Travertine tiles can be a good choice if you appreciate natural, stone floors or countertops, in part because the tiles come in a variety of earthy colors and textures. To continue to enjoy those colors and textures, however, you've got to keep the tiles clean. But travertine, a form of limestone, isn't the easiest type of material to maintain, in part due to the tiny holes that dot its surface.
An Ounce of Prevention
Because of travertine's chemical composition and porous nature, it's susceptible to being stained by a variety of items, including acidic foods and drinks such as tomato sauce or orange juice. So the first step in keeping your travertine surface clean is to try to avoid spills. If you do spill something on it, however, don't wait – have clean cloths ready at all times to wipe spills up immediately. Use hot water and a cleaning product designed specifically for stone surfaces. Avoid using vinegar, bleach or any acid-based cleaners.
Sealing your travertine tiles offers another way to keep them looking their best. A properly sealed surface won't absorb material from dangerous spills, which simultaneously protects the travertine and makes it easier to clean. As with your cleaning products, it's important to use the right type of sealer – preferably a penetration sealer – on your travertine surface. For this reason, you may wish to have the sealing performed by a professional. The surface should then be resealed about every other year.
If you have lots of foot traffic on a travertine floor, you can tidy it up daily using a dry dust mop. For the occasional, more thorough cleanings, use a wet mop with hot water plus your stone-cleaning product. Don't run a vacuum over the floor – the machine can scratch the travertine. A handheld vacuum may be practical for a smaller travertine surface, however, such as a countertop.
If, despite your best efforts, your travertine surface is stained, don't lose hope. Create a cleaning paste by adding baking powder to your standard travertine tile cleaning product. Spread the paste over the tough stain and then cover the area with plastic food wrap. The paste should suck the encroaching stain out of the tiles over the course of two to three days.
No matter how well you care for your travertine surface, it still may become stained, scratched or worn with time – particularly a floor. If the worst occurs, the answer may be to have the surface professionally polished, to restore the original shine. The procedure is essentially like sanding the surface – although the technician will use a buffing machine, not a sander. When the process is complete, have the surface resealed and enjoy your travertine tiles as they shine like new.