Let’s Talk About Marble Cleaning and Marble Polishing
Sometimes people use the phrases marble cleaning and marble polishing interchangeably. We have run across a number of people who believe that the dull look on the marble floor or travertine floor can be removed by cleaning. Often times, cleaning the floor using our pressurized cleaning process makes the floors look significantly better. In fact, the grout lines are often brought back to 80% of brand new. However, if the floor is dull, more than likely you will need a travertine or marble polishing process described on this page.
Your Marble or Travertine Floor: It Doesn’t Last Forever?
You put a tremendous amount of time in contemplation and finally you made the decision to go natural. Maybe it was the touch, the look or how it made you feel. Once installed, your marble floor or marble countertop looked wonderful; lustrous shine, depth of reflection and smooth to the touch and so pristine. Life was good. And then it began. Worn patterns, stains and scratches emerged. Grout lines turned dark. And what was once a focal point of the home, has now become an eye sore.
Your Marble Floor Looks Dull. How Did This Happen?
Often when people think about marble or travertine stone they assume that no care or maintenance is required. Marble floors or marble countertops are ignored or the stone is cleaned with the wrong method or chemical. Because of misinformation or no education, the consumer is not in a good position to maintain their new stone; consequently, damage to the stones crystals sets in. The damaged crystals prevent light from being reflected evenly thereby giving you a dull look.
Let’s go into this with a little more detail.
Reflectivity of Marble or Travertine Stone
Marble or travertine stone contains natural crystals. These crystals reflect light to provide a shine on the surface. When these crystals turn dull, crushed or broken, they cannot reflect light evenly. For example, when the lens of a flashlight breaks, it cannot reflect the light that is being emitted from the bulb.
Polished marble stone becomes dull when heavy foot traffic along with sediment erodes the crystals. Normal footwear does not cause the main damage, sediment and grit do. The sediment and grit that finds its way inside from outside, is often harder than your stone. This becomes the main enemy of stone crystal. The damage to the crystals occurs when the pressure from the shoe forces the sediment to abrade or fracture the crystals.
Other issues that negatively affect the stone are etching from acidic substances such as food, alcohols, perfumes and certain cleaning materials. If the floor is not properly sealed, the floors can easily stain from spills or accidents.
What Can We Do to Fix the Marble Stone?
The only way to restore the shine back onto your marble stone is to SHARPEN the crystals in the stone. This can only be done through honing and polishing using diamond abrasives and polish (explained below). Marble and travertine are soft materials compared with granite. Granite contains quartz minerals. The darker the color of the stone the more time it takes to polish it. Granite can take three to five times longer to polish than softer material.
How Do We Clean and Polish Granite, Marble, and Travertine?
What is honing?
Honing is the process for smoothing the stone with the use of abrasives. We use either a weighted buffing machine or our Cimex orbital machine to complete this process. We place diamond pads on the bottom of our machine. The diamonds work to abrade the floor creating a slurry. This makes the floor smooth and clean. If the floor does not have deep scratches, often the restoration project can start here. The grit level starts at 120 or so and runs to 800. Moderate scratch marks and etching can be removed through honing. Once you are into the higher grit numbers, a satin finish will be achieved. Some clients desire a satin look and wish to stop here. Others prefer a higher gloss and wish to move to the next phase, polishing.
Polishing Marble or Travertine Stone
As with the honing process, we will continue using either a weighted buffing machine or our Cimex Orbital machine. Once again, we will use polishing pads and attach them to the bottom of our pad driver. However, we will use finer and finer abrasives to produce a highly reflective finish. The shine intensity varies based on grit number. Polishing grits will run from 800 to 8500. The higher the number the higher the gloss
The last step of polishing is the use of polishing powders. Polishing powders often give that extra edge and often can make the surface uniform. Polishing powders contain abrasive and accelerators that are chemically potent. The kind of powders use will depend on the type of stone and the mineral mix within the stone.
If the floors are in decent shape or you have a maintenance plan in place, it is possible the only service you may need is only polishing. Our clients normally like to hear those words because it means less time and money.
What happens when the tile on your floor are so uneven it’s causing problems either staying clean (dirt collecting in the cracks) or walking without stubbing your toe or tripping?
This is where you may want to consider grinding down the high areas.
Grinding Marble or Travertine Stone
A process by which the surface is aggressively sanded to remove large stocks of the stone. This process is usually recommended when stone tiles are uneven. Lippage is the term given to uneven tiles that are set higher than one another. Grinding is recommended when the lippage exceeds 1/8 inch or if one desires to have a completely flat floor.
Grinding is an aggressive process using metal-bonded and diamond grit to remove deep scratches and lippage. A completely flat floor eliminates all unevenness, giving the floor the illusion of being monolithic (one piece).
Grinding the stone is messy work. But worth it!!
Video of Grinding a Marble Floor
Video of Grinding a Marble Floor, Continued
Watch this video. Do you hear the clicking sound? What this means is the tiles are not flat. If the tile lippage is greater than the thickness of a nickel you may want to have it ground down.
We Can Help Fix your Marble or Travertine Floor
At Surface With A Smile we possess the expertise and tools necessary to polish your natural stone. We have the top of line marble cleaning and travertine cleaning equipment and only use the highest quality of diamond abrasives. What this does is allow us to finish the job with the highest quality possible. Regardless of the type of stone, or the condition we can help.
