How to Clean Travertine Floors

By Harold K. Hardesty Updated December 31, 2020

How do you keep stone floors clean?

How to Clean Travertine Floors

Travertine is among the oldest floor types, and you can easily tell why. The neutral and earthy colors of travertine floors make you feel closer to nature.

As time passed, such building materials became less common. Now, people tend to opt for tiles and hardwood floors. However, some homeowners still prefer travertine due to their natural accents.

If you have travertine flooring at home, how do you clean it? How do you care for it? Most people think these floors don’t require much maintenance because they’re so robust. But they couldn’t be more wrong.

Since travertine is a porous material, the floors are prone to get damaged by dust and liquid spills alike. That’s why you must know how to clean travertine floors. In this guide, I’ll discuss an easy way to do so.

Table of Contents

What Is Travertine?

Travertine, much like marble and granite, is a natural stone that doesn’t have a lot in common with most other stones. It forms when calcium carbonate condenses in hot springs. The high temperature hardens the stone, making it durable.

The porousness of travertine is also due to carbon bubbles. Think of Coke or any other soda. The bubbles form due to the presence of carbon dioxide. Now, apply the same principle to travertine. As a result, you get a hard stone that is also porous.

The porosity is important to mention because it raises the need for travertine floors to be cleaned regularly.

How Often Should You Clean Travertine Floors?

Like any other floor, you have to vacuum travertine floors daily. You can also mop or sweep the floors as required. Every month, it’s also good to disinfect the floors to remove pathogenic bacteria(1) from the house.

As for the grout lines, you should clean them every few months. However, the duration could be more or less depending on how soiled your floors get.

Stone flooring experts also say that you should seal your travertine floors every few years, at least after three years. If you use harsh cleaning chemicals on the floor, you may have to seal it much sooner.

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Why Choose Travertine?

Travertine floors have been used around the world for centuries. Thus, there must be something about the stone flooring that makes it so popular even today.
Here are some reasons to choose travertine over other flooring types:

Durability

The prime reason for choosing travertine as the flooring material is durability. Of course, a material made naturally in hot springs is bound to be more durable than synthetic materials like tile.

If you have a bigger family or your home gets a lot of traffic, consider getting travertine floors because they do not show signs of wear and tear quickly. Also, if you’re using high-quality travertine, it won’t chip or crack quickly.

Over time, travertine floors undergo weathering. Now, this may be a good thing for people who like to see things age naturally. However, it’s not appreciated by all homeowners because weathered travertine has a distinct color, much different from the unweathered one.

You can choose polished travertine floor tiles for your home if you want its shine and finish to last longer.

Uniqueness

If you like decorating your home aesthetically, you should get travertine floors because they add a hint of naturalness to any space.

For most people, travertine is ‘nature’s artwork, and I certainly agree. You can’t get the same touch with any other type of stone.

Subtleness

Despite being unique and prestigious, travertine floors are subtle on the eyes. As you walk into a home with travertine flooring, you don’t feel overwhelmed by the color and texture of the floors.

While the brown and tan color palette soothes your eyes, the natural texture makes you feel as if you’re on a private hike.

Long Lifespan

While most other floors need to be renovated or replaced every few years, travertine floors can stay in pristine condition for decades. Simply clean your travertine tiles regularly and maintain them properly to enjoy their longer lifespan.

Easy to Repair

Although travertine is durable, it’s not entirely safe from damage. It can still wear and tear in places. But the good news is that the stone is also easy to repair.

Also, you can buy the flooring in tile form. Therefore, if a tile or two are damaged, you can replace them easily without having to cut a section out of the floor.

Most importantly, the earthy colors camouflage most scratches.

How To Clean Travertine Floors?

If you have the right supplies, you can start cleaning your travertine floors now.

What You’ll Need:

Step by Step Instructions

Keep in mind to never use harsh chemicals for cleaning travertine floors because they can erode the upper surface of the travertine. Similarly, don’t use commercial chemicals with any kind of acid in it, even if mild.

Since travertine is naturally alkaline, you should only use a basic cleaning solution on it. Acidic solutions can stain the material.

1.Regularly Clean the Floors

First off, it’s crucial to clean the floors regularly to remove dirt, grime, and grit particles from the surface. If these particles are allowed to sit on the material for a long time, they can wear it down and diminish its luster.

Additionally, they make the stone more susceptible to staining and discoloring. Thus, regular maintenance is the most important step in keeping your floors clean.

You can either use a broom or a vacuum cleaner to sweep the floors as required.

2.Mop the Floor

When mopping travertine floors, use only warm water and a wet sponge. Don’t use any surface or tile cleaner for this step.

Remember not to saturate the tiles as water can move through the holes in the surface and damage the underneath stone. With time, this can cause discoloration and may invite mold growth.

Dip a sponge or mop in water. Wring the excess water out and then use the mop on the floor.

