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Are your granite counters teeming with bacteria?

Granitebacteria_4I had never heard the words granite and bacteria in the same sentence until the solid-surface manufacturers started using it to sell their products. They claim granite counters are not safe and harbor bacteria, while their composite counters (Corian, Silestone and the like) are safe. Really? Haven’t we been using granite counters for decades, even centuries? Where’s the outbreak of food-borne illness? And what about tile and grout? Why aren’t we all dead?

Over at Garden Web’s remodeling forum, homeowners are discussing the merits of Stonemark, a granite product carried by Home Depot that is soaked in some kind of super-duper sealer to make it more impervious.

With granite fabricators and sellers saying granite is safe, and with solid-surface manufacturers and sellers saying it isn’t, whom do you believe?

For an impartial view, I asked Susan Serra, a certified kitchen designer who writes a robust blog called the Kitchen Designer. Here’s what Susan had to say:

Is harboring bacteria a concern? Oh, tricky question here! How could I say no? Of course it’s a concern. And the kitchen is a wonderful place to harbor all sorts of exotic bacterial living organisms. You’re never really alone in the kitchen. . . !

I think there are several ways to look at this issue. The first is universal. Clean your hands and your countertops properly before and after working with food. Cleanliness goes nearly all the way in preventing food-borne illnesses, originating in the kitchen.

Probably, the most perfect of countertop surfaces to keep bacteria to a minimum would be stainless steel or solid surfaces. These countertops would have to have a curved (cove) turn at the rear of the countertop, to avoid a seam where bacteria could congregate and grow. The countertops would also have to have integral sinks of the same material, again, to avoid a seam. Then, you’re as protected as you can be.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in going back to the ’70s with a short, coved backsplash, and I don’t necessarily want an integral sink of the same material.

My advice is NOT to be afraid of granite. Tests have shown that a mix of 10% vinegar, with water, will kill 99.9% of bacteria. Use it in a spray bottle.

Me, I see bacteria and granite as a nonissue, providing one uses appropriate cleaning methods. I might add, as an anecdotal note, that I have had three tile countertops in my life (supposedly the worst for bacteria) totaling approximately 22 years. My family is never sick, certainly never with gastro-intestinal illnesses. Hot, soapy water works for us!

Will you get these (more sanitary) countertops so that you can clean off your last bit of bacteria and settle for a different aesthetic than you would have chosen otherwise?

Just be aware that when you go to answer the phone, a pesky ant or fly may track raw chicken juice across the "better" countertop surface and then crawl or fly away before you return. A kitchen is not a confined laboratory. There will be some bacteria in the best of circumstances.

How about you? Do you have granite counters? Have bacteria taken over your home? Are we taking this bacteria thing too far so the corporations can sell us more chemicals?