Thursday, 21 May 2009

Cleaning Old Leaded Glass Panels

Please note that these procedures do not apply to painted glass.

The materials that you will need are:
· A dust mask to keep any lead oxides from being breathed
· Gloves – latex or similar that fit well and protect your hands from the chemicals
· Mild abrasives such as whiting or bathroom cleaner meant for fibre glass fittings
· Paint remover for paint and varnish
· Brushes – both scrubbing and paint brushes
· Water for combining with the cleaning agents and for rinsing

Cleaning Location
On site
Cleaning is best done with the panel flat. However, it often is a requirement that the panels be cleaned on site. This requires lots of plastic sheeting to catch the water. This should be taped at the bottom of the panel and spread across the floor. Masking tape or similar is best for attaching the plastic, as other tapes can pull paint and wall paper off. You will need lots of foamy glass cleaner to hold the moisture to the glass. Repeated applications of the foamy cleaner followed by clean water will leave the glass sparkling.

On the bench
Cleaning the panel on the bench is most desirable. First, it keeps the water and other cleaning materials from running all over the client’s house. Second, it keeps the pressure of cleaning evenly distributed across the bench rather than risking the bowing of the panel while cleaning in situ. It also allows safer application of chemical cleaning agents. It allows broken lead joints to be repaired at the end of the cleaning.

The main contaminants on old leaded panels normally are dirt, paint and varnish.
A general clean up of the dirt is to scrub. Scrubbing damp whiting on the panel is a traditional method. A more modern one is to use a cream or bathroom cleaner designed for fibre glass fittings. They are quicker and easier, but make sure they are for baths, etc made of fibre glass.

Paint and varnish can be taken off with paint remover. Both glass and paint removers are alkaline so there is no effect on glass. There is no noticeable effect on lead if you do not clean it first. If you must clean the lead, do it last.

There are some precautions you must take when cleaning old glass, especially as the surface of the lead will be a lead oxide that can get into the air. You should use a dusk mask and wear gloves. You should dampen the area around the work frequently to keep the dust from circulating.

The main requirement is that you do not apply these procedures to painted glass or panels that have some painted glass.

Regular cleaning can be done by the clients with a soft brush to keep the dirt from building up.