No two ways about it, stained countertops make your whole kitchen look crummy. But unless you restrict your culinary activities to boiling water and occasionally peeling a banana, stains are pretty much inevitable. You could always go buy a countertop cleaner, of course, but there are homemade options that are definitely cheaper and might be just as effective. Here are a few.
Formica: Soap and water often works, but if it doesn’t try making a paste of baking soda and water. Note: DON’T use this to scrub the stain, because baking soda is mildly abrasive and may damage the surface. Just spread the paste over the stain, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap, and and let it set overnight. The next day use a warm damp cloth to wipe away the paste – chances are the stain will be gone.
If baking soda doesn’t cut it, try making a similar paste with a powdered cleanser. Spread over the stain (but be really careful about not rubbing or scrubbing because it will definitely scratch the countertop) and let it sit uncovered for a couple of hours> when the paste is dry and crusted over, carefully remove it and then give the area a good wipedown with soap and water.
Desperate measures: if you’re tried both of the above and the stain is still visible, try repeating either or both. Sometimes it takes repeated applications to really eradicate a tough stain like ink, hair dye, or concentrated food coloring. If you’ve tried repeating the paste applications and are at your wits’ end, there’s another possibility if the countertop is white or light colored: find the least-visible area of the stain and try wiping the stain with acetone nail polish remover. Sometimes that works when nothing else does … but it’s a dangerous business if you have a dark or brightly colored countertop.
Laminate: Start with dishwashing liquid or ordinary household cleaners. Pour, spray or wipe them on and let them set for a few minutes, then wipe away with a damp cloth. You might have to repeat the process several times, but it may well do the trick. If you can still see the stain after several tries, try making as paste of baking soda and/or powdered cleanser and following the same steps as for formica. Still visible? Swabbing a white or light colored countertop with acetone nail polish remover will probably work but is likely to lift color from any countertop that isn’t white to begin with.
Some people swear by silver polish for removing stains from countertops.
Desperate measures: if nothing else works, wipe the area with lacquer thinner or straight laundry bleach. But be aware that either of these can lift the color of the countertop, which makes it a generally bad idea unless yours are white.