From St. Peter’s Basilica to the Roman Colosseum and even the lobby walls of Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), travertine has been used as a building material all over the world throughout history. Travertine is a sedimentary form of limestone that mostly forms in hot springs and caves in large deposits of calcium carbonate.
In the home, travertine is used in flooring, countertops, showers, backsplashes and accent pieces all to great effect in modern and rustic modern designs. The trouble starts to creep in, however, when it comes to caring for the stone, as there is a bit more to it than there would be with man-made materials.
Here are a few things to look out for when caring for your travertine:
1) Clean Up Spills as They Happen
This can be an issue for almost any natural stone, but is especially true for travertine because it tends to be so much more porous than other stone. This can lead to difficult-to-remove stains if something is able to dry beneath the surface. If that spill happens to be acidic, that can damage the stone through a process called etching.
Etching is where the calcium carbonate present in the stone reacts with the acid, resulting in what might look like a hard watermark or a cloudy part of the stone. This is permanent damage on the stone and will require the help of a stone restoration specialist to fix on a polished surface.
Wine, coffee, fruit juice, citrus and even soda can all etch your travertine, so it’s important to keep on top of this if possible.
2) Mop Floors Regularly and Use Doormats
Dirt, mud and sand is abrasive on stone flooring and can scratch the surface over time. It’s a good idea to keep doormats inside as well as outside to try catching this debris and prevent these scuffs from happening. It’s also good to be mindful of what you’re tracking in and wiping your feet as best as you can within reason before walking on your marble flooring.
A dry, clean dust mop works great to remove any dirt that has been tracked in and won’t scratch the floors in the process. Run the dry mop in a single direction, not back and forth in order to best collect all the debris. A vacuum is not recommended, as they can contribute to these scratches overtime.
3) Seal Your Stone Often
In order to protect your travertine from the staining and etching that we outlined above, it’s highly recommended that you maintain a strong seal on the stone. Your stone was treated with a seal when it was installed, but that is not permanent protection and needs to be maintained and reapplied every so often.
To seal your stone, first clean and clear any dirt and grime from the surface and allow to dry. Spray the solution in a 3-foot section and use a fresh and dry cloth to buff the solution into the surface immediately. Repeat this process 2-3 times for maximum protection — you can’t over seal your stone —, working in sections and always letting the surface dry between applications. It’s important to not let the sealer dry on its own on the surface, as this will lead to hazing.
In general, it is recommended to seal your travertine every 6-12 months, but that is highly dependent on use, and if areas receive heavier than normal traffic or soil. If you’re in doubt, you can always try the water test to see if your stone is in need of sealing: Pour water (about 3 inches in diameter) on the surface in several locations and let it sit for 30 minutes. If you see a dark mark or ring, the water is penetrating the stone and it’s time to reseal. Make sure to clean the surface thoroughly before sealing.
4) Avoid Common Household Cleaners
Many of the cleaning products in your cabinet right now tend to rely on harsh acidic (low pH) or alkaline (high pH). As mentioned above with acidic foods, vinegar and other acidic-cleaning solutions should never be used on travertine or other natural stone, as they will dull the finish and both high and low pH cleaners are damaging to the protective sealant.
Something like dish soap is relatively harmless, but since most tend to feature organic compounds called tallows, dish soap often leaves streaks and gradually clouds the surface over time. This is why it’s a good idea to use cleaning products that are specially formulated for use on natural stone. Granite Gold Daily Cleaner® is an effective stone-cleaning solution that is pH balanced and completely food-safe. For flooring, take a look at the Granite Gold Stone & Tile Floor Cleaner®.
Have any more specific questions or concerns on how to care for your travertine or other natural stone? Feel free to reach out to our team of Stone Care Experts with three generations of stone-care experience at 1-800-475-STONE. Also, be sure to check out our full line stone care products to keep that marble looking as nice as the day it was installed!