The Complete Guide to Cleaning Travertine
Cleaning travertine is easy... but it's important to know what you are dealing with. Once you learn about the characteristics of travertine and apply the simple "How To" secrets detailed below your travertine will look fabulous for decades.
TIP: The information provided about etching, staining, cleaning and sealing travertine applies to countertops as well as travertine floor tiles, showers or any other site.
First of all, travertine is a warm and beautiful natural material that will complement almost any design.
Travertine is a stone, of course, but not nearly as dense or hard as granite.
It is durable, wears well and will last lifetimes.
But in a way, it is delicate....
Etching & Staining
Travertine is sensitive to acidic substances (juice, wine, coffee) so it can etch (dull the polish or finish) rather easily... just like marble and limestone.
Travertine can stain as well, but not as easily as commonly thought and stains are controlled with sealing. Note that etching is different from staining which we'll discuss below in the "Sealing" section.
TIP: travertine, marble, and limestone are so similar in composition, chemical and physical characteristics that cleaning procedures and maintenance requirements are essentially the same for all three types of stone.
That's why you'll want to download our comprehensive ebook on cleaning marble (and travertine too). This book details every technique, method and solution along with all the information and answers you will ever want or need about protecting, maintaining, repairing, restoring and cleaning travertine, marble or limestone.
Because of the "etching" issue, travertine is not recommended for your kitchen countertop or a high-use bathroom. Although, a travertine backsplash over the kitchen countertop will look fantastic and won't be problematic. And travertine flooring will be just fine in any room.
Etching can be repaired on polished (shiny) travertine using this Etch Remover - Marble Polisher, or with DIY methods on a honed or tumbled travertine finish.
Best use of travertine is for powder bathroom vanity tops, table tops, tub surrounds, showers, floor tile and stone fireplace surrounds.
You may have read about sealing your stone and maybe that sealing travertine is a hassle, but I assure you it’s no big deal. Simple as... "wipe on - wipe off".
The time and cost involved is really inconsequential when compared to how fabulous travertine countertops and floors look in your home — not to mention the added value when compared with other surfaces.
Travertine can stain when honed or tumbled, but polished travertine is nearly stain-proof and usually doesn't need sealing.
Perform the water test for sealing travertine to determine if a sealer is needed.
Use a top quality penetrating sealer like SenGuard and these Impregnating Sealers to protect your investment when sealing is indicated by testing.
TIP: Sealing travertine tile will guard against "stains" but not "etch marks". This is generally unknown by most consumers and confusing since people typically call any spot a "stain". But there is a difference.....
Sealers are applied to protect against "stains" which are a specific type of spot that occurs when a substance absorbs into the stone.
Etching is corrosive damage from contact with acidic foods, drinks or cleaners much like a burn. Because etching is physical damage to the stone a sealer cannot prevent etching.
Learning and following the best travertine cleaning practices outlined in the next section will help minimize the occurrence of etching.
Cleaning Travertine: Do's & Don'ts
Use the following Do's and Don'ts to learn how to clean travertine, help you avoid bad habits and establish a safe method for travertine maintenance.
Also, check out the General Care & Cleaning Guide for the best tips on maintaining all types of countertop surfaces and floor tile.
Do: Blot up spills immediately. As noted above, travertine tile is much more sensitive than granite to acidic substances like wine, coffee, fruit juices, tomato sauce, sodas, toiletry products and cleaning products that can etch (dull) the finish (on both shiny "polished" and matte "honed" finishes) or stain the surface.
Do: Clean surfaces using a sponge or soft cloth. The only cleaning agents you should use on a regular basis are hot water to wipe up crumbs and small messes and then a stone cleaner once daily (or as needed for bigger messes).
I recommend the Granite & Marble Spray Cleaners here.
Buff dry with a cotton cloth or chamois. Using a mild soap occasionally (3-4 times a year) for cleaning travertine won’t harm the stone, but consistent use will dull the surface with a soap film.
