Poulticing

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the process of applying a moist mass of a substance with a soft, absorbent, or pasty consistency, to a surface for the purpose of cleaning, removing stains, or other undesirable substances in a controlled manner (AAT 2004). Poultices can be made from a variety of materials, including soft fibers, gelling materials, and clay. Different combinations of material and solvent are chosen, based on the needs of the object and type of contaminant present.


Poultices on a fresco for desalination and cleaning
Removing a poultice for further cleaning


Synonyms in English

plaster; compress; salve, dressing

Translation

English poulticing
French cataplasme
Spanish cataplasma
Portuguese
Italian impiastro
German umschlag
Dutch kompres
Arabic


Discussion

Historically employed in the cleaning and desalination process of masonry and associated works of art, recent advances in material sciences makes the use of poultices increasingly relevant to other specialty areas. Poultice application allows the conservator to control the rate of cleaning over a larger area, and without the mechanical stress of traditional cleaning techniques. This method can also be combined with traditional techniques, removing and softening particularly persistent deposits to facilitate removal with a minimum of damage.


Poultices can be created from a variety of substances including sponges, soft fiber mats (cellulose powder), synthetic clay (eg. Laponite), and gelling materials like methyl cellulose (CAMEO 2004). These materials can be combined with a wide variety of liquids based on the composition of the object being cleaned and the targeted contaminant, including distilled water, solvents, enzymes, chelating agents, and surfactants.


References

Poulticing. 2004.Art and Architecture Thesaurus Online. Getty Research Institute. http://www.getty.edu/research/tools/vocabularies/aat/ (accessed 17 March, 2014).


Poultice. 2004. CAMEO (Conservation and Art Materials Encyclopedia Online). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. http://cameo.mfa.org(accessed 17 March, 2014).


Verges-Belmin, Veronique; Heritage, Alison; Bourges, Ann.2011. Powdered Cellulose Poultices in Stone and Wall Painting Conservation Myths and Realities. Studies in Conservation 56 (4): 287-291.


Warda, Jeffrey; Bruckle, Irene; Bezur, Aniko; and Kushel,Dan. 2007. Analysis of Agarose, Carbopol, and Laponite Gel Poultices in Paper Conservation. JAIC 46 (3):263-279.




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