Are Quartz Countertops Safe?

Quartz countertops have become incredibly popular in recent years, and for good reason. They are durable, low-maintenance, and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. However, some homeowners have expressed concerns over the safety of quartz countertops. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine the evidence surrounding the safety of quartz countertops and help you make an informed decision for your home.

What is Quartz?

Quartz is a mineral that is found naturally in the earth’s crust. It is incredibly hard and durable, ranking a 7 out of 10 on the Mohs hardness scale. Quartz countertops are engineered stone made from approximately 90% ground quartz along with polymer resins and pigments.

The resins bind the quartz grains together to form a durable, non-porous surface. The pigments add color and pattern. This combination results in a product that outperforms both natural stone and solid surface countertops on measures of strength, scratch resistance, and stain resistance.

Is Quartz Toxic? Concerns Over Resins and Radon

Much of the concern surrounding the safety of quartz countertops stems from the resins used in production. Common resins include polyester, epoxy, acrylic, and polyethylene. Some early studies linked select resins to health issues when used in certain high-risk applications like auto body manufacturing. This sparked fears that dangerous chemicals could leach from quartz countertops into food and the air.

However, quartz manufacturers point out that the resins used in countertops are different from those used in industrial applications. They are considered non-toxic and food-safe. The polymers fully cure and harden during manufacturing, which binds any potentially hazardous chemicals.

Numerous independent studies have confirmed that quartz countertops do not pose any health risks from chemicals leaching or off-gassing. The most comprehensive study to date came from the Clean Production Action group. Their GreenScreen assessment concluded:

“Based on the complete dataset, quartz surfaces can be considered to have a Low to No Concern for human health hazards.”

Another common concern surrounds radiation from granite aggregates that are sometimes used in quartz slabs. Granite contains trace amounts of uranium, thorium, and radium, which can emit radon gas. However, scientific testing on both quartz and granite countertops found radiation levels well below safety limits. The Health Physics Society concludes:

“Although a small number of granite countertops may increase radiation levels minimally, this is not a significant health concern.”

Bottom line – numerous studies have shown quartz countertops pose no toxic risk from resins or radon when properly manufactured. Still, homeowners concerned about off-gassing may consider low-VOC sealers.

Are Quartz Countertops Prone to Cracks and Damage?

While quartz is engineered to be more flexible and impact-resistant than natural stone, no countertop material is completely crack and damage-proof. Seams, knocks, improperly installed corners, and underlying cabinet movement can all create stress points.

However, quartz holds up better than most surfaces. Consumer Reports found that “solid surfaces and quartz composites are unlikely to chip or crack under normal use.” Quartz’s durability comes from the resins that bind the minerals together. This gives it more flexibility and tensile strength than natural stone.

That said, extreme force, movement, or changes in temperature can damage quartz. Homeowners should follow best practices to minimize the risk of cracks:

  • Inspect slabs at the fabrication shop for any pre-existing flaws.
  • Use experienced installers to fabricate and install with precision.
  • Adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions for seam placement and corner support.
  • Allow space between slabs and walls/appliances for expansion.
  • Avoid direct heat exposure from cookware, which causes thermal shock.
  • Reseal joints every 1-2 years to prevent moisture intrusion.

With proper care and maintenance, quartz countertops have a very low risk of cracks and damage. But no material is impervious to abuse. Homeowners that are highly concerned about cracks may consider quartz-composite brands with the highest resin content.

Does Quartz Stain Easily?

The non-porous nature of quartz makes it highly stain-resistant compared to surfaces like granite and marble. Liquids will simply bead up rather than soak in. However, that doesn’t make quartz 100% stain-proof. Prolonged exposure to strong pigments can leave a stubborn stain.

The good news is that many stains can be removed from quartz with prompt cleaning using household products like soap, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and lemon juice. For tough stains, the resin content makes quartz very amenable to using a poultice paste to draw out deep stains without damaging the finish.

To minimize stains, we recommend:

  • Wipe up spills immediately before they have time to set.
  • Use sealers/impregnators to add an extra layer of spill protection.
  • Avoid harsh cleaners like oven cleaner that can damage the finish.
  • For stubborn stains, create a poultice paste following manufacturer instructions.

While no countertop is completely stain-proof, quartz’s non-porous composition and simple cleaning regime makes it one of the most stain-resistant options available today.

Does Quartz Harbor More Germs Than Other Surfaces?

