Removing Wax From Travertine Floors
Recently we were hired to provide cleaning, sealing, and restoration services to a travertine floor that was approximately (9) years old. This floor was used as a dining hall for a small christian school here in Sacramento, California. The floor was installed by a professional and was left into the hands of the school janitors for its daily maintenance. This floor initially became quite dirty so what did they do - put sealer on the dirty floor. After awhile the sealer began to break down so they hired an "expert" to clean and service the floor. This so called expert formerly worked as a janitor in one of our local hospitals. The janitor used a 'swing machine' with nylon pads and attempted to clean and strip the floor. He only partially removed some of the dirt so they decided to add THREE coats of Zep Wax onto the floor. The floor looked shiny but the holes, cracks, and dirty grout lines were still present.
First let me say that waxing a travertine floor is a BIG No-No. Travertine must be able to breath. Like concrete when travertine is cold it will contract (shrink), when travertine is hot it will expand. When you suffocate the floor you literally are inviting cracks to appear, and this is exactly what happened to the floor. Anytime you apply a topical coating to travertine you must make sure that it is BREATHABLE. The travertine must be able to expand and contract, depending on the weather, to avoid the floor from cracking.
My son and I spent (3) long days on this floor stripping, cleaning, patching holes and cracks, and finally applying the appropriate sealer. It literally required us to spend the better part of a day on our hands and knees scraping old wax and the sealer that was underneath with razor blades and this is AFTER we stripped and cleaned using our high tech machines that specialize in tile and grout cleaning. We spent 1/2 day on our hands and knees patching cracks and filling holes on this rather small travertine floor (probably around 500 square feet). This job, under normal circumstance, should have taken us only about (1) day to complete but because they had applied sealer over the dirt and then applied wax over the sealer it made the task of cleaning & restoration much more difficult to say the least.
If you have a travertine floor that has a similar problem let me first suggest that you begin mopping the floor daily with ammonia and water. Ammonia will break down the wax and the sealer. Try (1) part ammonia and (2) parts warm water the first week and if you do not see a change then change the formula to (1) part ammonia and (1) part warm water for about on week. If you still do not see a change then use straight ammonia. The first change you want to look for is a the wax to become dull in its appearance. Second you want to see a 'yellowing' of the wax. Third you want to see a flaking or blistering, kind of like human skin after a sun burn. This could take several weeks to accomplish so be patient. After you have reached the flakey skin look it is now time to call back your professional and allow them to completely strip off the old wax, sealer, dirt, etc. You want to make sure that your professional can patch the cracks, fill the holes, and apply a breathable sealer to the floor. Most carpet cleaning companies will clean travertine but they can not and will not patch the cracks, fill the holes, or apply the correct type of sealer so be warned about hiring these types. Spend the extra money and get a true professional.
If you need help with your travertine please do not hesitate to give us a call at (916) 525-2456.
Michael Hull - Owner