How do I clean my travertine shower?

How do I clean my travertine shower?

Are you asking yourself, "How do I clean my travertine shower?" The number one most important thing to know when cleaning your natural stone showers is, DO NOT use an acidic cleaner. That means no vinegar, no CLR, and basically no shower cleaning products sold to you at Target, Walmart, Grocery Stores etc... So what can you use? You can use any neutral PH balanced cleaner. What is that you ask? Well,  first, you need a little chemistry lesson. All cleaning solutions are given a number on the PH scale. The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14 and is a measure of a solution's acidity or alkalinity. A pH of 7 is neutral; a pH less than 7 is acidic; and a pH greater than 7 is alkaline, or basic.

Now that we know what a pH scale is and that you must use a NEUTRAL pH cleaner (7) I will give you some examples of cleaners that you CAN use for cleaning your natural stone shower. If you are looking to go the more natural route then dish soap may be an option for you. Dish soap comes very close to 7 on the scale.  You can also use a little baking soda and water mixture to scrub down the walls. The baking soda has a bit of a gritty texture making it a bit easier to clean off rust buildup and mold. If you want something a bit more powerful your local home improvement store will have a neutral pH cleaner in their tile section. Here is a link to a neutral cleaner at Home Depot. Neutral Stone Cleaner It is important to keep in mind that travertine and marble showers are really hard to clean and maintain because they are so susceptible to etching. You really need to use a professional stone cleaning service, like ours, to get your natural stone walls cleaned up.

For more information see my other blog regarding etching Etch Marks & What You Can Do About Them and also my other blog post White Stuff on Shower Walls

What is Honing Travertine?

honing travertine

Honed Travertine Table Top

Honing Travertine…Travertine Honing

What IS travertine honing and do you need to hone YOUR travertine or natural stone floor? Well, if you have an uneven shine, etch marks, dull spots or scratches, then yes, honing is a necessary step prior to polishing. Many of our clients confuse polishing and honing. They go into our appointment thinking that their floor just needs a good cleaning & maybe a light polish to remove those nasty drip marks and dull spots. “Why can’t I wipe this spot off my floor with a paper towel or a rag?” I wind up breaking the bad news…cleaning and polishing will not remove those small dull spots that can only be seen at certain angles. They must be honed out.

Honing is a term we use to describe a process whereby we remove the damaged layer of stone. We do this by using a very abraisive pad on our floor machine followed by our rinse extraction machine. This honing process removes etch marks, small scratches and allows for a more even finish. We encourage honing in high traffic areas such as the kitchen, laundry room, bathrooms and walkways. If you decide not to hone your travertine prior to polishing your floor, then the finish may not be as even and the deeper etch marks will be seen at certain angles.  Honing travertine, or any natural stone, prior to polishing will give the best results.

Polishing is just the opposite of honing. Polishing travertine, or any stone, is meant to bring the shine level up. If you were to look at the surface of travertine under a microscope, dull travertine would be very bumpy while shiny travertine would be very flat. This ‘flatness’ enables the stone to reflect light, which makes it shiny. We polish travertine, marble, and limestone using a series of diamond abrasives which allow us to offer a variety of finishes to our customers.

In closing, honing removes the damaged top layer allowing for a beautiful shine after it is polished. It removes dull spots, minor scratches and gives you an even shine after polishing. Honing will not remove lipage. Lipage, is when one tile is higher than the next. Lipage removal requires grinding using extremely aggressive abrasives.

Honing Definition


Flagstone Faux Pas… Flagstone Coating

Flagstone Coatings

Flagstone? I thought that was just outdoor material people used by the pool or on walkways? Nope. Flagstone can be found just about anywhere and can be found in many homes around the valley.

Flagstone, like many other stones, is a very porous material. For that reason, a topical coating is generally applied to interior installations making it easier to clean and harder to stain. We are occasionally called out to inspect flagstone floors that have had rugs with rubber backings stuck to the floor or, in this case, tape that peeled the finish from the flagstone…

Flagstone Coating

Flagstone Coating Peeled OFF

In the above picture, a painter used masking tape to mask off the floors not realizing it would pull the coating off of the floor once he pulled up his tape. This is now a nightmare for both the homeowner and the painter. The only way to fix this mistake is to completely strip the flagstone coating from the floor, clean it and re-coat it. This gets to be expensive if you have a large amount of flagstone. The problem with stripping is that you can’t just strip one area. If it connects, it all has to be done. If the mistake only happened in a master bathroom then only the master bathroom would have to be stripped etc… see Flagstone Cleaning Services page for additional information.

In the end, removing a flagstone coating is best left to the professionals. It’s a messy job and extremely labor intensive. To really do it right, you must have the proper tools and know how. Also note that after applying the flagstone coating you must leave your furniture off the floor for 24 hours to allow the coating to dry. If you do not, your furniture could fuse itself to the floor.  🙂

Hopefully this post comes to mind the next time you are considering masking tape near your flagstone coating.

Saltillo, Friend or Foe?

Saltillo Tile CleaningAhhh, saltillo tile, that little terra-cotta slice of love found in every mexican restaurant and thousands of homes in Phoenix. Whether you have indoor saltillo or outdoor, it seems to be a love hate relationship with the tile. While it is beautifully rustic, and appeals to those wanting that southwestern Arizona feel to their home, it can be somewhat of a high maintenance floor.