Early reports suggested that quartz’s resistance to chemicals made it harder to sanitize than other countertops. This sparked fears that quartz could harbor bacteria and present a food safety issue. However, those initial studies used sanitizers far weaker than what is used in household cleaners.

Multiple subsequent studies have shown that quartz does not pose any unique risks for bacterial growth. A study by the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management sampled bacteria on quartz, granite, marble, and stainless steel. The results showed minimal bacterial presence on quartz, on par with other common surfaces.

Quartz’s non-porous nature makes it no more likely to harbor bacteria than other countertops. With routine cleaning using disinfecting products containing chlorine or alcohol, quartz will not present any elevated food safety risks.

Does Quartz Require Special Cleaning Products?

One of the advantages of quartz is that it does not require specialized cleaning products. Simple dish soap and warm water is sufficient for regular maintenance. For deeper cleaning, general household products like vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda paste, glass cleaner, and lemon juice all work well.

Avoid abrasive pads and powders, as well as harsh chemicals like oven cleaner, which can etch and dull the finish. Follow the manufacturer’s care and maintenance instructions to avoid damaging the surface.

With routine cleaning using basic household products, quartz countertops are very easy to keep looking like new. Compared to natural stone, quartz does not require frequent sealing or expensive cleaners.

Is Quartz Environmentally Friendly?

As homeowners become more eco-conscious, they’re asking more questions about the sustainability of quartz. Unfortunately, there are some environmental trade-offs with engineered stone versus natural materials.

On the positive side, quartz does contain high percentages of recycled content. Pre-consumer recycled glass, porcelain, mirror, and natural stone make up 50-70% of many slabs. Quartz doesn’t require ongoing sealing, which reduces maintenance requirements and chemicals in the home.

However, quartz manufacturing does produce more CO2 emissions than natural stone. The resins also contain some VOCs, though emissions during fabrication are tightly controlled. And quartz is non-renewable, while natural stone is abundant.

For homeowners prioritizing green building, eco-options do exist. Some manufacturers use bio-based resins with lower VOC content. And quartz can be reused and recycled rather than landfilled.

No countertop offers a perfect environmental solution. Homeowners must weigh their priorities, style preferences, and budget to select the most sustainable option.

Are There Health Risks from Fabricating Quartz?

Fabricating quartz countertops involves cutting slabs to size, shaping edges, and drilling holes for sinks and faucets. Fabricators take precautions to control the silica dust produced when cutting stone. This includes using wet cutting and vacuum extraction systems.

However, there are still risks if proper safety procedures aren’t followed. Cutting quartz produces dangerous silica dust containing crystalline silica. Silica particles are invisible to the naked eye and can hang in the air for hours when dry cutting methods are used. Prolonged inhalation exposure can lead to lung conditions like silicosis, lung cancer, COPD, and kidney disease.

For this reason, OSHA has strict regulations governing quartz fabrication. These include:

  • Using wet cutting practices to suppress dust.
  • Ventilation systems to capture and filter dust.
  • Respirators with N95 particulate filters.
  • Worker training on how to limit exposure.

When choosing a fabricator, only use shops that follow OSHA quartz dust regulations. Never allow in-home fabricating without strict dust controls. With proper handling, the risks to homeowners from fabricating new quartz counters is very low.

Should You Seal Quartz Countertops?

Sealing quartz countertops is an optional extra precaution to guard against stains. The resins used in manufacturing already make quartz non-porous, so sealing is not required. However, sealers can provide an added layer of protection by creating a hydrophobic barrier that repels moisture.

Sealers approved for quartz are penetrating impregnators made of silicone resins, rather than topical acrylic coatings. Impregnators soak in and bond with the underlying material without altering the appearance. Common brands used on quartz include BulletProof Sealers and Miracle Sealants 511 Impregnator.

Sealers can be a smart proactive measure for quartz installed in heavy use areas like kitchens. We recommend reapplying every 1-2 years. However, sealing should never take the place of routine cleaning and maintenance. For most homeowners, regular cleaning is sufficient to keep quartz pristine without the added step of sealing.

Are There Limitations on Quartz Countertop Uses?

Quartz is versatile enough for use in nearly any room and application. With proper care, quartz can withstand the demands of heavy use areas like kitchens. Still, there are a few limitations to note:

High Heat Exposure – Prolonged direct heat exposure from cookware can damage quartz surfaces due to thermal shock. Always use trivets and hot pads.

