Conservation in action: chairs

Cleaning the upholstery on a chair

The house team face many challenging tasks when taking care of our collection. One of the more intricate tasks is the care of textiles. Our textiles range from silk wallpapers, to velvet seat cushions.

During their visits to the castle, many visitors enquire about how we take care of our collection, especially something as fragile as textiles.

Cleaning the velvet cushions on chairs is usually done annually. However, careful observation is undertaken regularly. The house team at Penrhyn Castle observe for any light damage, which is very apparent when you look around the castle. To limit exposure, each room has special blinds that are lowered to a certain level, depending on the materials of our collection. 

The method of cleaning textiles is dependent on the material and condition of the textile. In the video below, Lauren, our Assistant House Steward, demonstrates how the house team perform a deep clean on our textile collection.

Before we begin to remove dust from the cushion itself, netting needs to be placed over the cushion. This is to prevent too many fibres from the material itself, being removed during the cleaning. The vacuum we use is specially adapted for collections such as ours, and is referred to as a ‘museum vacuum’. As well as it’s low suction setting, we place a piece of gauze over the nozzle, to once again prevent too many fibres of the fabric being removed.

When using the museum vacuum, we move the nozzle with the grain of the material. Once we have vacuumed the entire surface area of the cushion, we study the gauze over the nozzle. As you can see in the video, Lauren shows how much dust has been removed from one vacuum of the cushion. We carry on vacuuming until we begin to see a small amount of the deep red fibres on the gauze. This means that the dust has been removed and all that is left is the material’s natural fibres.

Deep cleaning on our collection is mainly done annually. However, we have many daily, weekly and monthly tasks to do in the meantime. The House Team at Penrhyn are always happy to be questioned on their work, if you happen to see us during your visit. We believe passionately in conservation in action, to engage visitors with the work that goes into preserving properties such as ours.