3.Disinfect the Travertine

When you come home with dirty shoes, you’re not just bringing dust with yourself but also bacteria. Likewise, your pets also bring pathogens inside the house.

Use non-acidic dish soap to clean the floors. Mix a few drops of the dish soap in a bucket full of water. Clean the floors with a damp mop.

After this, go over the floors again with clean water. Doing this will remove the dish soap residue. Lastly, you can use towels to dry the floor.

You don’t have to disinfect the floors weekly. Disinfecting them every month is suggested by most experts.

4.Clean the Grout Lines

The grout lines are often the hardest to clean, and most people tend to ignore them. However, this is mold’s favorite place to thrive, so you must clean it regularly.

Since grout lines allow for travertine to expand and contract with temperature changes, they are the weak points in the whole flooring. Thus, they’re prone to discoloration, staining, and watermarks.

You’ll find commercial grout cleaners in your local store, but I’d suggest not using them. These cleaning agents mostly contain bleach that can etch the travertine. Instead, make a cleaning solution at home.

Mix baking soda in equal parts water to make a paste. Apply the paste to the grout and use a scrub brush to remove stains and mold.

If the grout lines are too dirty to be cleaned with simple household cleaning methods, you can replace them to give the floors a new look. Of course, it’s harder than merely cleaning the floor, but it’s cheaper than replacing the whole flooring.

5.Sealing Travertine

As mentioned earlier, travertine has tiny pores on the surface. Thus, it can soak liquids and allow mold growth. The best way to prevent this is by sealing the floors every few years.

Experts use two kinds of sealants to seal travertine floors. One of them is a penetrating sealant while the other is a surface barrier sealant.

The penetrating sealant clogs the pore in the travertine, stopping water or other materials from seeping into it. Meanwhile, the surface barrier sealer creates a coating on the tiles, preventing them from getting discolored.

Another benefit of adding sealant is that it makes the tiles look glossy. Naturally, travertine tiles have a dull look. But when you seal them, the coating makes them look shiny and deepens the stone’s color.

Initially, while the floor is being installed, you can apply a penetrating sealant to the tiles. After that, apply surface sealant every three to five years.

However, if you don’t like the glossy finish and would rather keep the floors looking earthy, reduce the frequency of sealing. Doing this will give the floors a weathered and rusty look.

How To Maintain Travertine Flooring?

I’ve already emphasized the importance of cleaning travertine floors regularly and how it’s good for their longevity. In this section, I’ll discuss how to maintain the floors by keeping a few dos and don’ts in mind.

Product Choice

The most important part of cleaning travertine flooring is choosing the product. Travertine is basic. That means it has a pH above neutral. If you use an acidic cleaner on travertine floors, they can lose their shine.

Along with the tiles, the grout lines also absorb acid cleaners. So, you must not use any commercial acidic cleaner on travertine. Instead, I’d suggest using dish soap or making a cleaner at home.

Even when using homemade cleaners, you have to be careful because some of them are acidic. For instance, vinegar is an acidic cleaner(2), and you must never use it on travertine floors even if it’s in a mild form.

Similarly, do not use citrus or citrus-based cleaners on travertine floors as they’re also acidic.

On the contrary, baking soda is alkaline. So, you can use it to clean travertine floors without damaging their texture or shine.

Product Testing

Along with choosing the right product, it’s also essential that you test it before applying it to the whole floor. Even when cleaners are non-acidic, they may be too strongly alkaline and leave spots on your travertine floors.

You should test the product in a corner of the room or under a furniture item to check for discoloration. Only proceed with a cleaner if it doesn’t have any diminishing effect on the floors.

Mopping Correctly

You may think you know you to mop but when it comes to travertine floors, you have to be a bit more careful. If a mop is too wet, water will soak into the floor’s pores. As a result, the flooring’s foundations could be damaged.

But that’s not the worst part. The bigger concern is mold growth, which is common in floors with an excess of moisture. If your floors are wet, they’ll be a hotbed for mold growth.

Mold is harmful to health(3) since it can cause breathing problems. If you have kids or allergy-sufferers at home, this is an even bigger concern because mold can cause asthma in kids.

No Ammonia

Although ammonia is a good cleaner, you should never use it on travertine floors. It can damage the floors, making them age faster, and lose their luster quickly.

Sweep the Floors Regularly

Along with using mild cleaning products, you must also clean the floors regularly. If dust accumulates on travertine tile, it can make the floors look dull. Luckily, it’s easy to sweep these floors.

You can use a dust mop for removing larger debris particles from the floors. If you don’t remove them, they’ll scratch the floors when you drag your feet around.

For an average home, you can sweep three to four times a week. But for busy homes, you may have to clean daily.

Secondly, you can use a vacuum cleaner to clean the floors. Make sure you’re using the vac on hard floor settings as these are the lowest pressure and speed adjustments. Also, use a soft brush tool to clean the floors to avoid scratches.

