Restoring the shine

Wax on..wax off... © National Trust/Alex Muir

Wax on..wax off...

Speke Hall is home to over 6775 items ranging from huge pieces of oak furniture to intricate tapestries, fragile ceramics and antique suits of armour. Each one of these items has an individual cleaning routine and some of the winter months are spent carefully checking, cleaning and caring for them.

Take our billiard table as one example. It looks like a big, solid piece of furniture that doesn't require much cleaning. Well, it still needs to dusted daily using a lint free duster. Lint-free is the best material because it’s softer than regular household dusters, so does not leave scratches when we dust. On a yearly basis we carefully wax the table. This protects the wood and improves the appearance of both the colour and shine.

Many household polishes contain chemicals and solvents which can actually be the cause of long-term damage. One example is known as ‘bloom’; this is where dullness and discolouration occur, causing the wood to appear grey. We use a soft natural wax called ‘Harrell’s Wax’. Using either a soft cloth or soft bristle brush, we carefully apply a thin layer of wax and buff with a clean brush or soft cloth to help restore the colour and shine. It is important that we avoid touching the green baize cloth of the billiard table. No wax can come into contact with the textiles during this process as this would result in irreversible staining – and you can’t just throw it in the wash!

It's not just our housekeeping team who look after this much loved item. A conservator is consulted if any damage begins to develop. They also review the cleaning routine for the table and check it is not being over or under cleaned. If there is any damage that needs to be assessed or areas that need to be restored, a specialist furniture conservator is called in. He's been here recently to make a few repairs to the pockets of our table so that a full game can be played!

If you're interested in how we clean and care for this, and other items in the Hall's collection, please ask a member of staff when you visit. Our conservation team often work in the house when it's open and they're always happy to talk about what they're doing.