How to clean Unfilled Travertine Floors


The home has some areas of unfilled travertine tiles installed, and of course dirt collects in the open pores and gives a dirty look to the tiles. What is the best way to get the dirt out- it doesn't vacuum out.


ANSWER - I would never recommend installing unfilled travertine or any unfilled stone on a floor or it will collect dirt that could then develop into microbial growth if moisture is present.  It would be more practical to fill the voids in the travertine with a cementitious grout.  Depending on what color grout you use you can created some very interesting looks with an unfilled travertine.

If a vacuum isn't removing the dirt in the travertine voids it is likely because the dirt has been there for so long and has gotten wet and dried that it is compacted into place.  What I would try is to get a detergent into clean water and soak the floor and scrub it with a long bristle scrub brush on an extended handle.  Let it set for 10 minutes or so and then scrub again.  Now get a wet vacuum to pick up the dirty water.  Go through this process again if it didn't remove all of the dirt.  Then finally rinse with clean water and vacuum that up.  Then after the travertine tile is clean and dry, I would seal it with a penetrating stone sealer so cleaning will be easier in the future.   Or fill in the voids with grout so you don't have to go through this another time.

4 thoughts on “How to clean Unfilled Travertine Floors

  1. Alex says:

    Hello Expert Answers,

    Thank you for offering this service. I really appreciate it. I was wondering what would be a good way to clean calcium buildup off of Travertine tiles. We had a slow leak, and there’s some small build up on the tile.

    Thank you for your time,

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Efflorescence (calcium) staining is normally a symptom of a moisture problem. Perhaps in your case it was just an incident from the leak that got repaired.

      If the efflorescence hasn’t been there long you can normally take a diluted vinegar solution to clean the soluble calcium. If it has been there a long time then it may have oxidized and become an insoluble calcium that is harder to clean off. You might need to buy a calcium cleaner for natural stone from a natural stone store or possibly from a home center. You have to be careful that it isn’t too acidic or too alkaline so you don’t etch the stone. You should experiment.

  2. K.Beth says:

    Thank you for all your helpful advice. My question: We live in FL by the coast, and just had unfilled tumbled travertine installed around our pool area and in a covered lanai area. The contractor is asking us if want to grout the entire project. He’s saying this is an upgrade. The stone is sand set underneath in some places and cemented in others. The travertine is very poked, so I know filling it will give it an overall more uniform look. I am torn. I don’t want to regret filling it all in. Is this truly considered an upgraded look? Thank you!

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Normally for a floor application you want to grout the unfilled travertine otherwise dirt and debris will collect in the voids of the stone and you are likely to develop microbial growth in the voids for an exterior application. There is shell stone that is used a lot in Florida that also has some unfilled voids that people like to leave and have it develop microbial growth to give it a weathered look. I think that is a bad idea.

      Sand set installations can be problematic if the stone you are installing isn’t thick enough to interlock into place. Normally you want a paver that is 2″ thick or more, although we see a lot of 3/4″ (2cm) porcelain tiles being used that are very strong. A lot of stones aren’t strong enough at 3/4″ thick. It is important that there is a 4″ compacted base and then about a 1/2″ or so compacted sand and then another 1/2″ of loose sand to set the stone into it. Then the stones have to be vibrated and compacted into place. There has to be adequate drainage and a way for the water to evacuate the area or that can be a problem. I have seen a lot of bad sand set installations in Florida. So keep an eye on the installation as you have to be the quality control to ensure it is done correctly.

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