Do: Use coasters under all glasses, bottles and cans. Bottles, cans and glasses with acidic drinks may etch the polish or damage the surface leaving a "glass ring."
So make cleaning travertine easy and avoid expensive marble polishing and marble restoration by treating your travertine surfaces like fine wood furniture. Always use coasters... no matter what.
Do: Use a tray for toiletry products in the bathroom. A decorative tray can look very nice and it will protect the surface from the damaging chemicals contained in many toiletry products.
Do: Dust mop your travertine floor tiles regularly. Use a clean, dry, non-treated dust mop. Be careful using a vacuum cleaner. Worn parts or grit jammed by the wheels may scratch the surface. Also, mop regularly using a specialized stone floor cleaner.
TIP: Travertine polishing on floor tile makes a very slick surface, so go with a "honed", "flamed" or "tumbled travertine" floor tile. It will look warm and inviting and hide dust and dirt better.
Also, travertine's distinctive voids and holes should be filled upon installation to keep dirt from accumulating.
Do: Use doormats inside and out along with runners and area rugs. Grit, dirt and sand carried in by our shoes are abrasive and will wear and scratch travertine floor tiles.
Don't: Use generic, store-bought cleaning products of ANY kind. Cleaning travertine with products bought at your local store that contain acids, alkalis, and other chemicals can etch or damage the countertop or tile surface or degrade the sealant leaving the stone more vulnerable to staining.
It may not happen right away and trying to save money by using cheap, generic surface cleaners only ensures that you'll spend a lot more time and money on your travertine care in the long-run performing expensive repairs or travertine restoration.
Don't: Use vinegar, ammonia, lemon or orange for cleaning travertine. As noted above, a sponge with hot water and a stone cleaner are the only agents to use.
Don't: Use a generic bathroom, tub & tile or grout cleaner. The powders and even the "soft" creams contain abrasives that will scratch and dull the surface.
Use only products specially formulated for cleaning travertine like the STONE CARE products recommended.
Don't: Sit or stand on your countertops. Unlike laminate countertops, travertine countertops are not flexible and they DO NOT have a plywood backing, so too much weight in one spot could cause a crack.
Don't: Place toiletry products directly on your countertop surface. Hair products, toothpaste, perfumes, colognes, nail products, creams, lotions, and potions may stain or damage the surface or etch the finish leaving a dull spot or ring. Protect your countertop by placing these products on a decorative tray like they do in fancy hotels!
Consider the Roman Colosseum
OK. I know it seems like there is a lot to do and know about cleaning travertine, but if you think about it most of the Do’s and Don’ts are things you already do and don't do! And the new tips you’ve learned about how to clean travertine are really very easy.
The Roman Colosseum is made of travertine, so we know it is durable. Plus, travertine can be repaired or restored in most cases when damaged.
The best advice is to get a separate cleaning tote for your travertine cleaning products and the products you use on other surface types you may have . . . such as granite, quartz or Corian.
Label everything and off you go--no problems or guesswork. This is especially handy if you use a cleaning service. You’ll never have to worry that you or the maid might accidentally use the wrong product. Cleaning travertine is simply a matter of routine.
Just keep in mind that travertine has stood the test of time and it is meant to be used. So with just a little TLC, you’ll enjoy its beauty for years.
Cleaning Travertine Questions & Answers
Learn even more! Click on the links below to see questions submitted by other visitors with complete answers and great info.
Sealing Travertine Tile Showers
QUESTION: Ok, I know this is a subject that comes up often, I just want to make sure I have this right from everything I've read. I am installing a …
Removing Streaky Travertine Sealer
QUESTION: I installed polished travertine flooring (Jinshan Carmel P/F) which my installer sealed with an unpolished sealer.
The results were streaked …
Sealing Travertine Shower
QUESTION: Should I put a sealer on my new travertine showers and floor tile?
ANSWER: Yes... and No... let me explain...
Many travertines …
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