If your vacuum has a brush roll, turn it off to prevent it from scratching the floors. Similarly, remove any tool with hard bristles as it can cause unremovable scratches on travertine floors.

Mop the Floors Weekly

While sweeping helps in removing visible messes, mopping gets rid of the stains. With regular mopping, your floors will retain their natural beauty for a long time. Additionally, it will also prevent stains from getting tougher over time.

Dry the Tiles

Many people forget that they have to let the floors dry before putting anything on them again. Yes, I know, we all get restless after cleaning the floors and want everything to go back where it belongs.

However, if you keep the furniture on wet travertine floors, you’re practically inviting mold inside the house. Similarly, do not place carpets or area rugs on wet floors as they will be filled with mold in no time.

You can either wait for the excess water to evaporate naturally or use dry towels to soak it up. Additionally, turn on the fans to hasten the process of drying.

Tackle Spills Instantly

If there’s a spill on the floor, deal with it as soon as it happens, especially if it’s an acidic spill. Some examples in this regard are orange juice, soda, and wine. If they’re left on the floors for too long, they can cause staining.

If you forget to tend to a stain and it settles on the floor, you can remove it using a poultice. A poultice paste normally contains an absorbing agent and another chemical. They suck up the stain from the floor, leaving it spotless.

You can buy poultice from the store or make it yourself at home. If you’re using store-bought poultice, make sure to ask the seller if it’s safe for travertine floors.

When making one at home, check the recipe instructions to see if it can be used on stone floors. Apply an even layer of the paste on the floor and let it stay for up to two days.

In some cases, if the stain is too big or dark, you may have to apply the poultice for a few days. Start with two days. If the stain doesn’t come off, then leave the poultice on for a long time until the stain goes away completely.

Put Rugs on the Floor

One of the best ways to keep the travertine floors safe from damage and staining is to put rugs and carpets on the floor. You don’t have to cover the entire surface. Simply cover the area that gets the most traffic.

First off, put a doormat at all entrances of the home. If a doormat captures most of the dirt stuck to your shoes, you’ll have a lesser mess inside the house.

Also, place a carpet in the living room or where you spend the most time in the house. You can also keep a shoe rack outside and instruct everyone to take off their shoes before entering the house.

Lastly, place a rug under the dining table as this is where most spills are likely to take place. It’s little practices like this that can save you from a lot of work in the future.

Replace the Tiles

Sometimes the stain is either too strong or too old. Thus, there’s no way to remove or clean it. In such cases, I’d suggest replacing the stained tile altogether.

You can buy travertine flooring as tiles. So, if one tile is damaged, find the same kind in your local hardware store and replace the damaged tile to give your flooring a honed finish.

Tips and Warnings

Whether you think it’s time to deep clean your tiles or you’re merely giving them a regular sweep, here are a few tips and warnings to keep in mind.

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  • Clean the floors when the kids are either asleep or not around the areas you’re cleaning. Heavy traffic on the floor during cleaning reduces the efficiency of the process.
  • You should sweep a few times a week, mop weekly, and disinfect monthly. However, these are just standard guidelines. Depending on the extent of use and traffic, adjust the cleaning frequency for your floors accordingly.
  • When drying the floors, always use a soft cloth. Otherwise, you’ll end up scratching the surface.
  • If you don’t have any cleaner at home, just use plain water. It does the job well and does not harm the floor’s finish either.
  • When using a commercial floor cleaner, read the instructions, and follow them properly. Do not saturate the floors.
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  • Cleaners like ammonia can dull the surface and leave stains that are impossible to remove. Also, they are hazardous to health(4), especially for children.
  • Do not use bleach to clean travertine floors as it can discolor the material beyond repair.
  • If you don’t know how to replace a tile, don’t do it. Let a professional do it because mishandling a tile can damage the adjacent surface too.
  • Similarly, don’t try sealing the floors yourself if you’ve never done it before. Search online for reliable floor professionals who can give you a fair deal for sealing all floors in the house.

Conclusion

Travertine floors can truly elevate the look of any room, making it look more earthy and decorous. However, just because a floor is natural doesn’t mean you don’t have to clean it.

Although not as high-maintenance as marble floors, travertine flooring still needs to be maintained well to ensure a longer lifespan.

In this guide, I’ve given step by step instructions to clean stone floors inside your house. Also, I’ve talked about the proper way to maintain the floors and make them last for years to come.

Finally, I’ve mentioned some tips and warnings that homeowners often miss or forget. Make sure you follow them correctly to prevent damaging the floors.

Now, it’s time for you to get your mop – a soft one – and start cleaning.

Leave your feedback in the comments.

About the Author

Harold K. Hardesty

Harold is a Flooring Specialist at TheHouseWire, educating people on the flooring by writing guides about the topic. He is a well-seasoned flooring specialist with experience in the industry for nine years.

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