Stain Removal with Alan (Day 1)

Alan Buchanan came in last Thursday and Friday to teach the book group a workshop on bleaching.

Alan Demonstrating

The first day was dedicated to washing and stain removal, choosing 3 different washing techniques in pairs. AC and I chose to do immersion washing as this was the most extreme choice, as well as blotter washing and washing on the vacuum table (which I had never done before). We also used Alan’s Cedar Wood box as an example of a humidification technique.

Humidification in the Cedar Wood box

We were given 4 pages from the same text for the washing experiments, and weighed them all so that after they had been washed we could see how much “gunk” had been removed. One page was kept as a control.

For the immersion wash, the page was submerged in luke warm water (about 32°C) – technically it should have been humidified beforehand, but for this experiment it was not necessary. It was then left to soak for 30 mins and air dried.

The next washing technique was to use the vacuum table. The page had to be humidified first using a damp cotton sheet (which would be placed under the object on the vacuum table to catch the dirt). The page was laid on the damp cotton and covered in polythene until suitably humidified. It was then placed on the vacuum table surrounded by a very thin melinex to focus the vacuum on the whole page (this also strengthened the vacuum making sure no air escaped).

Washing on the Vacuum Table (please excuse the quality)

The page was then sprayed with water. It was amazing how quickly the water was sucked through the paper – making it a useful technique for washing flat objects with unstable media – sucking the water down through the paper quickly instead of letting it cover the surface where media could be washed away or left to bleed.

The third technique was a blotter wash, which I had done previously as an in-situ washing technique for a books flyleaf. Instead this time – a piece a blotter was placed in a tray and water was poured in until it almost covered the blotter, the humidified page was then placed on top and left for 40 – 50mins.

Blotter Washing

This technique had the greatest visual effect – though no immediate difference was noticed in the page (until dried and compared to the control) a lot of discolouration was transferred to the blotter, more so than with the vacuum table. (Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the blotter after the wash!)

Cotton Sheet after Vacuum Washing (vague discolouration)

In the afternoon we were introduced to a new piece of equipment – the Book Suction-Table by PEL. In theory this was a brilliant design – meaning that in-situ localised vacuum washing could be done on books, however there was a flaw with the design meaning that under a vacuum high enough to have an effect the perforated metal holding the page would warp, and in our session finally broke on one edge – not fantastic!

PEL Book Suction Table

We were also able to try out stronger types of spot stain removal (using the vacuum table) when water was not enough; IMS and water (50:50) and Symperonic A7 (1 drop to 100ml). Symperonic is a detergent which I had never heard of before for paper conservation , however it is used in textiles conservation – and I have found out that it is an old fashioned technique, not really used anymore, A7 is also a substitute for Symperonic N which was banned by the EU for containing a phenol group. I did not find either of these options effective in the removal of the more persistent stains.

I found the day very enjoyable and was interested to see the effectiveness of these different washing techniques when comparing them together, and even quite late in my studies, it’s always a bonus to be introduced to new forms of basic washing. When I’m able to collect the dried pages I can comment on their weights and which technique was the most effective.

3 thoughts on “Stain Removal with Alan (Day 1)

  1. Leopoldo Vieyra

    Hello Liz,
    My name is Leopoldo Vieyra and I´m an Industrial designer from Mexico, and right now I´m designing a similar Book Suction Table for a museum and I would like to know a bit more about the one you used in your process. The good facts, the bad things, the whole experience you have had. Extra images would be great!
    Hopefully you can feedback! Thanks Liz and have a nice day!

    1. lizralphconservation Post author

      Hi Leopoldo,
      Thanks for your comment! I have to say though, we didn’t get to use the suction cradle for very long, as it broke almost as soon as we turned it on! The pressure created by the suction broke the joints around the plate where the page would rest, and before that it was flexing quite a lot – so I suppose that’s where you could improve it! The machine itself is produced by Conservation by Design.
      Hope the project goes well!

      1. Leopoldo Vieyra

        Hi Liz,
        Thank you very much for your reply. I´m sure this will help to my research.
        Take care!

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