Travertine shower enclosures are aesthetically pleasing and generally easy to maintain and keep clean, however, because of the material and the environment, molds, and mildew can often appear making your luxury bathroom look anything but.
In this article, we will be explaining how to clean your Travertine tiled shower if mold has already had a chance to spread, and also how to prevent it from occurring again.
To remove mold and mildew from a travertine tile, use a low-acid cleaning product, such as Oxiclean or stone cleaning products, as these will not cause any etching. Acidic products such as lemon juice or vinegar should be avoided, as they can damage the surface of the tile.
Why does mold form on Travertine?
Mold can form on any surface if the conditions are correct. These are namely, a cool and moist area with limited airflow and plenty of food for the mold to eat.
Travertine tiles are made out of limestone that has formed from very specific mineral springs. They are famed for their unique appearance. They can come in polished, brushed, tumbled, or honed.
The brushed and honed textures are more likely to facilitate mold growth, as water can seep deeper into the travertine than it may from the smoother surfaced tiles. It is also more likely for water droplets to accumulate on a textured surface than on a smooth one.
Limestone is a porous rock, which means it absorbs small amounts of water. If left, this water mixed with the humid environment a travertine shower enclosure or bathroom provides could make the ideal circumstance for mold and mildew to multiply and thrive.
Mold growth on your travertine shower enclosure can not only make a high-end bathroom look shabby, but it can also pose breathing and other health issues, so it needs to be dealt with as soon as it’s first discovered.
How to clean travertine shower mold
Cleaning travertine isn’t as simple as reaching for the bleach under your kitchen sink. It is a delicate type of rock that is prone to acid erosion from harsh chemicals.
Therefore, it is recommended that you use the following steps in order to learn how to clean travertine shower mold:
- Apply a solution of warm water and mild (non-acidic) detergent to the affected area.
- Allow the solution to sit on the tile for ten to fifteen minutes.
- Take a cloth or sponge and gently scrub the stone with warm water.
- Ensure any residue detergent is removed and allow it to dry completely.
The steps outlined above are usually sufficient to remove mold that has only recently begun to accumulate, however, if the problem has persisted for some time, and you are concerned there is a potential your travertine may become stained, you may need to use a stronger alkaline cleaning agent.
- Create a solution of 1 part baking soda to 4 parts borax, added to 8 parts of warm water.
- Apply this solution to the affected area and let sit for twenty to thirty minutes.
- Using a soft-bristled brush, gently scrub the affected areas to remove any trace of mold.
- You may need to repeat steps 1-3 several times if the mold had stained the surface or it is well-developed.
Should you find that neither of these options has got you the result you were looking for, there are several specific stone cleaning solutions available that you might want to consider, such as HG Natural stone cleaner.
To see the Amazon price for this product, click the link below.
Steam clean method
Another highly effective method to clean travertine tiles that requires no use of chemicals, kills mold and bacteria and can be used to clean your entire property is to use a steam cleaner. Simply turn the unit on, allow it to reach temperature, and whilst holding it one to two inches away from the tile, use a sweeping motion either up and down or from left to right.
The key point to remember with using steam is that it can cause higher moisture levels within your bathroom, so, whilst using the unit, ensure windows and doors are kept open to allow plenty of airflow that can carry the excess moisture away from the bathroom.
To make life a little easier, I have placed several links below to some of the highest-rated units on Amazon for you to take a look at. Clicking on the links will take you directly to the Amazon store.
How to prevent mold accumulation on the tiles
The easiest way to remove mold from travertine is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Mold typically needs a warm, moist environment and plenty of food in order to accumulate and grow, if you take away any of these, it will be impossible for it to spread and thrive.
Here are a few things you can do to prevent mold formation on your Travertine shower tiles.
Ensure the room is properly ventilated
An accumulation of warm and moist air is exactly what molds want, so ensuring that after each use of your bathroom, the humidity levels are brought right back down to below 50% is a great preventative step against mold.
A simple method is to make sure the bathroom is not left with steam circulating after bathing, so opening windows and doors to allow it to escape and to increase airflow will quickly bring the moisture levels back down.
Another option is to install a bathroom extract fan, that will work whilst you are bathing to remove the steam as soon as it forms. You can also purchase extract fans that bring the moisture levels of a room back down to a pre-set level by way of a humidistat.
A bathroom extract fan with a humidistat will begin to work as soon as it detects the moisture levels rising in a room, and will only turn off once these levels have come back to the preset moisture percentage level.