Outdoor Installation – Quartz is not recommended for outdoor use where it will be exposed to UV rays and weather elements.

Heavy Impact – Quartz is impact-resistant, but excessively forceful impacts like hammering can chip the surface.

With routine care and common sense, these limitations are easy to work around. Overall, quartz performs admirably in nearly any setting within the home. It’s just important not to subject it to extremes of heat, impact, or weathering.

Choosing the Safest Quartz Countertops

Homeowners concerned about the safety of quartz can look for options made by reputable manufacturers located in the United States or Europe. These brands meet the most stringent health and safety regulations. Based on third-party testing and certifications, some of the safest quartz brands include:

  • Cambria – Certified GREENGUARD Gold for low chemical emissions. Uses Bio-Based resin technology.
  • Caesarstone – GREENGUARD Gold Certified. Uses up to 35% pre-consumer recycled content.
  • Silestone – Uses BioCare Technology and is NSF/ANSI 51 Certified for food safety.
  • Vicostone – GREENGUARD Gold Certified. Uses a high percentage of recycled glass and feldspar.

Be sure to register your warranty and follow the manufacturer’s care guidelines to ensure your warranty remains valid. With routine maintenance and proper handling, reputable quartz brands carry very low safety risks.

Are Quartz Countertops Safe? The Bottom Line

Based on the available research, quartz countertops meet health and safety standards when properly manufactured and installed. Concerns over toxicity from resins and radon have not borne out. And quartz’s durable composition makes it resistant to damage, stains, and bacteria growth with routine care.

While no material is 100% risk-proof, quartz countertops present fewer safety concerns compared to more fragile and reactive options like marble, granite, and limestone. By selecting quartz from a reputable brand and fabricator, homeowners can enjoy an attractive, low-maintenance countertop with confidence.

As with any home project, ensure proper safety precautions are followed during fabrication and installation. With reasonable care and under normal household use, quartz countertops provide years of safe, sanitary, and worry-free beauty.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are quartz countertops completely safe for food prep?

Yes, when properly sealed and cared for, quartz surfaces are non-toxic and completely food-safe. Leading brands meet NSF/ANSI 51 certification standards for safe food contact. With routine cleaning using detergents or disinfectants, quartz does not harbor more bacteria than other common materials. Quartz offers safe, sanitary, and stain-resistant food prep surfaces.

Can quartz surfaces emit dangerous VOCs or radon gas?

Independent testing shows quartz emits extremely low VOC levels that are far below health risk thresholds. Quartz can contain trace levels of naturally occurring radionuclides found in raw quartz crystals and granite aggregates. However, emissions are negligible and well below regulatory exposure limits even after years of use. Reputable quartz manufacturers meet the most stringent health regulations for gas emissions. With proper ventilation, off-gassing is not a concern.

Does quartz need to be sealed to be food-safe?

Sealing is an optional extra precaution but is not required for food safety. Quartz is non-porous so liquids cannot penetrate the surface. Leading brands are formulated with food-safe resins. As long as quartz is cleaned routinely with detergents, disinfectants, or bleach solutions, it will be safe for food prep without sealing. Sealers provide an added layer of spill resistance but are not mandatory.

Can quartz crack or chip easily?

Quartz is engineered to have enhanced flexibility and impact resistance compared to natural stone. When fabricated and installed correctly, following manufacturer guidelines, quartz is very durable under normal use. However, no material is completely damage-proof. Applying extremely forceful impacts, allowing prolonged heat exposure, or improper support can damage quartz surfaces over time. With reasonable care, quartz withstands regular use very well.

How environmentally friendly is quartz compared to other countertops?

There are pros and cons. Quartz contains high recycled content. It requires less maintenance and no ongoing sealing. But manufacturing quartz emits more CO2 than natural stone and uses non-renewable resins. Overall, quartz falls somewhere in the middle on environmental factors – less green than soapstone but more eco-friendly than solid surface acrylics. Homeowners can look for brands using bio-based resins to reduce VOCs.


With routine care and maintenance, quartz offers a safe, sanitary, and durable countertop surface. Concerns over toxicity are not supported by scientific testing when reputable brands are used. Quartz’s non-porous properties also make it highly stain and bacteria-resistant. While no material is 100% risk-free, quartz stacks up very well compared to other countertop options in terms of health and safety. With some basic precautions for handling heat and impacts, quartz countertops offer homeowners a beautiful, easy-to-maintain surface for years of safe enjoyment.