Cleaning ensures sanitization and thus the safety of the artefact itself and others stored/displayed in its vicinity. At the same time, the process invariably alters the character of textile to a certain extent. Cleaning ensures removal/deactivation of soil and harmful organic matter from the artefact. However, a small number of surface molecules from the textile might be eroded in the process as well. This leads to weakening of the textile and might cause alteration in colour spectrum/ depth etc. Controlled cleaning techniques in conservation laboratories focus on minimizing this damage. However, not much scientific data is available on the efficacy of present cleaning techniques employed in conservation laboratories. Presently aqueous cleaning and solvent cleaning are primary modes utilised as next step to dry tools. Additionally, novel cleaning technologies like enzyme wash and ultrasonic wash provide soil specific methodology that would reduce the threat to the base fabric.
The present paper is a systematic analysis of these cleaning techniques and their impact on aged museum fabrics, i.e., cotton, wool and silk. Change in tensile strength parameters, whiteness index and yellowness index have been used as indicators to test the efficacy of different cleaning techniques on aged museum textiles. Numerical data generated by laboratory experiments clearly indicate that there is no standard cleaning treatment available for the three natural fibres. Each fibre has exhibited suitability to different cleaning treatment while balancing between restored whiteness and minimizing strength loss.