TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  detergents
Author  :  Sara Wolf mailto:%20sjcenik@aol.com
Date  :  01-23-2001 on 06:56 p.m.
I still recommend ORVUS as the best of the detergents for cleaning many groups of textiles, including rugs. From the conservation standpoint, it has the advantage of being free of additives (like dyes, perfumes and fillers). The disadvantage is that you have to be careful with the amount you use. If there is a residue left that is sufficient to attract dirt, far too much detergent has been used.

There is a whole (mostly boring) science of detergency (how detergents work). Every detergent has a specific concentration at which detergency takes place. You can find this out from Material Safety Data Sheets and/or other product information from the manufacturer. Let us say, as an example, that Detergent X achieves detergency at 1%. Below 1%, you form a chemical scum, and you don't get any cleaning action. Too far above 1% and you will have to rinse until the cows come home to get it out. The trick comes in the calculation of how much detergent you need in relationship to the size of your wash bath. And, if you have pre-wet the rug (as you should), you also have to estimate the quantity of water in the rug before you add the detergent solution.

I'm not sure I like the analogy of a detergent residue as a "clear dye." The analogy of a hair conditioner is probably more apt. There has been some research done on the presence of residues after cleaning using appropriate concentrations of detergent and thorough rinsing, but to date, no ill effects of the residues have been shown. We have examples of pieces cleaned with ORVUS over quite a number of years, again with no evidence of a problem.

As for other detergents. Some conservators like Triton-X (good for some kinds of dirt and not for others). It is important to use a detergent and not a soap. Soaps form a scum when they come into contact with acids (a likely byproduct of deterioration in textiles), and make a general mess. The highest-quality detergents are shampoos (not the "no tears" formulae that are pH balanced for eyes rather than hair), but it's almost impossible to find a true detergent shampoo without dyes, perfumes, and other additives that might not be appropriate for cleaning a rug.

Subject  :  Re:detergents
Author  :  Richard Farber mailto:%20farberr@netvision.net.il
Date  :  01-24-2001 on 12:54 a.m.
Dear Ms. Wolf,

thank you for the information.

Perhaps you might comment of the cleaning of embroidries with silk or wool thread . . .
on cotton
on linen
on wool
on silk


Richard Farber

Subject  :  Re:detergents
Author  :  Sara Wolf mailto:%20sjcenik@aol.com
Date  :  01-24-2001 on 06:17 p.m.
ORVUS is still the most recommended detergent among conservators, regardless of the medium. The factors also taken into consideration are dyes, metallics, or other non-textile additions that may react poorly to water as well as detergent. If you thought deaccessioning an object was an ordeal, wait until you hear what we go through before washing! First, every single element of the rug, textile, whatever, is tested for colorfastness to water, and to water + detergent. This takes several hours because you have to try to simulate the time in the wash bath as well as isolate each of the colors (reason being that some colors are deceptive, and won't run until you're too far into the process to turn back...bloody little things!) Assuming that the colors are all ok, and that the piece is safe to wash, it is sometimes encased in a material like bridal netting to hold fragments together and keep from losing knots or threads near holes. It will be vacuumed front and back to remove any loose soils (makes the wet cleaning part much more efficient), and then will be allowed to "wet out." This means that you float the piece on water and let it absorb the water rather than forcing the water through the structure of the textile. Soaking (once completely wet) can last from 5 to 30 minutes, and may be repeated. This process allows soils and acids that are water-soluble to release. Again, this increases the efficiency of the detergent wash. Once the bath is drained, and excess water pressed out of the rug, the detergent solution is worked in (usually with sponges). Front and back are done, and soils are rinsed away. A second, and sometimes 3rd or 4th wash is done, and then you rinse, and rinse, and rinse, and rinse. The test of completeness of rinsing is if you can drink the rinse water, and/or if you catch the water coming directly off of the rug in a jar, shake it thoroughly and see how long it takes for the bubbles to pop (ie., whether the bubbles are air bubbles or detertent). They you press out the water, blot with towels, and dry.

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