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Photo thanks to @marcortorreal on Instagram

Concrete countertops confer a variety of advantages to homeowners, including the ability to customize their look to suit personal tastes. You can create a minimalist look by using concrete alone or add other materials, such as ceramic, seashells or glass, to create a unique design with invisible seams perfectly suited to your kitchen. This material endures the years and use with ease, aging gracefully and developing its own character over time. Also, when properly sealed and finished, concrete countertops resist water and stains and offer fuss-free care and maintenance. If you’re interested in installing one in your home, read on to find out exactly how to finish concrete countertops to maximize their natural advantages.

Choosing Concrete Countertop Finishes

It’s up to you to decide the color and design style you want for finishing concrete countertops. The versatility of the material lets you add color mixtures to the medium to achieve elegant veined and marbled effects or mimic the look of wood by using woodgrain form liners. You can trowel down the surface while it’s wet to get a rough stone-like appearance or smooth it out for a polished design. You can also add special effects by seeding the aggregate with glow-in-the-dark materials or bits of contrasting marble, then sealing the surface with a high-gloss finish. For a natural look, consider covering the surface with one of Real Milk Paint colors, which are non-toxic and VOC free, that compliment or contrast with other hues in your living space. Additionally, you can leave the edges bare or use molding to highlight your design, helping your project better blend with other fixtures and furnishings in your kitchen.

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Photo thanks to @marcortorreal on Instagram

Prepping Concrete Countertops

Once you pour your concrete countertops just how you want them and allow them to dry, you prepare them for finishing by removing any boards or forms that kept the original mold in place. Next, you should sand down the surface a little or a lot, depending on whether you want a rough or smooth countertop. While you can sand them down by hand, it speeds up the process to use a rotary sander. Be sure to choose sandpaper or discs designed for the style you select — for example, use higher grit options for a more textured space and fine-grit sandpaper for a more polished design. No matter how you choose to prep your concrete countertops, you typically want to use supplies from the Real Milk Paint Co. such as aprons and gloves, especially when dealing with materials with the potential to stain or damage clothing or skin.

Cleaning Concrete Countertops

After you’ve sanded the surface, you’re ready to clean the surface. To do this, either mix 2 tablespoons of our Trisodium Phosphate Cleaner with water or mix a quarter- or half-cup of vinegar into a gallon of water to offset the concrete’s alkalinity. Wipe down the entire surface with the mixture, making sure to reach every nook and cranny. Once the solution dries, rinse the surface with clean water and allow it all to dry. This process is important for a high-quality result as it ensures you’re sealing a pH-neutral surface that beautifully endures time and use. If you want to add some color, like Arabian Night for an inky black look, choose your favorite shade of Real Milk Paint with confidence as it easily adheres to concrete and stays put. Be sure to apply that color and let it dry before you start the finishing process.

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Photo thanks to @marcortorreal on Instagram

Finishing Concrete Countertops

With all the prep work complete and color applied, it’s time for finishing concrete countertops with the sealer of your choice. Options offered by the Real Milk Paint Company include our Pure Tung Oil, which imbues a matte finish that’s safe for food contact, is vegan friendly,, and contains no volatile organic compounds. You can also use waxes such as our Soapstone Sealer to bring subtle color and shine to the surface. No matter which products you choose when deciding how to finish concrete countertops, you apply them in a similar way. Simply apply the sealant in a brisk fashion with a small brush or roller, allowing the medium to sink into the porous surface. Allow the first coat time to dry, then add more as needed, making sure to keep everything smooth and even. Remember, once you finish your concrete countertop, it should resist heat and scratches with aplomb and retain its beauty as the year’s pass.

The material is gorgeous, like honey butter, with a neutral wholesome smell. It is easy to rub in, and makes the color of our concrete countertops darker and richer. Lemon did get through it and the acid dulled the surface, so I would say it is not a “tough” sealer.

Cheryl T., Soapstone Sealer
Very happy with my purchase. Using on concrete. Love that it is natural, food safe, etc. Easy to work with.
Stacey S., Soapstone Sealer

I applied this black wax over dark tung oil on a concrete countertop. It helped even out the coloring and gave a smooth finish with some sheen. It helped to darken the color to a rich dark brown. It took 3 days to fully dry. I covered approximately 30 sq. ft., using very little from my 8 oz. jar. I like that it’s permanent but easy to re-apply if needed. Very happy with results.

Christine B., Zero VOC Wax
I decided to give it a go and I am very happy with the results. It darkens the counter but not too much and I have left water on it for a couple of hours and it never soaked in. So far hot pans have not affected the finish. What else could I ask for.

Very happy with the dark tung oil finish on my concrete countertops. The 30-day cure time was tough but worth it. I finished off with two coats of your carnauba wax to increase sheen. Your customer service was great when I called with the many questions I had.

Susan C., Dark Tung Oil

Absolutely loved the finish and smell of this product and will be using it. Sort of lemony. What we love about the milk paint product and the oils is that it is not toxin and we are putting this on 2200 sq.ft of concrete on our first floor farmhouse. Epoxy would have been horrible which is what others were pointing us too. A good friend pointed me in the Milk paint direction-So thankful!!

Jose R., Pure Tung Oil

I purchased tung oil to use on my new concrete kitchen countertops and I love it. I chose pure tung oil for the safety of the product. It was very easy to use and I love the way my counter looks. Thanks for making great products.

Becky P., Pure Tung Oil

I bought and rebought this product over the last seven years, absolutely love it!!! I recommend it to everyone. I use it for all of my wood projects even my concrete countertops, it’s the best!

Tanya K., Pure Tung Oil

I mixed equal parts of citrus solvent and dark tung oil. To reseal my concrete kitchen counters. That I originally did 4 years ago with straight dark tung oil. I love this product! It is the only food-grade sealer for concrete counters.

Kacee A., Dark Tung Oil
I used Half & Half on my hard maple bathroom floor 4 years ago and it still looks like the day I finished it. I like how you can feel the wood instead of the plastic-like coating of polyurethane. Also, it is not slippery when wet because of the exposed wood texture. I also used a mixture of Half & Half and tung oil on my vintage concrete sink and am satisfied with the results. The sink no longer soaks up moisture, acting like a humidifier.
Jonathan B., Half & Half

Caring for Concrete Countertops

Once you complete the process of finishing concrete countertops, they’re ready for use once cured. Keep in mind that they typically harden and cure over time, so be gentle with the countertops for the first week or so. To maintain the look, you usually need to maintain the surface every two to three years, though caring for a properly finished concrete countertop only requires basic care and cleaning with a wet rag and either gentle commercial cleaning products or simply soap and water. To keep it looking good longer, avoid putting hot pots and pans directly on the surface, and be sure to use a cutting board rather than cutting directly on the countertop to avoid scratches.

While there are many options available to give your kitchen an on-trend feel, concrete countertops also provide a whole host of benefits, including durability and customized designs. Whether you pour your new concrete countertop yourself or hire a professional, it helps to understand the preparation, finishing and care required to help it look its best as time goes by. The Real Milk Paint Co. assists you in this task by providing high-quality, natural, nontoxic products ideal for coloring and finishing your project to your complete satisfaction.