Palace deep clean
New Year Clean Sweep at Britain's Greatest Palace
Natural cleaning products bristle brushes and old-fashioned elbow grease are being used by a team of conservation cleaners as they embark on the annual New Year deep clean of Blenheim Palace.
Beginning in January a team of conservation cleaners will be hard at work on the 'deep clean'– a painstaking procedure that has been taking place each year since Blenheim Palace first opened its doors to visitors in 1950.
Although the techniques, equipment and conservation procedures have changed over the decades, the cleaning process itself still takes six weeks with a team of up to six people working daily.
The team is extremely careful while cleaning the priceless collection of historic artefacts, which includes 18 clocks, 38 pieces of armour and 40 busts and sculptures, using distilled water and no aerosol sprays.
“Chemicals used in modern-day cleaning products can be seriously detrimental to the historic pieces,” said Carmen Alvarez, Deputy Collections Manager at Blenheim Palace.
“So, as well as adopting new technologies such as museum vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters we also embrace cleaning techniques which are centuries old including natural bristle brushes, feather dusters and elbow grease.
“Each room has to be carefully stripped of all the furniture and artefacts and vacuumed from floor to ceiling,”
“The floors are then cleaned and polished. Whilst this is taking place, the rest of the team inspect and assess each item before it is returned to the room,” she added.
Blenheim's Top Cleaning Tips
The collections team have shared their top tips handed down by generations of cleaners and conservators who have cared for thousands of precious objects contained within Blenheim Palace's walls.
Dusting once a year should be enough with a soft, lint-free cloth. For any stubborn dirt use a mild detergent solution and gently apply with a cotton bud or pad. Follow with a pad wet with de-ionised or distilled water to remove all detergent. Dry with kitchen towels immediately to prevent streaks and polish with a lint-free cloth.
Each time metal is cleaned, dusted or polished a bit of the original metal is lost so do not over-clean. Try not to touch it with dirty hands either as your fingerprints will be permanently etched into the metal. Where possible, handle with white cotton gloves.
Never remove it from the shelf by the spine as it can cause damage. Gently push from behind until it is able to be grasped safely on either side and pulled out.
Dust frames with a soft brush (pony hair is perfect) and use a vacuum to catch the dust before it settles somewhere else. Dust on the surface of a painting should only be cleaned by a trained conservator.
Dust and buff with a lint-free cloth. Polish or wax should always be used sparingly as it will build up over time.
The Oxfordshire World Heritage Site houses one of the most important and extensive collections in Europe, which includes portraits, furniture, sculptures, and tapestries.