To keep a close eye on the humidity levels within not only your bathroom but your entire property, you can place hygrometers throughout several rooms in your property to gauge the overall moisture levels. To make life easier, I’ve placed a few links to highly rated and very affordable hygrometer units available on the Amazon store below.
Wipe down wet surfaces after use
A simple method to reduce overall moisture in a bathroom and especially on your travertine is to wipe them down after use. A dripping wet tile will take a long time to dry, and mold only requires 24 to 48 hours to develop, so if the bathroom door is closed for several days and the moisture levels are high enough, mold can form.
Clean the surfaces of the tiles and bathroom regularly
Mold needs food to survive, and the food it eats? Anything organic, which in your bathroom means skin and debris left behind after bathing. As long as you take away the source of the mold’s food, it cannot thrive.
In order to make sure there is as little organic residue on your travertine as possible, make sure you thoroughly clean the surfaces at least once per week, preferably, after each use.
You may be brushing up against your Travertine shower tiles during showers, leaving a buildup of skin cells for the mold to eat. So, after each use, along with ensuring the tiles are dry, give them a wipe-down to remove any organic matter that may have built up.
Will sealing Travertine prevent mold build-up?
Another method of preventing mold accumulation you may have heard of for travertine, in particular, is sealing them.
As we stated earlier, travertine is a porous material, which means water can be absorbed and can linger in the tiles. To prevent this from happening, you can “seal” the tile using either a solvent or water-based sealant.
The idea behind sealing travertine in a bathroom or shower enclosure is to prevent water from penetrating the stone and allowing moisture to accumulate. Again, if the correct level of moisture is not present, mold cannot accumulate.
However, you will find that in most cases, sealing of travertine is not required, as the stone may be slightly porous, but not enough to absorb a sufficient level of moisture for mold to live It is more likely that surface-level moisture is the problem that should be addressed.
This is good news, as sealing a shower enclosure can be both a costly and time-consuming process.
How often should you be cleaning travertine to prevent mold?
Ideally, you should clean your travertine shower tiles down after each use. If completed frequently, this can be a quick wipe-down with a cloth to make sure the tiles are both clean and also dry.
However, for general maintenance, you should give your tiles a more thorough clean at least once per month. This can be done with low-PH detergent and warm water.
What about stubborn mold stains?
One common misconception about travertine is that it stains easily. This is not the case, and the tiles rarely “stain”, but are more likely to “etch”. This is why harsh chemicals are not suggested for cleaning mold off travertine, as they can eat into the material and leave marks where the acid has worn down the top layer of the tile.
Mold stains on travertine, however, can occur, and ironically, if you have used harsh chemicals in the past in an attempt to clean them, this may have made the situation worse as the mold can now get deeper into the surface of the stone.
To remove mold stains from travertine, make a mixture of one part baking soda and one part water to form a paste. Leave this paste on the affected area for up to thirty minutes. Gently scrub the area with a soft-bristled brush until the stain is lifted.
Cleaning products to avoid using on a Travertine tile
As stated, travertine tiles can be delicate in their nature as they are made of limestone and react poorly to acids.
Household cleaning products such as bleach, general tile cleaning products, and even natural cleaning products like vinegar and lemon juice should therefore be avoided, as you will likely begin to see etching on the surface of your tiles.
Ammonia-based products will have the same effect on travertine and will etch the surfaces leaving them looking dull, so these are also best avoided.
When to call a professional for mold growth on Travertine stone
In some cases, if mold buildup has accrued over a long enough period of time, and you have used harsh chemicals in the past to try to clean your travertine, there may be a significant amount of etching, which will leave them looking old and discolored.
In this situation, it may well be worth calling a professional for two separate reasons.
Firstly, you may wish to hire a professional travertine restoration company to bring new life to your tiles as it is certainly cheaper than having to replace them all.
The second service you may require is that of a condensation expert to determine the most efficient ways of lowering the overall moisture levels in your property. This will not only prevent mold from forming on your travertine tiles but on other areas too.
They may recommend extract fans as I suggested earlier in the article and also may suggest ideal locations for grilles to be placed to increase airflow through the bathroom.
Travertine, whilst being aesthetically pleasing needs to be maintained properly in order to prevent mold and mildew buildup. However, with the simple steps outlined in this article, you should be fully equipped to not only deal with mold if it has begun to appear but also have the knowledge to prevent it from occurring again.
If treated quickly and correctly, some small mold formation should be of no great concern, however, if left, the problem will only get worse, so it is worth treating as soon as it is found.