Wash day fun with the cotton artefacts
However tempting it may be, you should never put artefacts into the washing machine!
You can only wash cotton artefacts – extremely carefully – and only after testing that any colours within the item are not likely to run! (The term used in the trade for coloured dye that runs is ‘fugitive’).
Our volunteer team who look after our collection of artefacts have had specialist training in caring for textiles
We set aside a whole day in the summer for washing items that needed some tender loving care. Wearing rubber gloves and aprons protects both the artefact and ourselves. We use a gentle pure soap (conservation detergent) well diluted in cold water.
The washing technique we use is very gentle on fabric – we lay the garment on top of the water in a shallow plastic tray, allow the fabric to absorb the water then gently press the clean sponge down onto the garment. When you release the sponge the soapy water is drawn through the garment to help wash it. This is done several times with each garment and then we rinse the fabric in several clean cold water trays until the water runs clear of any traces of soap.
The garments should NOT BE SQUEEZED OR WRUNG OUT. To dry the items we lay the wet garment out onto a dry, clean towel and use more towels on top to gently absorb most of the water. The garment can then be laid on a drying wrack to dry naturally out of the sunlight. We use a dehumidifier in the room and cold air fans to gently encourage the drying process.
We were really pleased with our wash-day results…. Only another 60 or so items to wash!