Some of the Types of Stone We Can Polish: Travertine, Onyx, Marble, Serpentine and Granite
Here are some tips on how to avoid stone problems:
1. Loss of Shine in Marble or Travertine Floor
The loss of the polish on certain marble and granite can be attributed to wear. This is especially true of marble, since it is much softer than granite. The bottoms of our shoes act like sandpaper on a stone floor surface, and over time, will wear the polish off. To prevent excessive wear, it is important to keep the floor dust mopped, and place walk-off mats at all entrances. To repair a worn, or dulled, stone surface, it will be necessary to re-hone and re-polish.
2. Etching on Marble or Travertine Floor
The dull spot created when liquids containing acids are spilled on marble is called etching. Marble and some limestone etch easily. Granite is more acid-resistance, and will rarely etch. To prevent etching, avoid using cleaners and chemicals that contain acids. Bathroom cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, and lemon cleaners commonly contain acids. Certain drinks and foods contain acids that will also cause etching. Light etching can be removed with a little marble polishing powder. Deep etching will require resurfacing of the stone.
3. Efflorescence of Marble or Travertine Floor
All stone surfaces can become very easily stained. Most foods, drinks, ink, oil and rust will stain marble. Once a stone becomes stained, it can be very difficult to remove. To prevent staining, clean the spilled material as soon as possible. Blot the spill with a clean paper towel or cloth. If this does not remove the stain, a process called “poulticing” may be needed. It is important to seal stone with a good-quality penetrating sealer to prevent staining.
Efflorescence appears as a white powdery residue on the surface of the stone. It is a common condition on new stone installations or when the stone is exposed to a large quantity of water, such as flooding. This powder is a mineral salt deposited from the setting bed.
4. Spalling, Flakes & Pitting of Marble or Travertine Floor
Spalling is the development of small pits or small pieces of stone that are popping off of the surface. This condition is common on stone exposed to large amounts of water and when deicing salts are used for ice removal. Like efflorescence, mineral salts are the cause for spalling and pitting. Instead of the salts depositing on the surface, they deposit below the surface of the stone. This causes pressure within the stone; therefore, the stone spalls, flakes, or pits.
5. Yellowing of Marble or Travertine Floor
There are several reasons why a stone will turn yellow: embedded dirt and grime can give the stone a yellow, dingy look; waxes, and other coatings, can yellow with age; certain stones will naturally yellow with age. This is caused by oxidation of iron within the stone and is especially problematic with white marbles. If the yellowing is caused by dirt or buildup, clean the stone with an alkaline cleaner or wax stripper. If the yellowing is the result of aged stone, or iron oxidation, it is not coming out.
6. Uneven Tile-Lippage of Marble or Travertine Floor
Lippage is the term given to tiles that are set unevenly. In other words, the edge of one tile is higher than the next. Lippage is the result of poor installation. If the lippage is higher than the thickness of a nickel, it is considered excessive. The tile will have to be ground to flatten the floor.
7. Cracks in Marble or Travertine Floor
Settling, poor installation, and excessive vibration are the causes for cracks in stone tiles. Sometimes cracks can be repaired by using a color-matched polyester or epoxy filler. Before a crack is repaired, it is wise to find out how, and why, the crack occurred in the first place. Otherwise it may recur.
8. White Stun Marks in Marble or Travertine Floor
Stun marks appear as white marks on the surface of the stone and are common in certain types of marble. These stuns are the result of tiny explosions inside the crystal of the stone. Pinpoint pressures placed on the marble cause these marks. Woman’s high heels, or blunt pointed instruments, are common reasons for stun marks. Stun marks can be difficult to remove. Grinding and/or honing can reduce a number of stuns, but some travel through the entire thickness of the stone and are, therefore, impossible to remove
9. Water Rings/Spots in Marble or Travertine Floor
Water rings and spots are very common on marble tabletops. These spots are hard-water minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. These minerals are left behind when the water evaporates, leaving a ring or a spot. To remove these spots, use a marble-polishing powder. Deep spots may require honing. To prevent spots on counters and tabletops, frequently apply a good stone paste wax.
Let the Image Truly Reflect the Substance: Bring Out the Natural Beauty of Your Marble or Travertine Stone
How should I take care of my stone?
Marble or Travertine Floor Surfaces
Dust mop interior floors frequently using a clean non-treated dry dust mop. Sand, dirt and grit do the most damage to natural stone surfaces due to their abrasiveness. Mats or area rugs inside and outside an entrance will help to minimize the sand, dirt and grit that will scratch the stone floor. Be sure that the underside of the mat or rug is a non-slip surface. Normally, it will take a person about eight steps on a floor surface to remove sand or dirt from the bottom of their shoes. Do not use vacuum cleaners that are worn. The metal or plastic attachments or the wheels may scratch the surface.
Clean stone surfaces with a few drops of neutral cleaner, stone soap (available at hardware stores or from your stone dealer) or a mild liquid dishwashing detergent and warm water. Use a clean rag mop on floors and a soft cloth for other surfaces for best results. Too much cleaner or soap may leave a film and cause streaks. No rinse neutral cleaners are also available. Do not use products that contain lemon, vinegar or other acids on marble or limestone. Rinse the surface thoroughly after washing with the soap solution and dry with a soft cloth. Change the rinse water frequently. Do not use scouring powders or creams; these products contain abrasives that may scratch the surface.
Marble or Travertine Bath and Other Wet Areas
In the bath or other wet areas, soap scum can be minimized by using a squeegee after each use. To remove soap scum, use a non-acidic soap scum remover or a solution of ammonia and water (about 1/2 cup ammonia to a gallon of water). Frequent or over-use of an ammonia solution may eventually dull the surface of the stone.
Marble or Travertine Vanity Top Surfaces
Vanity tops may need to have a penetrating sealer applied. Check with your installer for recommendations. A good quality marble w ax or non-yellowing automobile paste wax can be applied to minimize water spotting.