How to Clean Travertine

A floor tiled in travertine.

Travertine is a form of limestone and is most often used as a gorgeous building material. The Colosseum in Rome was constructed mostly using travertine. The stone is useful in modern homes for wall tiles, exterior paving, flooring, counters, and showers. While travertine has a long, useful life, it is softer than some other stones, making it susceptible to etching by acidic substances and heat. Improper care can also lead to costly repairs.

Known for its pitted holes that can be filled and polished to a smooth finish or left natural, its porous nature can trap dirt and make some travertine surfaces a bit tricky to clean. Strong cleaners, especially acidic cleaners, could actually do more harm than good. They tend to break down the finish on the travertine. In the following sections, I provide some easy steps on how to clean travertine. You’ve made the investment in adding travertine to your home, it only makes sense to put in the time to keep it in excellent condition.

Steps for Cleaning Travertine

    cleaning suppliesGather your travertine cleaning supplies. Get out your vacuum, as well as a broom or dry mop. If you use dish soap for this project, make sure it’s a mild soap. To be quite honest, if your stone is really stained, you might want to swing buy your local home improvement store and buy some stone soap. Additionally, you will need a bucket, a sponge mop (if cleaning floor tiles), and some soft towels. If your grout is dirty, find a spray bottle and some hydrogen peroxide. If you determine that it’s time to reseal the surface, pick up some sealant, too.

  1. swept travertineVacuum or sweep the travertine floor. If your travertine is in a natural state with open pores, you will definitely want to vacuum the surface. I know that the idea of putting a vacuum on such a beautiful stone may make you nervous, but if done gently, the surface should be fine. The vacuum will remove debris from the crevices. For smooth surfaces, you can use a broom or a dry mop to clean up. I prefer using a microfiber dry mop since it traps dust in the fibers. The whole point of this step is that particles left on the travertine during a wet cleaning will act like sandpaper and scratch the surface while you’re cleaning.
  2. rinsing mop in bucketMop or wipe down the travertine tile. To clean most travertine, a simple mixture of soap and warm water will be your best option. Fill a bucket with warm water and add a couple tablespoons of soap. For floors, gently mop the stone. For other surfaces, like counters and shower walls, you’ll want to use a soft towel to wipe things down. I try to clean slowly to allow the soap time to break down any accumulated filth on the tiles. Be sure to rinse your cleaning tool frequently in the bucket to remove dirt from its fibers, so as to avoid spreading debris and scratching the allowing the travertine.
  3. close up of groutCleaning the grout or any stains on your travertine. If your grout is dirty, or if after cleaning you can see stains on the stone, mix a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water in a spray bottle. Find an area that no one will see, and test the effects of the spray first. Once you are sure there will be no damage, proceed to spray down the area. Let the solution sit for a little while. Wipe clean, and repeat the process until you have reached your desired result. However, you should never use this mixture on colored grout, unless you enjoy changing the color, removing the damaged grout, and doing a new grout job. Another option is to use a specialized stone cleaner. Do not, I repeat, do not use bathroom and generic tile products, glass cleaner, or abrasive cleaners on the stone.
  4. pouring out soapy waterRinse your travertine tile. This should go without saying, but be sure to remove all soap residue from the surface. Any cleaner left on the surface can attract dirt and accelerate the build up of filth. It also leaves a film that dulls the look of the stone. Dump out your bucket, and refill it with fresh, warm water for this step. Go over the floor until you are sure that the soap has been removed. This step may be tedious, as it sometimes seems like it takes forever for the water on the surface to look soap free, but it is worth it in the end.
  5. badly stained travertineFor severely stained travertine or etched stone.Cleaning advice may not help if your travertine looks like it came from the Colosseum. Damaged surfaces can usually be filled with a color matched compound, followed by a repolishing to make the stone look like the original finish. I wouldn’t recommend doing this yourself. No, seriously, unless you’re a trained professional, don’t attempt this yourself. Scratches might be able to be buffed out with a marble polishing powder, but I would still recommend hiring a professional.
  6. jugs of sealerReapply travertine sealer as directed. Most travertine is not a “maintenance-free” material and usually has a sealant on it to safeguard the stone. If it appears that water is being absorbed by the stone, it’s likely time to reapply a sealant. Reapplying sealant can help keep your travertine protected from stains and damage, which may extend its life expectancy. I would not skimp on this step. Go to a store and purchase a high end sealant for travertine. Always make sure you consult the directions on the package before applying, and follow those directions to the letter.

Keeping Friends Jealous of Your Travertine

Travertine can be very expensive, so protect your investment. Of course, if you are extremely rich and plan to replace your stone anyways, do whatever you want then. For the rest of you, sand and dirt left on your travertine can etch away at the surface, and regular washing can help reduce wear and tear. I suggest dry mopping or sweeping on a regular basis to reduce any surface build up. Using mats or rugs can prevent debris from being tracked in on your floor. Asking people to also remove their shoes before entering a room with travertine might seem strange, but remember that you’re trying to protect your investment. They will usually be understanding, and if they’re not, well, maybe they need to be reconsidered as guests in your home. That’s all I’m saying. For counters, protect the surface from heat and rings by using coasters and trivets. Try not to let spills dry on the stone, and if something is spilled, do not use an acidic cleaner on your travertine. For showers, get a good squeegee and wipe down the walls after each use. By maintaining your travertine, you will be the envy of those with ceramic tile.

Green Products for Cleaning Travertine

jugs of Hydroxi ProHydroxi Pro Grout Smart.This all-natural and biodegradable cleaner solution contains hydrogen peroxide and orange oil. This makes it safe for your family and the environment. Since cleaning your grout may be more difficult than cleaning the stone itself, you may need a cleaner like this that works very well to remove stains and build up. You can apply Pro Grout Smart directly onto extra stubborn stains, or dilute it with water for general mopping of a floor. You can order this in a case of 6 from Amazon.

jug of Miracle Sealants CleanerMiracle Sealants Tile and Stone Cleaner. This stone cleaner is safe for many natural stones, which would include travertine. The cleaner is designed to tackle tough stains and surfaces that have a build up of filth, but is also mild enough that it can also be utilized for everyday cleaning. It is biodegradable, non-acidic, and environmentally friendly, giving you the peace of mind that you are not exposing your family to dangerous chemicals.

Bottles of MB-1 Floor CleanerMB-1 Floor Cleaner. Made by MB Stone Care, this product is specially made to clean and maintain natural stones like travertine. This product is pH balanced and designed to remove stains and grime from stone. The ingredients are formulated to brighten the shine and look of the stone without harming the finish. If you usually just clean with plain, warm water because you do not like the tedious nature of rinsing soap cleansers from your stone, this product is perfect for you: no rinsing is required.