With spring finally sprung, it's definitely time to get our homes in ship-shape condition. And who better to take cleaning tips from and inspire our own cleaning than our friends at the National Trust?
"Petworth has a high expectation for cleanliness, which reflects a standard that has been maintained historically"
Tucked away in the South Downs National Park, is Petworth House which is surrounded by woodlands, trees and greenery. And although the outside of the mansion looks rather impressive, with its towering height and immaculate brickwork, it's the inside of the late 17th-century Grade I listed country house that really takes your breath away.
Inside the massive estate, where you'll find the public gazing round more than 300 pieces of fine art paintings, you won't find the slightest bit of dirt!
The House and Collections Team said: "Petworth has a high expectation for cleanliness, which reflects a standard that has been maintained historically, and we take a layered approach to our conservation cleaning process. We have a daily cleaning programme which covers floors and surfaces, as well as a weekly, monthly and ‘as and when necessary’ approach which is a deeper more considered level of conservation cleaning."
The team behind Petworth have shared some insider knowledge on how they get their stately homes so sparkly.
Clean freaks, you're going to love this...
How should you clean antiques?
The House and Collections Team said: "First you must establish what the antique is made from before you can decide how best to clean it. We use brushes and cloths made from natural materials because anything synthetic would be abrasive and cause damage. Wooden furniture with a large flat surface, for example, can be wiped with a cotton cloth. For a gilded picture frame a pony hair brush is used to flick the dust into a vacuum cleaner with the nozzle covered in netting to capture any losses."
Are there any Victorian cleaning techniques that you still use?
The House and Collections Team said: "There is a reference to housekeeping from 1538, and as far back as 1677 there are records to show protective covers were made specifically to protect items such as furniture and wall hangings. Information gathered from early indirect sources show an understanding of the damaging effect of light exposure on watercolours and pest infestations. We still continue to cover collection items to limit light exposure and avoid unnecessary cleaning. There was an explosion of housekeeping manuals in the 1900s with new innovations for cleaning equipment such as vacuum cleaners and we owe much of the survival of our historic grand house interiors to these good housekeeping practices. Today with better understanding, vacuuming floors, dusting surfaces, environmental monitoring and applying natural polishes continue in a carefully controlled way."
Any surprising facts about cleaning a stately home?
The House and Collections Team said: "The biggest surprise is probably the number of visitors we’ll receive whilst carrying out our role to preserve and protect the collection. For the first time over the winter, rooms of the mansion were open for guided tours allowing visitors to see the conservation work that normally goes on behind closed doors. It was a nice surprise to see so many interested visitors joining these tours and asking us questions on the work we do."
What's the best way to remove dust?
The House and Collections Team said: "Depending on what sort of surface needs dusting, we would either use a natural-fibre brush to flick the dust away from the object into a vacuum nozzle or wipe and catch the dust into a natural-fibre cloth."
What's the biggest challenge in looking after such a large home?
The House and Collections Team said: "Maintaining the balance of conservation and preserving the collection whilst allowing people access to enjoy our wonderful Petworth. We manage change, everything will deteriorate eventually and our role is to preserve each collection item in its original condition as it came to Petworth. The National Trust takes a sympathetic approach to conservation so rather than restoring the items to look new, remedial conservation is used to consolidate and stabilise an object. By preserving items in their original state they show their history and with it we can tell their stories. Conservation costs money and as a charity, we owe it to our supporters and members to manage our conservation sustainably."
What's the most time-consuming chores of cleaning a stately home?
The House and Collections Team said: "Conservation cleaning and care of the collection is both detailed and considered work, it is never thought of by us as a chore. We are the custodians of the collection in our care and we want to preserve that history for generations to come."