Older doesn’t mean better
Many people think that we use all the ‘traditional’ cleaning techniques, but many are far too abrasive.
Victorians in particular used some hair-raising cleaning agents: sulphuric acid and powdered brick dust are two that spring the mind! Even modern furniture polishes often contain far too much silicone, which can build up in the furniture over time and cause permanent marks.
As a result we use very few household cleaners – Harrell’s furniture wax is one of the few products we do use.
Over-cleaning can cause damage
I tell my friends this when they feel bad about not having dusted or vacummed in a while! Honestly though, over-cleaning can actually cause damage, particularly in an object that is likely to stand the test of time, such as antiques.
A cheap bookcase is a transient piece of furniture, and you won’t own it long enough to worry about damaging it, but a Georgian table is a family heirloom and you should be really careful about over-zealous cleaning.
Furniture wax isn’t as necessary as you think
Lots of people believe that the wood needs ‘feeding’, but our wood conservator will tell you that this isn’t the case.
Waxing the furniture or a wooden floor will make it look nice and help protect it, but it’s just a surface treatment – it won’t be absorbed into the wood, as people think. Additionally, wood doesn’t need waxing that often – we do it once a year at most. If you’re waxing your sideboard every month, you’re overdoing it.
Your vacuum is your best friend for textiles
Textiles can be tricky to clean because they are so fragile. A lot can suffer from just basic handling, so cleaning should be careful and infrequent. Most textiles can be cleaned with a low-suction vacuum cleaner with the nozzle covered with a piece of muslin or mesh (this prevents threads or loose pieces being sucked up).
We winter clean rather than spring clean
Although surfaces and non-historic carpets are dusted and vacuumed every day while we have visitors in, it’s during the winter that we have our deep clean at Speke Hall. We move all the furniture out from the walls to clean panelling, clean the carvings of every piece of furniture with a hog’s hair brush, wash and iron the tablecloths and decorative cloths, wax the floor and clean textiles if they’re sturdy enough.
The first few rooms on the visitor route are always the ones that require the most cleaning!