there are swirl patterns on the floor right now. They will disappear with the finer grit.
- Repeat steps 1-3, making the grit finer and finer. Hone, vacuum, and use a finer pad. That’s the bulk of the dry polishing process. The more different grits you see, the better the end result. For example, a good pad progression is: 100, 200, 400, 800, and so on. However, if the floor is in very poor condition, we recommend starting with a 50-grit diamond pad and moving up from there.
- Vacuum a final time then clean the floor as you usually would.
- Seal the marble floor. This is the most important step to ensure your floors shine. Never leave your polished floors unsealed!
How To Wet Polish a Marble Floor
You’re going to need a few more things than you did for dry polishing. You will need some plastic sheeting and tape to cover any walls or cabinets, a floor polishing machine (this will work much faster than an orbital sander), diamond polishing pads, marble polishing powder, a shop vacuum, a squeegee, and a watering can.
Make sure you practice with the floor polishing machine before you begin. Once you are comfortable with the machine, proceed with the following steps:
- As always, make sure that you have swept up any debris from the floor before proceeding.
- Dampen the floor with water. Grab your watering can and use it to gently sprinkle some water on a few squares of floor. Start in the top left corner. Do not soak the whole floor. Do little bits at a time.
- Laterally move along from left to right with the polishing machine until you meet the opposite end from which you started. From there, start back in the opposite direction. As you move across the floor, dampen and then polish, repeating as such to complete the entire space.
- Vacuum up any remaining moisture. Most water should be removed as the polisher passes.
- Start again from another corner, going front and back instead of side to side.
- Continue through all the pads. Replace the red pad with the white one and then the yellow and green pads. You will make two passes (side to side, front and back) with each of the four pads.
- Finally, use the marble polishing powder. You will need to purchase a finishing pad (also called an ultra-polishing or super-polishing pad) for this step. Be sure to choose a top-quality marble polishing powder, since it will give the best results. Follow the directions on the powder’s packaging, which should tell you to mix it with some water, making a slurry. This is why you needed that plastic covering on the cabinets.
- Make slow passes in both directions with the ultra-polishing pad, just like you did when buffing without the powder.
And that’s it.