Which is the easiest to sanitize?
Laminate, wood, tile, concrete, stainless steel, and granite are the most common materials used for home counters. When choosing a surface, appearance and price are always the top priorities. However, homeowners should also consider the sanitary properties of each material.
In an experiment published by the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in 1991, each of these six materials was tested to see which was the easiest to sanitize. A sample of each surface was treated with E. coli, the bacteria responsible for food poisoning. Afterward, each countertop was cleaned with regular dishwashing soap and a washcloth and then rinsed. This simple wash and rinse experiment replicated common household cleaning practices.
After each countertop surface had been washed and rinsed, samples were taken from each material to determine which had retained the most bacteria.
Granite performed the best, with less than 0.003% of the bacteria remaining after simply cleaning with dish soap. The retention of the E. coli was from most retained to most removed as follows:
1. Laminate 2. Wood 3. Tile 4. Concrete 5. Stainless steel 6. Granite
In the next part of the experiment, the washed and rinsed samples were cleaned with a solution of vinegar and water. This test simulated the cleaning practices of commercial kitchens. Again, laminate, wood, tile, and concrete did not perform as well as stainless steel and granite samples. In this test, stainless steel proved the most effective, with 0.0000005% of the bacteria remaining, compared to 0.00002% on the granite.
In both cases, the amount of E. coli remaining on the surface is well below sanitation guidelines and would be considered safe. Cleaning the laminate, wood, tile, and concrete with vinegar removed as much bacteria as soap and water did on the granite and stainless steel surfaces. Homeowners should reflect on their own countertop cleaning practices when selecting a countertop material. Cleaning a solid surface, such as granite or stainless steel, will only require a mild detergent. Laminate, wood, and tile will require harsh chemicals for the same result.
It’s no surprise that stainless steel performed well in these tests—it has been the surface of choice in the commercial kitchens for years. However, granite’s sanitary properties may surprise some. Unlike stainless steel, granite is available in a wide number of colors and designs. Granite is popular in homes because it doesn’t show fingerprints and will never dent or scratch.
When shopping for new counters, it is tempting to choose a material based on looks alone. That’s why some homeowners are surprised to learn that naturally beautiful granite is also safe, sanitary, and easy to maintain. The “greenest” kitchen countertop is also the cleanest and it has become the top choice for home countertops.