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Should we Clean Plastics like we Clean Paintings?


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Morrison, John 
Nel, Petronella 


Cleaning plastics poses a significant issue in cultural collections. Highly susceptible to attack from mechanical, organic and ionic cleaning agents, it can seem impossible to find products that adequately clean plastic materials without causing damage in the process. This paper aims to address these issues. It explores how techniques, knowledge and decision-making processes used in painting conservation can be adapted and used to deliver sophisticated, inexpensive, and accessible strategies for cleaning plastics. Using plasticised polyvinyl chloride as a case study, this paper demonstrates how principles of pH, ion concentration, polarity, chelation, gel-formulations and colloidal interface can be used to arrive at optimal methods for cleaning plastics. Combinations of Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy with attenuated total reflectance (FTIR-ATR), optical microscopy, colourimetry and accelerated ageing were used to determine the effectiveness of and damage levels of the cleaning processes being evaluated. Ultimately it was found that neat solvents, detergents and acidic or basic aqueous solutions should not be used unaltered but should rather be tailored specifically to the needs of the polymeric material being treated.



Plastics in Peril, Object conservation

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Plastics in Peril: Focus on conservation of polymeric materials in cultural heritage

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