Most of our clients call many, many years after the Saltillo is installed, frustrated because they can’t seem to get it clean or, if it is outdoors, because there are yellow and white flakes coming off of the tile. I will begin by addressing the indoor saltillo tile issues as the two are different.

To determine the correct course of action for indoor saltillo tile, a few questions must be asked. First, is there a finish on it? How long has it been since that finish was applied? Has additional finish been applied since the original application? How often? Does the area receive a high amount of traffic? The reason I stated that saltillo tile is a high maintenance floor is because to really clean it, it must be done by a professional using the proper equipment. Most homeowners aren’t going to have a floor buffer with the appropriate pads and heavy duty rinse extraction machine to suck up all of the gunk. If the existing gloss coating is in good condition with no chips or peeling, then we recommend not stripping the gloss but, instead, performing a deep cleaning followed by a fresh coat of finish. Stripping the old finish off the floor becomes necessary when there is a lot of chipping and/or holes in the finish. The amount of gloss that has accumulated on the floor plays an important role as well. There may be layers upon layers of trapped dirt that cannot be removed simply through cleaning. A professional will have to determine which service is appropriate for your floor.

Outdoor saltillo tile is usually sealed with a heavy duty exterior penetrating sealer. We recommend a water based product because of the high porosity of the tile. This sealer should not be confused with that of a topical coating. We do not recommend topical applications outdoors as they deteriorate quickly due to the elements and become extremely slippery when wet. This type of a coating around a pool is an invitation to the ER. We sometimes find that a gloss coating has been applied on an exterior saltillo patio. If the patio is located under the protection of a cover, in a yard without a pool, then it is conceivable that the coating can remain on the tile and a cleaning and recoat can be performed. If, however, the coating is in an area that is exposed sunlight or water from landscaping sprinklers it is likely that the old coating will have deteriorated to the point that stripping it from the floor is necessary.Outdoor Saltillo Tile

Saltillo is a beautiful surface when properly maintained. Call Us today with any questions you may have abut your saltillo tile or to have a technician give an in home estimate.

Grout Sealing, is it worth it?

So, you have just spent thousands on installing new flooring. Your pocket book is drained and you are now faced with the decision to seal or not seal. For many, the thought of another expenditure is either not an option or a question as to whether it is a justifiable expense. Well,  I’m here to tell you that grout sealing DOES work. If you don’t seal your grout, it will get dirty and there is no guarantee that it will come clean even with a professional cleaning machine like ours. This article applies to those with a new installation as well as those with existing flooring.

A common misnomer in reguard to grout sealing is that it will prevent your grout from getting dirty.  This is just not true. There is nothing out there that can prevent your floors and grout from becoming dirty. The purpose of grout sealing is to keep your grout from getting stained. 

The best type of grout sealer to use is an acrylic grout stain/sealer. I like this sealer because it lasts for over 10 years and is easy for the homeowner to maintain once we have finished their job.  This acrylic grout sealer acts like a protective shield for your grout. Let’s say you are cooking and the bottle of olive oil gets knocked over, onto the floor, and begins running into the grout lines. Don’t panic! Your grout is sealed! All you have to do is wipe it up with dish soap, water and a sponge! The same goes for other items that could stain your grout…coffee, red wine, spaghetti sauce etc… This acrylic sealer comes in many different colors and can dramatically change the look of your floors. Whether you stay with the original color or change to a new one, you WILL be happy with an acrylic colored grout sealer. I always hear, “My floor looks like new!” or “I love my floors now!” If you are toying around with the idea of tearing out your tile floor because you don’t like the look of the tile or you think it can never be brought back to new, call us! We have many clients who are prepared to rip out their entire floors and change their minds once we have finished restoring the grout!

Now you are probably thinking, “This is too good to be true!” It’s really not. The product is great. It WILL last 10 plus years depending upon the amount of foot traffic coming through the house. Remember, it will still need to be cleaned and freshened up along the way. Also, I have noticed, over the course of my 15 years in the business if you have chairs with wheels such as an office chair, the grout sealer may come off in that area. Sometimes it may fade a bit in the kitchen area, or on extremely high grout lines, after a few years of heavy traffic. That being said, it is still worth the money and effort it takes to seal your floors. We always leave our clients with a bottle of sealer and a brush to touch up any areas needed until we come back for another cleaning.

I hope this gives a bit of insight on grout sealing and helps you to make a decision on sealing!

Color Sealing

Grout Color Seal Sample

Tile Cleaning 101

Tile Cleaning

Tile Cleaning

If you are reading this then you are probably look for tile cleaning information…

The basics: ceramic and porcelain tile are cleaned using the same method. We use one of two chemicals, an alkaline or an acidic based soap, depending upon the texture of the floor on which we are working. Let’s say your floor is highly textured, meaning rough and/or pitted. We would use a highly alkaline soap because it works well removing grease and dirt out of the little grooves in the tile. If we are working on grout that has been stained we would use a highly acidic cleaner because it removes a thin layer of grout revealing the clean surface underneath.

Travertine, Marble and Limestone are all cleaned with a neutral based tile soap. This means that it is neither alkaline nor acidic. Acids will ruin your stone floor! Do NOT use acid on your travertine, marble or limestone as it will etch the surface leaving behind dull spots that can only be removed through polishing. See our video on travertine polishing and read more about etch marks on our stone website What is an etch mark? Some house keepers like to use a bit of vinegar in their cleaning buckets… beware that this may dull the surface of your floor as vinegar is acidic.