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Subject: Coloured cotton swabs for cleaning tests

Coloured cotton swabs for cleaning tests

From: Jean D. Portell <jeandp<-a>
Date: Friday, June 13, 2014
Judith Lee <judith.lee<-a t->tate< . >org< . >uk> writes

>I am carrying out a collaborative PhD at the Courtauld Institute of
>Art and Tate Britain looking at water-sensitivity in twentieth
>century oil paint.  I am completing a series of solvent sensitivity
>tests on a collection of naturally aged oil paint samples, using
>water, Shellsol D40, stoddards and IMS.  I have been using
>manufactured white cotton swabs for testing coloured paint samples,
>however for the white paint samples it becomes difficult to see when
>paint is removed.  Does anyone know if it is possible to buy
>coloured cotton swabs, which are resistant to solvents?

I am a retired objects conservator, who recalls wishing decades ago
for solvent-resistant colored swabs to use when cleaning small areas
of white-painted surfaces.  Colored cotton swabs were not available
commercially, so I relied on cutting tiny bits of one of my
children's well-worn (many-times laundered) all-cotton black
T-shirts, and clamping those bits of cloth in locking forceps.  This
system worked adequately for me, however it certainly wouldn't do
for a collaborative PhD research!  I mention it merely to suggest
that you consider asking garment manufacturers about the dyes (and
dye processes) they use to color the threads of all-cotton T-shirts,
etc.  That might be useful information, if you have to create
colored cotton swabs.  I think it is helpful to seek technical
insights from industrial scientists (who are paid well to solve
problems that have some relevance to art conservation), because by
involving willing scientists we inform them about art conservation
and might even establish useful contacts for future inquires.  In my
experience, the main obstacles to forming such relationships are:

    The difficulty in contacting a company's scientist directly
    (rather than via someone in the sales or customer-service

    The issue of trade secrets (companies are understandably
    reluctant to reveal the exact makeup of their marketable

    The likelihood that a product's components (dyes, etc.) may vary
    unannounced if a cheaper source becomes available, and

    The fear of some companies that technical advice offered by
    their company might later become associated with a conservation
    treatment that goes wrong, causes damage to a valuable art work,
    and results in bad press for the company (even though the damage
    was not caused by it).

Good luck with your interesting project.

Jean D. Portell
Brooklyn, New York, USA

                  Conservation DistList Instance 28:2
                   Distributed: Monday, June 16, 2014
                        Message Id: cdl-28-2-003
Received on Friday, 13 June, 2014

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