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Subject: Survey on chemical sponges

Survey on chemical sponges

From: Imogen Herford <herfimo>
Date: Tuesday, February 3, 2004
    **** Moderator's comments: Please respond directly to the

I am conducting an investigation into the practice of washing
chemical sponges, once they get dirty, in order to reuse them.  The
sponges in question are the vulcanised natural rubber latex cleaning
sponges, also know as conservation sponges and smoke sponges.  This
study, which will include scientific research into the way the
chemical nature of the sponges change through washing, has come as a
response to discussions on the Distlist in 1993, 1996 and 1999. When
washing the sponges was discussed many conservators advised against
it.  Wallmaster, a firm that produce chemical sponges, state that
once the sponge does become dirty they "should then be gently
immersed and cleaned in a mild natural pH detergent, then left to
dry naturally in a dark environment".  There is also a suggestion
that washing may encourage the chemical breakdown of the latex which
is clearly of major concern to paper conservators.  This conflicting
advice from manufacturer and practicing conservators has lead me to
do a study on how chemical sponges are used by conservators and also
the effect that washing has on them.

To fill in the questionnaire it is probably best to copy and paste
it either into a word document or straight onto the email and return
it to herfimo [at] hotmail__com

1) Do you work

    a) independently
    b) for a museum
    c) for an archive/library
    d) other, please specify

2) Do you use chemical sponges in your work?  If not please give
reasons. If the answer to this question is no please go to question
4 and if yes continue on to question 3.

3) On what type of objects with what surface dirt do you use
chemical sponges?

4) Are you at all cautious about using chemical sponges and if so

5) Do you/have you ever washed chemical sponges once they get dirty
in order to re-use them?  In either case please list reasons.  If
you have never heard of the practice before please state this in
your answer. If you answered no to this question please continue to
question 12, if yes go onto question 6.

6) Approximately, what are the dimensions of the sponges that you
use for cleaning and then wash?

7) How long do you leave them to dry?

8) Is drying a problem? If yes please give reasons?

9) How many times would you wash and reuse a single sponge?

10) Approximately at what temperature water do you wash them in?

    a)    cold water
    b)    water at room temperature
    c)    hot water, bearable for hand washing
    d)    hot water, unbearable for hand washing

11) Do you use soap when washing them?
If so

    a) what kind of soap do you use?
    b) is rinsing the soap from the sponge a problem?

12) Do you consider other methods of extending the life of the
sponges to be more efficient and if so what other methods do you use
and why?

13) Have you any concerns with using 'washed' sponges?  Please list
and explain your reasons.

Many thanks
Imogen Herford
MA student, Camberwell College of Arts, London

                  Conservation DistList Instance 17:53
                Distributed: Wednesday, February 4, 2004
                       Message Id: cdl-17-53-019
Received on Tuesday, 3 February, 2004

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