“Marble is easily etched by acidic materials, such as lemon and certain cleaning products… Because marble contains minerals, there’s always the risk that its iron content will turn to rust in a bathroom.”
At the time I recall wishing someone would (please) post photos of their marble a few years down the road so that we could see how it was wearing.
Well, it’s been six years for our marble, so I thought that I’d be that person to post some real-life photos, in case there are others like me out there considering honed marble for their bathroom and wanting to understand exactly what they’re getting themselves into.
|Statuary marble is deep veined, gray on a very white background|
I was going for timeless in this mid-century home. I love the look of old subway tile and basketweave and hex floors in the bathrooms of our historic neighborhood, and I knew that I wanted a deep soaking tub. But I didn’t want a clawfoot tub. I’d had clawfoot baths in various rentals in NYC, and when they’re tucked into a corner, as ours would be, they’re a nuisance to clean around.
The tub that was in place when we bought this home wasn’t original to the house—I’d date it to a 1970s era rehab done on the cheap. It was very shallow, with a wrong-way apron orientation. Someone had used a left apron tub for a right apron corner, and that put the backrest under the faucet. Why? Just one of the crazy mysteries of old houses. Anyway, it wasn’t salvageable for our needs.
After looking at dozens of gorgeous salvaged bathtubs, that all needed a lot of work and missing parts, and gorgeous new bathtubs that were astronomically out of my budget (“Empire” tub from Waterworks), as well as today’s egg-shaped tubs (which just look too new for this home), I decided on the Kohler Tea for Two, which is 18″ deep—so a true soaking tub. Like the tubs of yesteryears, it’s porcelain over cast iron, which is beautiful as well as durable.
Then came the question of what to surround the tub with. I could have continued the white beveled field tile I was using on the walls to cover the deck and aprons, like my inspiration bathroom by Mark Reilly:
But I decided I needed something a bit more glamorous for this tub, which would be the focal point of the room. I considered using a white stone, such as quartz. But visiting a stone yard, I fell in love with statuary marble for its dramatic deep vein of gray against a polar white background.
I read up on staining and the difference between honed and polished. In short: Polished is super shiny and will yellow over time. Both are prone to etching from acids, but in honed it will be less noticable. Once it appears there’s nothing you can do to remove it.
In the end, I decided to go with honed because I just don’t like the glossy look of polished marble. I made up my mind that I could accept whatever etching should happen.
I didn’t have to purchase an entire slab. I found a fabricator who had a more than large enough remnant for my needs. And they agreed to cut the remainder into pieces that became windowsill…
and doorway saddle.
So I have several examples to show you of areas of honed marble that have seen the least to the most wear and tear.
Our windowsill and saddles have held up the best. Not surprising, as they see the least action in the way of shampoos, soaps, lotions, and cleaning fluids.
Some areas of the tub deck that only see water — like the side near the faucet — are also in pristine condition. Water itself doesn’t seem to do a great deal of damage to the marble. There’s not a spec of rust. But New York City doesn’t have hard water, so that’s a consideration.
|The marble tub deck near the faucet is still in great shape|
The areas that have seen the most chemicals and oils are the tub deck and the shower niche. The shower niche holds our shampoo bottles and soaps, so I did expect some damage there. It’s one reason that I went with light gray grout for the dark gray subway tile instead of white grout. And, in fact, we do get some shampoo and conditioner build up in the corners. Here’s a close up — see the orangey stain in the left corner and in the back of the recess?
A dab of cleaner rubbed in with a toothbrush erases it completely. And so far that type of cleaning hasn’t left damage.
The place that does show etching is the tub deck. But not from the things you would think would cause it, such as soaps, body gels, and bath salts. Nope. The most significant cause of etching on the tub comes from us setting down the metal cans of Scrubbing Bubbles — the cleanser recommended by Kohler to clean the porcelain-over-cast-iron tub.
We’re talking a metal can sitting on the marble for like 10 minutes max while we’re cleaning. Not like, we spray and walk away and come back a few hours later.
You can’t see the etching from casually looking. You have to get up close and tilt your head against the light. I’ve tried to capture several close-ups here at just such an angle to the light that you can clearly see the etching.
See the watermarks, like small freckles? If you run your finger over them they are lightly abraded. That’s where the foam cleaner dripped.
|Etched rings caused by metal cans of cleaner resting for a few minutes, max|
And that’s the extent of wear to our honed marble after six years. If you tend to get OCD about marks, you may want to go with polished rather than honed. Or consider a completely different surface, such as quartz.
Have you ever visited a museum or old courthouse building and admired the marble stairs? Those buildings are often 100 or more years old and have seen millions of footsteps, water damage, cleaning damage, weather damage and spills.
That marble has seen LIFE. It’s not perfect, but it is beautiful.