You know how everyone always likes to hang out in the kitchen? Unfortunately so does bacteria, mold, and germs. In fact, in a Food & Wine article, microbiologist and professor Dr. Charles Gerba (a.k.a. Dr. Germ) goes further to say, "In most cases, it's safer to make a salad on a toilet seat than it is to make one on a cutting board ... People disinfect their toilet seats all the time, but they don't realize that they really need to pay attention in the kitchen too."
Consider the kitchen countertop — potentially beautiful, undeniably statement making, insanely hardworking, and totally filthy — where salmonella and E. coli are having party that never ends (yikes!). The good news: We've got this. Here, four kitchen countertop ideas that are not only a snap to clean but are also absolutely gorgeous.
1. Quartz Countertops
There's a reason why you can find polished quartz countertops, like Caeserstone, in boutique hotels, chic restaurants, and stylish kitchens such as this all-white stunner designed by Project M Plus: It's beautiful, durable, and easy to clean. Quartz surfaces are made of pigments and polymers that have been mixed together, compressed, and polished. The result is a nonporous material, which means it naturally resists nasty bacteria, mold, and germs.
Cleaning a quartz kitchen countertop is as easy as spraying your fave kitchen cleaner on a paper towel and wiping it down. Or, you can use soap or a mild detergent. (For cleaning in general, don't use a dirty sponge, as it will spread bacteria everywhere. Instead use a clean dish towel or paper towel, or disinfect your sponge.) Don'ts for a quartz kitchen countertop include abrasive cleaners (they can scratch the polished finish), leaving anything acidic on the surface (think tarnish removers and oven cleaners, which can etch into stone, making it more porous), and direct heat, which can cause cracking or discoloration. Meanwhile, when using sharp knives one should always use a cutting board.
2. Linoleum and Laminate Countertops
In the fifties, linoleum and laminate kitchen countertops were highly fashionable and so in demand that they were expensive — how else could you create a countertop that's easy to clean, available in candy colors, and was sometimes embedded with real glitter? Of course these retro looks have long gone out of style, or have they? As of late, laminate and linoleum countertops, like the rosy surfaces in this Scandi-chic kitchen, have been making their way back into the mainstream thanks to a wide range of colors, a clean midcentury modern vibe, and low cost.
To clean, use mild liquid detergent or cleaning spray. Along the seams of the linoleum or laminate it's best to use a soft toothbrush and soapy water or spray, but make sure you dry the seams after they get wet, because water that sits there too long can get under the material and cause the edge of your kitchen countertop to swell or crack. (However, this isn't very common. Yours truly has had laminate in her bathrooms for over 10 years, and this has never happened, even tough she's never remembered to towel the edges dry because she has a life.) Acidic cleaners like bleach or old-timey abrasives like Bar Keepers Friend, for example, can also feasibly scratch the surface. If you need to gently scour, a paste of baking soda and water is best.
3. Solid Surface Countertops
We love, love, love solid surface kitchen countertops. They come in an incredible variety of colors, and you can get them precut to custom dimensions. The man-made material is stain resistant, which is a plus when you're throwing a dinner party and simmering bolognese for the lasagne, while drinking red wine, while cutting fresh strawberries, while applying a fresh coat of red lipstick. On the off chance you make a mistake? Well, wipe that mess up with soapy water or cleaning spray, dry with a towel, and you're done. The cons of a solid surface countertop, such as Corian® (which was used in this midcentury cook space designed by the celebrated architect Albert Frey): It can scratch pretty easily so be sure to use a cutting board, and don't expose it to heat from that boiling pot of bolognese. Also, it's a bit pricey, so if you're looking to install a new kitchen countertop on the cheap, this is probably not a good choice.
4. Stainless Steel Countertops
Cue the Angelic sopranos because stainless steel kitchen countertops, like the ones in this modern culinary space designed by Vipp, reach the highest of heights. Stainless steel is gorgeous, timeless, indestructible, nonporous, easy to clean, and stain- and heat-resistant — you can put a hot pan, straight from the oven, on it. Or, slather it with blueberry and rhubarb jam just because you can. Also, bacteria and stainless steel are not friends — there's simply no place for it to hide. And when you're ready to clean, reach for the spray, bleach, soap ... dealer's choice. They all agree with the industrial finish.
Are there any drawbacks to stainless steel countertops? Well, it scratches, but that's part of its beauty. Pristine stainless steel can be quite cold-looking and virtually impossible to maintain. But as stainless steel scratches, your kitchen countertops will have a patina that's exactly right. You'll also have to consider dents. Hypothetically, if you are rough on your kitchen — you know, using a sledgehammer or throwing your dutch oven across the room — you could dent your new countertops. But you're probably not going to do that because why would you? You wouldn't. Even John Wick probably wouldn't go that far. (Actually, he totally would!) Regardless, if this is your choice, you'll just be humming along in life with the easiest to clean and coolest looking kitchen countertops ever.
Deanna Kizis is a journalist and author. She's the former West Coast editor of Elle magazine and a former contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar. Her byline has also appeared in Cosmopolitan, Self, Allure, Details, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, Elle Décor, Domino, Vanity Fair, among others. Her novels, How to Meet Cute Boys and Finishing Touches got rave reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Us Weekly, People and Elle magazine.