Putting a Fresh Shine on an Old Countertop
Solid surface in search of a shine
The solid-surface countertop in my kitchen is about 8 years old, and I'm looking for a way to give it new sparkle, and maybe even a shine. Can you tell me how to go about it?
— Steve, San Clemente, CA
Tom Silva replies: Solid surfacing is typically available in matte, semigloss, and gloss finishes. If your countertops were glossy originally, all you should have to do is clean the surface with soapy water, an ammonia-based window cleaner, Softscrub, or Lysol spray. Avoid cleaners like Formula 409 or Fantastik, which leave behind residues. If that doesn't quite do the job, try cleaning with an abrasive household cleanser like Ajax or Comet applied with a sponge or a white Scotch-Brite pad. The bleach in them doesn't hurt solid surfacing, but it does take five or six wipe-downs to get rid of the residue. You can do this once a month to maintain the original level of gloss, but if you want a polished gleam, it will have to be refinished. This isn't an easy job, but it's usually easier and cheaper than replacing the countertop.
The least expensive route to a higher, semigloss polish is to increase the frequency of cleanings with the abrasive and sponge or Scotch-Brite. Your countertop will shine, eventually. But if you can't wait that long, or don't want to put in all that elbow grease, hire a professional countertop fabricator, who can bring the surface to a high polish. On a Corian countertop, for example, they use a precise set of steps that involves a random-orbit sander, progressively finer grits of sanding film (a superfine abrasive sheet), a low-speed polisher, and polishing liquids. Just be prepared to pay a high price for this service, to contain the fine dust that the sanding will generate, and to hand-buff your countertops at least once a month thereafter. Of course, if you're not willing to maintain that glossy surface, maybe you're better off leaving it matte or semigloss.