‘High clean’ time at Dyrham towers means the chance to use more from the conservator’s toy box, the ‘Conser-vac’. This is an easy to carry vacuum cleaner with a hose and brush attached. (We also use the Conser-vac’s big brother, the ‘Vac-pac’, which is basically the same design but larger.) The principle of a high clean programme is to get to the parts of the rooms not normally accessible during a daily clean, and to inspect for any warning signs. The process of cleaning is the same, so we start at the highest area, (ceilings, wood panelling) with the Vac-pacs and work down, paying attention to the tops of painting frames, mirrors and fittings, as they are normally difficult to get to.
My first foray into the world of high cleaning was interesting to say the least. Having got accustomed to conservation cleaning methods during my time on the team, I was a little un-prepared for what was in store. Not only do you have the correct way of cleaning to adhere to, but trying not to fall off the ladder is pretty important too! The general rule is, if it takes two people to carry it, it will take two people to safely use it. One person goes up, and the other ‘foots’, (stands on or holds) the bottom of the legs, which makes the ladder more stable. The time came for my turn to go up, so I put on a brave face. On this occasion, this looked the same as my ‘slightly concerned but won’t let on’ face.