Travertine is a type of stone flooring that is quarried from the earth and then refined 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 surface is visibly soiled. Sweeping or vacuuming the floor removes small particles that can cause minor abrasive scarring to the surface of the tile. Over time, these tiny particles can wear down the luster and finish of the material while also removing the protective sealant coat, leaving the stone beneath vulnerable to discoloration and staining. In addition to regular cleaning, there are three other parts to cleaning and maintaining travertine floors:
- Disinfect floors during monthly maintenance.
- Clean grout lines every few months depending on how dirty your floor gets.
- Surface-seal travertine every three to five years according to most stone flooring manufacturers, though harsh chemicals and heavy use may wear out the sealer more quickly than that, requiring additional applications.
Equipment / Tools
- Broom or vacuum cleaner
- Mop or sponge
- Mop bucket
- Small, narrow scrub brush for grout
- 1 tablespoon mild, non-acidic dish soap
- Baking soda
- Warm water
- Stone cleaner (optional)
Sweep or Vacuum the Floor
Sweep or vacuum the floor to eliminate small particles of dirt and grit.
Mop the Floor
Apply a small amount of plain warm water to the floor with a sponge or mop that is nearly wrung dry so that the travertine 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.
Disinfect the Floor
If it is time to disinfect the floor, add a tablespoon of mild, non-acidic dish soap to a gallon of water. Damp-mop the floor with this solution. Mop a second time with clean water to remove any lingering residue that may exist. Toweling the surface dry is also recommended.
Clean the Grout Lines
Cleaning the grout around travertine tiles can be tricky because you don't want to mar the stone, but you need something abrasive to clean the grout. If the grout lines are due to be cleaned, mix equal parts baking soda and water to create a gritty paste. Carefully scrub this slightly abrasive paste onto the grout with a tiny brush as you avoid scratching or etching the edges of the tile with the tool. Also, try a specially formulated stone cleaner (approved to use on travertine) to try to clean the grout.
Tips on Sealing Travertine Stone Flooring
Natural travertine has microscopic pores in the surface which give it a rustic look, but which can also soak up liquids, leading to stains, discoloration, material degradation, and mold growth. 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.
Types of Sealant
There are two types of sealants used on travertine floors. The first is a deep penetrating material that will seep down and clog the pores, making it difficult for moisture to invade the stone. A surface barrier sealer can then be used to create a clear coating over the tiles to stop spills from causing discoloration. Once the initial below-surface sealer is brushed on, a barrier surface coating can then be reapplied every few years to maintain the treatment.
Color Effects of Sealants
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 look, and if that is your desired effect you can reapply the sealant frequently. On the other hand, others prefer a weathered look which can be achieved by using the sealer less often.
Tips to Keep Your Travertine Tiles Clean Longer
Maintaining travertine comes down to using mild cleaners and taking care of the grout. 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.
The grout lines between tiles are the most vulnerable points in your travertine flooring installation, as these spaces are susceptible to water penetration, stains, discoloration, and the growth of dark, unsightly, and unhealthy mold. Do not use commercial grout cleansers used for ceramic tile because they often contain bleaches which may etch travertine stone.
If necessary, grout lines can also be completely removed and replaced, which can give your flooring installation a brand new and revitalized look. While regrouting can be moderately difficult, it is a much easier and less expensive option than replacing an entire travertine floor.