Studies in cleaning plastics

Almost all plastic artworks need surface cleaning during their useful lifetime. However, many plastics are highly sensitive, especially when deteriorated, to solvents including water.

Inappropriate treatments may result in irreversible damage. Often, the affected plastics exhibit chemical or physical degradation manifested by shrinkage, crazing, stress cracking, discolouration, surface deposits, brittleness or tackiness. If not removed, dust and other residues may act as initiation points for additional deterioration.

Dust may also change the significance and understanding of the object. Nonetheless, there has been very little research in the field of surface cleaning of polymers and in the project we have been evaluated mechanical, aqueous and non-aqueous cleaning techniques for their effectiveness at removing contaminants and their long term effects on stability, thereby contributing to the work currently being done by conservators to care for modern materials.