Have you recently installed travertine floors in your home? Or maybe you’re considering this type of flooring for your next home makeover. Travertine is one of the oldest building materials used and it’s easy to see why.
The earthy colors give you the feeling that you’re in the mountains. But how do you care for such flooring? Many people think it can take anything because it’s so durable, but you have to be careful. If you’re wondering how to clean travertine floors, look no further.
What Is Travertine?
Travertine is a natural stone such as marble, onyx and granite. However, that’s where the similarities end. The stone is formed in limestone caves or hot springs, by the condensation of calcium carbonate. When it hardens, it creates a durable stone — travertine.
Other natural stones like marble and granite go through a process called metamorphosis. Hence why these are also known as metamorphic rocks. This means the stone undergoes pressure and heat, thus becoming either shiny like marble or sparkling like granite.
Travertine, on the other hand, is entirely natural. Its key characteristic is the tiny pores caused by carbon dioxide bubbles present in the material as it sets. These pores, however, are also what makes the floor type sensitive to specific cleaning methods (1).
Because travertine has been used for centuries, you can find it in some of the most iconic architectural buildings. The Colosseum in Rome, Italy, and La Basilique du Sacre-Coeur in Paris, France, are only some of the amazing creations of travertine.
Travertine is sold in tile form for easy installation. It’s available in multiple earthy colors such as beige, rust, tans and browns. Although travertine is a hard stone, it’s not the right choice for every room of the house.
Advantages of Travertine Floors
Travertine floors have been used in houses for centuries, and more people are beginning to choose this stone over others. Here are a few reasons why you should choose travertine:
One of the main reasons why homeowners choose travertine is due to its durability. It’s a hard surface that can take a significant beating without showing signs of damage. Scratches, chips or cracks aren’t likely to happen if the tile is natural.
A weathering effect can begin to occur over time, and this is highly prized by many experts. It gives each piece a distinct character that reminds us of ancient architecture.
You can choose between natural tiles and polished or honed tiles. Finished tiles are generally less resistant to damage but more glossy or shiny.
When you install travertine tiles in your home, you’ll add a sense of prestige to the atmosphere. The earthy tones and natural patterns come together to create a unique look in your entrance hall, living room, or kitchen.
Because travertine is naturally made, no tile is the same as its neighbor. Many people see travertine tiles as nature’s work of art, and we can’t disagree.
We might be going against the above point here, but hear us out. Travertine might be prestigious, but it’s also subtle. When you open the door and walk into a house with this kind of flooring, you slowly absorb it.
The soft beige, tan, and brown color palettes create a calm feeling in a room. You’re not overwhelmed with bright colors or mirroring shine. Instead, you’re soothed by the dominance of the earthy colors with every step you take.
4. Easy to Repair
Durable doesn’t mean unbreakable, and unfortunately, damage can happen. However, the great thing about travertine flooring is that it’s easy to repair.
Because it comes in tile forms, you can easily remove a broken tile and replace it without having to remove sections. Also, thanks to the earthy colors, scratches aren’t very noticeable.
With regular maintenance and care, travertine floors can last for decades. As we mentioned above, a weathering effect — which many find highly attractive — will start to occur over the years. But if you prefer, you can prevent this by applying a stone sealer periodically.
How to Clean Travertine Floors
Cleaning travertine floors isn’t difficult as long as you’re using a suitable cleaner and tools. Maintaining your floors is also straightforward if you prevent spills and stains from settling on the surface.
Do’s and Don’ts
Travertine might be a strong stone, but because of its microscopic pores, it’s also quite sensitive. Here are a few things to keep in mind before cleaning your floors:
- Choose a suitable product: When you clean natural stone, you have to be careful with chemicals. Travertine tiles can absorb chemicals and liquids, which will then discolor, dull or damage the tile. So, choose a product specifically formulated for travertine, such as Black Diamond Granite Cleaner.
- pH-neutral: All natural stones are best cleaned using a pH-neutral cleaner. This means the product isn’t acidic or alkaline and, therefore, not as harsh or abrasive. It’s also safer to handle.
- Use dish soap occasionally: Dish soap isn’t as harsh as other chemical cleaners, but you should still avoid it. However, if you like, you can use it to clean your floors three or four times per year.
- Always test your solution: Before starting, do a small spot test in an inconspicuous area to make sure the product is safe.
- Don’t use a soaked mop: Wring the mop out as much as you can until it’s damp. A soaked mop can cause water infiltration, which can lead to damage.
- Avoid vinegar or citrus: Vinegar should never be used on travertine floors, and neither should citrus fruits such as lemons. The acid will dull the surface (2).
- Don’t use harsh chemicals: Chemicals such as bleach and ammonia should be kept far away from travertine floors. These can quickly cause damage and dullness, and can even age the floors.
Cleaning Travertine Floors
Step #1: Remove Dust and Dirt
Before mopping, it’s always best to start by removing dust and dirt. This will make it easier to clean, and the results will be better.
You can use a flared broom to quickly collect debris and fine dust — collect in a dustpan and throw away. However, our favorite tool to use is a dust mop. Dust mops have a microfiber head or pad that glides over the floor effortlessly.
The microfibers will attract fine dust, dirt and hair that might be present on the floor. When you’re done, the pad can be washed in the washer to be clean for the next time.
Step #2: Prepare the Solution
Warm water is effective at cleaning travertine floors since it cuts through most soil and grease. Fill your bucket with warm water and add the cleaner you’ve chosen. Read the directions to ensure the product is used correctly.
If you choose to use dish soap, add only a small squirt to the warm water.
Step #3: Wring the Mop Thoroughly
Dip the mop in the bucket of warm water and thoroughly wring out the excess. For this, we like to use a spin mop since it effectively wrings out most water without leaving your hands feeling twisted.
