kitchen countertop review

Healthy Kitchen Countertop Review

What are the best countertops for a healthy kitchen?  I get asked this question all the time.  And I had to ask myself this question when I started planning my own kitchen renovation.  I did a TON of research to get this question answered.  And what I found is that there is no such thing as a perfect countertop. 

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The kitchen countertop has so many expectations placed on it (food safety, air quality safety, ease of cleaning, low maintenance, durable, attractive, affordable), which makes it impossible to find the perfect material.  But it's not hopeless!  There are some really great healthy options out there.  So let's take a look at my findings.

Healthy Kitchen Countertop Criteria

  • Healthy countertops do not off-gas harmful chemicals into your home.  
  • They are made of natural materials or man-made materials that have low environmental impact.  
  • They are easy to clean, do not harbor mold and bacteria, and do not require sealing with chemical sealers (they are nonporous or can be sealed with non-toxic sealants).  
  • They don't scratch or stain.  
  • They can can be mechanically fastened to cabinets.  This means no adhesives are needed for install.  
  • There is no added anti-microbial features.  Triclosan is a toxic chemical often found in antimicrobial products.  It messes with hormones, contributes to the rise of antibiotic resistant germs, and might be harmful to the immune system (Mayo clinic).

Now let's get on to the healthy kitchen countertop review!

Engineered Stone Quartz Countertop:

Would I use it:  YES

Engineered quartz is a man-made countertop made from roughly 93% quartz-containing rocks and minerals and 7% resin.  I love this product because it is durable, there is basically no maintenance besides wiping it down after use, it is safe, and there are lots of finishes to fit almost any kitchen style.

The good:  

  • Scratch, stain, and heat resistant
  • No sealing requiredEasy to maintain
  • Hygienic since it is non-porous and seamless
  • Endless looks from monochrome to marbleized
  • Can be mechanically fastened 

The bad:  

  • Expensive
  • Some brands (Silestone) add antimicrobials


Brand Recommendations:  

Cambria and Caesarstone are two USA made brands.

Granite / Natural Stone Countertop:

Would I use it:  YES*

* With non-toxic sealers

Granite and other natural stones are healthy materials, but the sealants that must be applied to the countertops are toxic and contain chemicals that have reproductive and developmental risks.  To avoid these risks, a non-toxic sealant must be used, otherwise natural stone countertops do not belong in a healthy home.

The good:  

  • Durable, hard surface 
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Variety of finishes
  • Natural material
  • Can be mechanically fastened

The bad:  

  • Expensive
  • Can crack under high heat
  • Porous - must be sealed regularly.  
  • Can stain (but not easily)
  • Most countertop sealants are chemical-based.  Be sure to choose a non-toxic sealant such as AFM Safecoat Waterstop.


Things to Consider:

If you want to go with natural stone, look for one that requires sealing less frequently.  Some natural stones are less porous than others, allowing for less frequent sealing.  Ask an expert at your local stone shop to help.

Ceramic Tile Countertop:

Would I use it:  NO

When looking strictly at the countertop material itself, ceramic tile with non-toxic glazing is considered the safest countertop material.  BUT, the problem with a tile countertop is that the grout lines will trap food and liquid and will harbor bacteria and mold.  I find it very difficult to keep grout clean and mold-free, even with constant upkeep.  

The good:  

  • Inert, non-toxic material
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Moderately priced

The bad:  

  • Grout will harbor bacteria and mold and is very hard to clean
  • Glazes may contain heavy metals like lead
  • Tiles can crack
  • Dated look
  • Requires underlayment: Usually made of engineered wood, and most engineered wood products like particle and plywood contain formaldehyde. 


Things to Consider:

The larger the tile, the less grout lines you will have.  Make your grout lines as small as possible.  Buy tiles made in USA.  Choose a formaldehyde-free underlayment.

Wood Countertop:

Would I use it:  NO

Wood is a safe, non-toxic and environmentally friendly material, but it is hard to clean and can harbor mold and bacteria.  Because of this I don't recommend wood for healthy kitchens unless you are willing to do constant upkeep to keep it clean and safe.  

The good:  

  • Non-toxic
  • Warm, earthy look
  • Moderately priced
  • Renewable natural material
  • Can be mechanically fastened

The bad:  

  • Stains easily
  • Cuts easily
  • Can harbor bacteria and mold
  • Requires sealing and regular maintenance

Plastic Laminate Countertop:

Would I use it:  NO

A plastic laminate countertop like Formica may sound enticing because of its price and wide range of color choices, but overall it is very bad for our health.  It also does not hold up over time, so the initial cost is not as much of a savings as you may think.  I would steer clear of laminate countertops.

The good:  

  • Inexpensive first cost
  • Seamless surface
  • Lots of color and pattern options

The bad:  

  • The plastic is laminated to a particle board core with toxic glue.  The particle board core is also most likely made with toxic substances, namely formaldehyde.  
  • Scratches easily
  • Deteriorates if water gets below the surface and particle board gets wet
  • Stains easily
  • Not heat resistant

Final Thoughts:

Even though there is no 'perfect' countertop, there are plenty of choices for your new wellness kitchen.  For even more kitchen countertop reviews, download my FREE cheat sheet for healthy kitchen countertops!

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