Conservation continues as experts spring clean Powis Castle and share top tips to try at home
Chess pieces, chairs and Caesar busts are among the thousands of items being dusted at Powis Castle in Welshpool this month, as the National Trust’s house and collections team continue their cleaning regime to care for the historic site during lockdown.
As many of us factor in a spring clean this season, the conservation charity will be cleaning on a grand scale, with more than 2,000 objects and pieces of furniture to dust across 117 rooms and corridors in the medieval castle.
With the property closed to further restrict the spread of coronavirus, a small team of essential workers will be ‘putting the house to bed’ over the coming weeks, a process that will ensure the eclectic collection is preserved and looking its best when visitors can return.
Alex Turrell, the senior house and collections officer at Powis Castle, explained: “Putting the house to bed involves lightly dusting all objects and surfaces using specialist brushes, lint-free dusters and specialist vacuums to collect the dust.
“Items are then covered with ‘hats’ made from acid-free tissue paper and all furniture is covered with made-to-measure dust covers.”
As well as cleaning the collection, the team will be keeping the public connected with what is happening on-site through conservation in action updates on social media.
Collections assistant, Amy Reynolds, who features in the series of timelapse and behind-the-scenes videos, said: “Visitors to Powis Castle always enjoy seeing conservation in action, so during these unprecedented times, we’re bringing the experience to them virtually.”
For those wanting to get involved at home, the Trust’s cleaning experts have also shared their top tips for keeping your house spick and span:
- For routine cleaning, start nearest the door – where the dirt comes in – and for areas furthest away, clean less often.
- For a spring clean, start on the upper floors and work down. In each room, clean from the top down – let gravity be your friend.
- Dust smooth surfaces like tables or glass using a lint-free cotton cloth folded into a pad, instead of a yellow duster.
- For carved or textured surfaces – including grills on your ‘surround sound’ speakers – use a natural bristle brush and collect the dislodged dust with a handheld vacuum cleaner.
- To dust the tops of books, use a softer natural bristle brush and flick the dust into a handheld vacuum cleaner.
- To give wax-polished wooden floors a dust, use a woollen cloth soaked in 50 per cent vinegar and 50 per cent liquid paraffin wrapped around a mop.
- Wash precious ceramics with cotton-wool balls dipped in a mild detergent solution (e.g. sensitive skin washing-up liquid or baby shampoo), rinse by dipping new cotton wool in clean water. Avoid holding fragile ceramic or glass by its handle or rim – this may be a weak point.
- Put glass mats under vases on polished and decorated furniture to prevent water spills from staining the wood.
- Always seek specialist advice before attempting to clean or repair any valuable heirlooms or fragile items, whether pictures, furniture, textiles or other historic materials.