… and hands.
If you follow us on Twitter, you may have seen the pictures of a few weekends ago, when some volunteers and our house team cleaned the floor of the Long Gallery – all 130 feet of it. Not just a clean with the vacuum but a proper and well-deserved wax. As the house is now operating under longer opening hours, there will be more feet walking the floors and more light allowed into the room (which dries out the wooden floors) therefore these areas will require more care and attention. For this reason, the team decided to treat the floor as if under Winter Clean conditions.
To start with, they moved the furniture out of the way (you may have seen some of these pictures on Twitter), which made the room look quite different.
Once the most portable items of the collection had been removed to safety, it was time to get vacuuming to get rid of the grit (usually part of the routine clean). Vacuuming the floor at this stage is very important because otherwise any remaining dirt or dust might leave scratch marks during the wax application. Vacuuming the floor alone takes a good while, considering the length of the room. However, compared to the waxing part that comes next, it is the quickest part of the whole process.
The next step is the application of the wax itself. Normally, this is done with a cotton cloth or brush using a circular motion. Although we do tend to wax floors by hand, the Long Gallery floor is a just a little too big to do this. So we cheat and use an applicator to do the job for us.
This still takes time. Fortunately, as you can see above, we had a number of people willing to help out with this arduous task.
Once the wax is applied, it is left to dry for a couple of hours or overnight. When the wax has settled, a low speed electric polisher is used to buff the wax off the floor. This is followed by yet more wax, a thin layer of the slip resistant kind, which is then worked into the surface of the wood. Finally, this layer of wax is left for a couple of hours and then buffed off with the electric floor polisher.
Once the floor was all done, we were able to move the furniture back in, but not before we took a picture to admire the result of the team’s handiwork.
Then we got on with moving everything back. This wasn’t easy either because we had to check a floor plan for the Long Gallery that details where every piece of the collection goes in the room. This involved having to check numbers on each chair to ensure we got it right.
The great thing about the undertaking of this task was not only did the floor get a good hydration and protection from the ever-damaging light it is subject to during an open day, and from the increased footfall of our lovely visitors, but we were able to carry out the process as a Conservation in Action demonstration. It has been decided that more of these events would be carried out as they would allow us to get much needed cleaning done whilst providing a real-life look for our visitors at what tools and methods are used to clean a historic house like Osterley.