COVID-19: Cleaning historic surfaces

Public Health England (PHE) provides guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings. These principles should be followed when dealing with historic settings and surfaces.

Cleaning in non-healthcare settings (Public Health England)

If there is good reason to suspect that a symptomatic person may have touched a historic item or surface, or areas or room(s) are believed to be contaminated:

  • Where possible, close the affected areas or rooms for 72 hours before attempting to clean (updates on this duration will be provided by PHE). After this time the amount of virus contamination will have decreased substantially.
  • Wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), as advised by PHE (see reference above)
  • Metal/wood/stone/glass/ceramic/modern painted surfaces can be cleaned with a dilute solution of non-ionic conservation-grade detergent or sensitive washing up liquid and distilled water, rinsed with distilled water and dried immediately with white paper towel or soft cotton cloth. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for dilution, application and contact times (a minimum contact time of 20 seconds is currently advised by PHE) for all detergents.
  • Metal surfaces can also be cleaned with industrial denatured alcohol (IDA), such as methylated spirits or isopropanol.
  • ⚠️ Do NOT use any household detergents or disinfectants containing chlorine (1000 ppm dilution) on any historic surface since these could cause permanent damage.
  • Cleaning materials should be disposed of as advised by PHE (see reference above)
  • Seek advice from a Conservator before undertaking any cleaning to more fragile historic surfaces.

We are currently developing further guidance for specific historic materials and surfaces.

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