Frederick M. Hueston, PhD

It’s starting to get cold here in Florida. This morning, I think the thermometer plunged down to 59 degrees; guess its time to break out the winter flip-flops. 

Due to the brisk air I was in the mood for a cup of hot chocolate rather than my morning cup of joe. So off to my favorite greasy spoon I went. I walked in and sat on my designated stool, said hello to several of the locals. Flo poured me a cup of joe and I looked at her and said, “Not this morning, Flo – give me a cup of hot chocolate.”

 She had a look of shock on her face. The locals all gave me a stare, like I might be off my rocker. I laughed and said, “Hey, it’s cold outside, that’s all.” I almost broke out in the song, Baby It’s Cold Outside, but I can’t sing worth a darn. And besides, Flo would not thank me for driving out her (tipping) customers! 

Just as Flo replaced my joe with a cup of hot chocolate, my cell phone rang. It was one of my steady clients, a manufacturer of a stone sealer. They had a problem with a client who used their sealer, and the countertop was still staining. 

Let me first tell you about this client. They have a 100 percent money-back, replacement guarantee for life. 

If the countertop should stain they will remove the stain or replace the countertop. Well, over the past few years they have replaced a lot of countertops! 

I listened as they told me they had a customer with a kitchen in Iowa that I needed to take visit and troubleshoot. Iowa? I thought. Isn’t that corn country? One way or the other, I was about to find out. I told them that as soon as I could get on a plane I would head up there and take a look. Luckily there was a flight leaving the next day, so I made my reservations and I was all set.

When I touched down in Iowa, I picked up a rental car with a GPS and headed for the customer’s address. The drive out there was boring and all I saw was corn field after cornfield. So I guess the rumors must be true!

Driving down the long, straight highway, my eyes were getting heavy, and I started seeing mirages. I swear I saw a bunch of old-timey baseball players walking out of one of those fields. (LOL)!

I finally arrived at the house in question, and pulled in the driveway. I grabbed my test equipment and headed for the door. A tiny oriental lady answered the door. She was wearing one of those formal Japanese kimonos, and to my considerable surprise, she bowed to me and asked me to follow her to the kitchen.  I walked in the kitchen and she pointed to a granite countertop next to the stove.

There were two sections of granite, one on each side of the stove. They were both badly stained. I mean really bad. One section was so dark you couldn’t see the minerals in the granite. 

I asked her if I could have a small glass of water. I poured the water on the countertop and waited to see if it would absorb into the stone. It did not absorb in the stained area or the unstained area.  

I next took out my small bottle of oil and placed it on a unstained section of the countertop. I waited several minutes and the oil did not penetrate. Now this was getting odd. 

My tests showed the countertop was sealed properly and should not have stained. I stepped back and started asking her some questions. I asked how often she cooks on the stove and what does she usually cook. She pointed to the center of the stove and said, “We use that deep fryer almost every day.”

 My brain was working overtime but I think I know what was causing the stain. HOT OIL. That’s right. Most stone sealers on the market will repel water and oil, but not hot oil.

The oil was splattering on the countertop and penetrating right through the polymer.  If you look at the melting point of the polymer you will find that some oils exceed that temperature. I looked at the lady and told her exactly that. She asked me what can be done. I looked her straight in the eye and told her she needed to start eating more cold cuts. I really said that, but then I laughed, and so did she.  I told her to place a mat on the countertop when she is cooking. I told her we could attempt to pull the stain out but it would be less expensive to replace the top. Another case solved, and now for another long drive, back through the cornfields. I have a sudden urge for sushi. And baseball.

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Fred Hueston, written to be entertaining and educational. He has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world. You can send any email comments to him at .