Thursday, January 04, 2007

Cleaning the floor tiles at Barley Hall: 1

The reproduction floor tile at Barley Hall in York is a glorious centre-piece to the restored medieval house. However it's in need of a clean, and I volunteered to find out how to do this. The tiles were handmade by John Hudson, and have been walked by the visitors to the Hall for at least 15 years. The floor has been cleaned occasionally, but sparingly using modern cleaning materials. It now needs a deep clean, along with the rest of the Hall.

I consulted the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics website, and found their fact sheets 1 and 2 of some use, though they are primarily aimed at cleaning Victorian or later tiles. Green 'Scotchbrite' scourers were recommended to clean the surfaces, but I think it might not be applicable here - we'll be using the white 'non-stick' scourers, and even then, sparingly. It also turned out that some of the materials recommended were very difficult to get hold of. Biotex (a non-ionic cleaner, which won't interfere with the glazed surfaces of the tiles) no longer seems to be available. And distilled water is only available from laboratory suppliers. However de-ionised water was to be found on the shelves of hardwear stores, Halfords and supermarkets. In the end, I consulted the a conservation laboratory who were very helpful. De-ionised water should be OK to use. They also recommended that I could try soap flakes as a cleaning agent, so I'll be trying that out tomorrow. We also have a small amount of specialised non-ionic detergent to use.

Yesterday, I spent my time getting the equipment and materials required together. And today, I did a patch test to find out how the cleaning process would work. I've just typed out the instructions for the volunteer tile cleaners. Tomorrow, the real work will begin ...

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