Comparison of Dry-Cleaning Sponges Used to Remove Soot From Textiles

Allison M Anderson, University of Rhode Island


Particulate soil that settles onto textiles can cause mechanical or chemical damage that weakens the object and negatively affects its appearance. Soil removal methods such as vacuuming, wetcleaning, and solvent cleaning may remove unsatisfactory quantities of soil or cannot be used due to the condition or characteristics of a textile. Natural rubber block sponges and polyurethane foam sponges, commonly sold as cosmetic applicators, have been used for surface cleaning by some textile conservators. Published literature that focuses on sponges’ efficacy, risks, or benefits is limited; existing research is limited to paintings conservation research and brief mentions in case studies. This study is a comparison of sponge types and brands to determine the most appropriate product for soil removal from the surface of fabrics. The lack of published standards for textile conservation methods and research required pretests to determine soiling, vacuuming, and sponging procedures. One pretest demonstrated that sponges are effective for a surprisingly small number of tamps before soil is redeposited onto the surface. The method section also includes detailed descriptions of material selection for the sponges, soil, and substrate. Five sponges were selected based on composition, brand, and physical characteristics. Trial 1 results, comparing sponge efficacy, found that the polyurethane Studio 35 Beauty™ cosmetic wedge sponge was the most effective at removing soot. Trial 2 results, testing the number of clean sponge surfaces, found that two to four sponge surfaces tamped ten times each may be used to remove soil after which point additional clean sponge surfaces do not remove significant amounts of carbon black. Trial 3 results, observing damage to aged textiles, determined that all tested sponges equally produced little damage. Trial 4 results, evaluating residue and debris, indicate that the use of natural rubber sponges should be discontinued, due to the high quantities of potentially damaging residue left after tamping. The most effective sponge in this study was the Studio 35 Beauty™ cosmetic wedge sponge, a small-cell polyurethane sponge with calcium carbonate additives.

Subject Area

Museum studies|Textile Research

Recommended Citation

Allison M Anderson, "Comparison of Dry-Cleaning Sponges Used to Remove Soot From Textiles" (2016). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI10246347.