Another handy tool for travertine floors is a spray mop. It resembles a dust mop but has a spray nozzle and trigger attached. Add your solution to the container and spritz as you go.
Step #4: Start Mopping
Begin at the farthest part of the room and work your way towards the entrance or exit in sections. Keep dipping your mop and wringing out the excess frequently. This will prevent streaks as the floor dries.
Step #5: Rinse the Floor
When you’re done mopping, fill a bucket with clean, cold water. Start as you did before and mop the floor once again using the fresh water — you should still keep the mop damp. Once the water begins to look dirty, dump it, and fill with fresh water.
Step #6: Dry With a Cloth
Drying your travertine floors is essential if you want to preserve them and improve the results from your labor. Use a soft cloth or towel to dry the floor. This will prevent streaks from forming and eliminate any chance of standing water.
How to Disinfect Travertine Floors
If you have children or pets traipsing around frequently, you might like to disinfect your floors every so often. This is usually done with a chemical such as bleach or a natural product such as vinegar. However, these are two huge no-nos for natural stone such as travertine.
To effectively disinfect travertine floors, you can use mild, non-acidic dish soap. Add only about a tablespoon to a gallon of warm water and mop the floor following the above steps.
However, because you’re using soap, a residue or film is likely to occur. Rinse the floor thoroughly with clean water to prevent this. Once you’re done, dry the floor as usual using a towel or cloth.
How to Clean Grout Lines
The grout lines in travertine floors allow the individual tiles to expand or contract as the season and temperature changes. It effectively prevents the tiles from rubbing against each other and cracking. However, the grout is also susceptible to water damage, discoloration, stains and even mold.
You can clean travertine grout lines using equal parts of water and baking soda to form a paste. Scrub it into the lines using a small brush or specialized grout brush. Try to keep the paste and brush on the grout and away from the tile to prevent damage.
Keep in Mind
If your grout lines are beyond repair, you can regrout. Simply remove the grout in between the lines entirely and then replace it with new, fresh grout. This may seem like a hard task. However, it’s much easier and cheaper than having to replace the tiles due to damage.
Maintaining Travertine Floors
Travertine tiles don’t attract or hold onto dirt and dust like carpets and hardwood. They’re, therefore, easy to maintain and keep clean. Need some help with yours? These are our top tips:
1. Sweep Regularly
Dust and dirt can make travertine tiles look dull. However, it’s easy to keep them looking clean by sweeping regularly.
Use a soft broom or a dust mop to remove small rocks or dirt particles. If left behind, these might cause a few subtle scratches when dragged around by feet. So it’s essential to remove them.
Sweeping a couple of times a week should suffice. However, if you have a busy home, you might find yourself cleaning at least every other day.
If you want to use a vacuum instead, do so with caution. Use a vacuum with a hard floor setting and soft attachment to avoid scratches or damage.
Avoid Abrasive Tools
2. Mop Weekly
By mopping the floors weekly, you’re restoring the surface and getting rid of any buildup or stains. Remember to use a mild cleaner and damp mop for the best results. This will help your travertine floors to age gracefully and maintain their natural beauty for years to come.
3. Clean Spills as They Happen
To maintain the beauty of your travertine floors, clean up spills immediately. Acidic spills such as soda, wine or orange juice can damage the tiles and cause staining.
If the stain has settled and caused a mark, you can use a poultice to remove it. A poultice is a paste consisting of a chemical and an absorbing agent. You can buy ready-made poultices, or make your own.
What kind of poultice you need depends on the stain, so make sure you inspect it before buying or making your paste. And, always make sure it’s safe for travertine floors.
Poultices are easy to use. All you have to do is apply the paste evenly and generously on the stain. Cover it with plastic and leave for 24 to 48 hours.
Sometimes the poultice requires several days to work. Just keep repeating the process until you’re pleased with the results (3).
The poultice can sometimes be unsuccessful at removing a stain entirely. If this is the case, you may need to resort to other options such as replacing the tile.
Keep in Mind
4. Use Rugs and Area Carpets
To protect your floors against scratches and wear, you can lay down a few rugs or area carpets. Place them in areas where there’s usually a lot of activity.
We highly recommend that you make good use of doormats. These will also work as a gentle reminder that people need to remove their shoes before stepping inside.
How to Seal Travertine Floors
The microscopic pores in the travertine stone will absorb any liquid left on the floor. This can lead to damage such as discoloration, stains, material degradation and mold. To prevent this, experts recommend that you seal your floors during installation.
There are usually two kinds of sealers used to protect travertine floors. One is a penetrating sealer that will seep deep down into the stone and simply clog the pores. This makes it close to impossible for any liquids or moisture to penetrate.
The next sealer used is a surface barrier. This creates a clear coating on the top of the tiles that keeps stains and liquids at bay.
Surface barrier sealers are generally reapplied every few years to maintain the protective layer. Some enhancing surface sealers tend to darken the natural color of the travertine tiles and give them a glossy finish. Some homeowners prefer this, while others prefer the weathered, natural look.
If you prefer a glossy finish, you should re-apply the sealer more frequently. However, if you prefer the weathered look, keep the sealer to a minimum or use a natural sealer. Travertine experts and manufacturers recommend a sealer to be reapplied every three to five years (4).
Maintenance Is Key
Travertine floors are pristine and can add considerable value to your home — whether you prefer your floors glossy or weathered. However, maintenance is key to keeping your floors looking divine. By sweeping and mopping regularly, you can help the natural beauty of travertine stone to shine through.
Avoid acidic cleaners such as vinegar, bleach and ammonia as these can etch the surface and cause substantial damage. Instead, opt for a mild, pH-neutral cleaner mixed with warm water to keep your floors shining. Finally, remember to reseal your floors to keep them protected from liquids and stains.