Travertine is a type of stone flooring which is quarried from the earth and then refined down into tiles for architectural use. It has been used in a variety of building applications for thousands of years. A form of limestone, travertine is indeed "hard as a rock," but it is also relatively porous when compared to some other natural stone construction materials. For this reason, it has certain inherent vulnerabilities that need to be considered when cleaning and caring for these materials. This includes both long-term, regular maintenance concerns, as well as specific instructions and precautions you should follow whenever working with these surfaces.
How Often to Clean Travertine Flooring
Regular sweeping or vacuuming, plus mopping, should be done weekly with travertine floors, or whenever the floor is obviously soiled. Disinfecting is a good idea for monthly maintenance, and cleaning grout lines is a good idea every few months, though this interval can vary depending on how dirty your floor gets. Most stone flooring manufacturers recommend surface-sealing travertine every three to five years, though harsh chemicals and heavy use may wear out the sealer more quickly than that.
What You Need
- Broom or vacuum cleaner
- Mop or sponge
- Mop bucket
- Mild, non-acidic dish soap
- Baking soda
- Small scrub brush
- Penetrating stone sealer (where needed)
- Surface stone sealer
Never use abrasive chemical cleaners or anything acidic when caring for travertine floors. Travertine stone is by nature an alkaline substance, and it can stain and discolor if it comes in contact with acidic substances.
How to Clean Travertine Flooring
Sweep or vacuum the floor on a weekly basis to remove small dirt and grit particles that can cause minor abrasive scarring to the surface of the tile. Over time, these tiny particles can wear down the luster of the material while also removing the protective sealant coat, leaving the stone beneath vulnerable to discoloration and staining.
Mopping Travertine Flooring
The best way to mop a travertine floor is to use warm, plain water, applied with a mop or sponge that is wrung dry so that the surface gets just barely damp. Do not saturate travertine tiles with water, as it can penetrate down past sealant or into grout lines, causing discoloration, degradation, and the growth of mold and mildew.
Disinfecting Travertine Flooring
For disinfecting purposes, a tablespoon of mild, non-acidic dish soap can be added to a gallon of water and used to damp-mop these floors. However, when this is done, the surface should be mopped a second time with clean water to remove any lingering residue that may exist. Toweling it dry is also recommended.
Disinfecting does not need to be done with every mopping, but once a month is a good idea.
Cleaning Grout Lines
The grout lines between tiles allow for the expansion and contraction of the material during seasonal temperature fluctuations, preventing individual pieces from rubbing into one another and cracking. However, it can also be the most vulnerable point in your travertine flooring installation, as these spaces are susceptible to water penetration, stains, discoloration, and the growth of dark, unsightly, and unhealthy mold.
To clean travertine grout lines, mix equal parts baking soda and water to create a gritty paste. This can be scrubbed onto the grout with a small brush, that will allow you to wash the areas between the tiles without scratching their edges and causing damage to the material. This can be done fairly thoroughly as the grout itself will not etch or damage under pressure.
Note: commercial grout cleansers used for ceramic tile often contain bleaches. Do not use these on travertine tiles, as the bleach may etch the stone.
If necessary, grout lines can also be completely removed and replaced, which can give your flooring installation a brand new look that is revitalized and fresh. While regrouting can be moderately difficult, it is a much easier and less expensive option than replacing an entire travertine floor.
One of the major problems with natural travertine flooring is that the tiles have microscopic pores in the surface which can soak up liquids, leading to stains, discoloration, material degradation, and the growth of mold. The way to combat this is to ensure that the material is properly sealed both during and after installation, and then again periodically throughout its existence.
There are two types of sealants used on travertine floors. The first is a deep penetrating material which will seep down and clog the pores, making it difficult for moisture to invade the stone. Then, a surface barrier sealer can be used to create a clear coating over the top of the tiles which will stop staining substances from discoloring them.
Once the initial below-surface sealer is brushed on, barrier surface coatings are then generally re-applied every few years to maintain the protective characteristics of this treatment.
Travertine tiles tend to be light in color, but adding sealer can deepen those hues, and give them a slightly glossy appearance. Some people like this, and if that is your desired effect you should reapply the sealant frequently. On the other hand, some people prefer a weathered look which can be achieved by using it less often. Most stone manufacturers recommend an interval of three to five years for optimal protection of the floor.
Travertine is a very elegant, premium flooring material, and regular cleaning and sealing will keep it looking its best for decades.