Travertine is a type of stone flooring which is quarried from the earth and then refined down into tiles for architectural use. While it is as hard as a rock, it also 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 that have to be taken whenever interacting with these surfaces.
Sealing Travertine Tiles
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 that you want to use 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 year or so to maintain the protective characteristics of this treatment.
Travertine tiles tend to be mild 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 as often as possible. On the other hand, some people prefer a weathered look which can be achieved by using it less often.
Travertine Cleaning Instructions
- Note: Never use abrasive chemical cleaners, or anything acidic when caring for travertine floors. These materials are a pH-based and will stain if they come in contact with anything that is acidic in nature.
- Regular Cleaning: 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.
- Mopping: 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 only ever gets damp. Do not inundate 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.
For disinfecting purposes, a tablespoon of mild, non-acidic dish soap can be added to a gallon of water and used to 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.
Cleaning Travertine Grout Lines
The grout which is installed between tiles allows 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, and 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.
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 this process can be moderately difficult, it is a much easier and less expensive option than replacing an entire travertine floor and can have similar results.