Bob Murrell 

M3 Technologies

Photos by Bob Murrell

Elite Natural (light hair) Pad, for cleaning and polishing.

Elite Natural (light hair) Pad, for cleaning and polishing.

Most of us use our products like mad scientists, a little of this, a little of that, hot water, cold water, pick a color for pads, brushes, steel wool, you name it. We make some of the wildest and quite possibly dangerous concoctions you can think of. The horror stories of combining bleach and ammonia, that we have all heard of, should at least make us somewhat cautious. 

As we grow in our experience levels, we tend to take liberties and possibly push the envelope of chemical combinations to an extreme that may not only be dangerous but detrimental to the project at hand.

I suggest always reading the label, checking the Product Application Sheets, and checking with the technical department of the product distributor. They can help you achieve the best possible solution to issues in a particular situation.

For example, mixing ratios are something we should all know how to do. If a chemical’s label refers to mix 1 part product to 10 parts water, what exactly, does that mean?  That would equal about 13 ounces of product to 115 ounces per gallon (128 ounces total) of mixed solution. Many concentrated products actually require a certain amount of water to work correctly.

I have personally made the “mad scientist” call before. You know, if the directions call for a 1 to 10 dilution ratio, certainly using the product neat or undiluted should work much faster and better, right? Wrong! Water itself contains solvent properties. In fact, it is an aqueous solvent solution. When we usually think of solvents, acetone or mineral spirits come to mind. These are non-aqueous solvents. So, “for Best Results,” use the recommended product directions on the label. After all, that’s why they are there.

Now, what about hot versus cold water for cleaning? There are valid reasons for using both. Hot or warm water helps with most any type of grease or oil deposits. Grease and oil congeal and then easily adhere to surfaces. Heat helps break the bond so that it melts and floats, and washes away more readily. Hot or warm water also helps with the dissolving of precipitates such as salts and other minerals. Always remember that dwell time is essential for conducting proper cleaning technique. Let the chemicals do their job by increasing contact time.

Above, left: Majestic Stone & Grout Intensive Cleaner with dilution and use instructions, from the product application sheet ( The same info can be found on the product container (Above, right).

Above, left: Majestic Stone & Grout Intensive Cleaner with dilution and use instructions, from the product application sheet ( The same info can be found on the product container (Above, right).

Certain chemicals (surfactants) mixed with warm water contain both hydrophilic (water-loving) and hydrophobic (water-hating) components that work together to help place oils in suspension, which allows them to be pulled away from the surface and into the solution. In layman's terms, that means that the water and oil will now mix together, which makes for easier cleaning and removal. 

Hot water is not necessarily the best choice for cleaning with certain chemicals. For example, consider what happens with ammonia, bleach, or even a multi-surface cleaner: hot water can actually break down these solutions, preventing them from doing what they are designed to do. You might think that using hot water will aid the chemical, when it is actually making the chemical weaker. You may think that hot water will assist with the killing of bacteria and other pathogens, but you could be wrong. Once again, the hot water can inhibit the effect of certain disinfectants or sanitizers by weakening the chemical. Water that is hot enough to kill pathogens is much too hot to work with by hand. Hot water does contain more energy, and this is the reason we have always associated it with washing our hands, but it is not necessary if you have the proper cleaner. Today’s cleaners are so much more effective that hot water is actually not needed.   

Now, let’s consider pad type and color. There are so many different pads on the market today that I couldn’t even begin to cover them all, and really don’t want to. I typically use natural pads for polishing and general cleaning on marble and other honed and polished surfaces. There are even different versions of the natural pads. There are light, which I prefer, and then heavier hair-blended natural pads. At M3 Technologies, we offer the Elite (light hair) and Porko (heavier hair) pads, which some customers prefer. It is a personal preference, as both are suitable for these procedures. Some even prefer “red” pads which also work well for polishing and cleaning. They can, however, sometimes lead to dye transfer on high tile edges or lippage, and for that reason, I switched to the natural pads years ago.  

I even use natural pads for light stripping of coatings on previously polished marble. I would lean on the stripping chemical to do the work and less on the mechanical action of a more aggressive type pad, like green, brown, or black. Black pads are the typical go-to pad for most stripping procedures, and if the coating is particularly heavy or chemically resistant, that would probably be my pad of choice, too. 

As for textured materials like slate, flamed granite, and grout with stubborn soiling issues, I like using a brush. Of course, just like with pads, there are many choices here, too. There is nylon (usually the most expensive and longest lasting), polypropylene, nylo-grit (contains an abrasive), combinations of brush and pad, and natural fiber brushes such as White Tampico (good for polishing with 5X Gold btw), Union, and Bassine. There are also cylindrical brushes for cylindrical brush machines (the best option for cleaning grout). For most normal cleaning, a non-abrasive nylon or polypropylene brush will suffice. There is an advantage to certain nylo-grit brushes in that they are not cut even. This means the bristles have different lengths as they do not have a final even cut from the factory. I call these high/low bristles and they tend to get into the grout lines better than even cut bristles. Nylo-grit brushes are available in 60/80 grit, all the way up to about 500 grit. Obviously, you would not want to run the 60/80 grit brushes on most marble, with certain exceptions like rough cut or chiseled travertine.

A polypropylene brush provides general purpose cleaning of both the surface and the grout.

A polypropylene brush provides general purpose cleaning of both the surface and the grout.

As always, I recommend submitting a test area to confirm the results and the procedure, prior to starting a stone or hard surface restoration/ maintenance project. Also the best way to help ensure success is by partnering with a good distributor, like BB Industries, that knows the business. They can help with technical support, product purchase decisions, logistics, and other pertinent project information.

Bob Murrell has worked in the natural stone industry for over 40 years and is well known for his expertise in natural stone, tile and decorative concrete restoration and maintenance. He helped develop some of the main products and processes which revolutionized the industry, and is currently the Director of Operations for M3 Technologies.