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Experts share their cleaning tips

By Wena Alun
BBC News

Miss Havisham and Pip from a 1967 serial of Great Expectations
Dust might be ok for Miss Havisham, but it's not ok for the National Trust

If you don't want your home to represent Miss Havisham's dusty place in Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, you have to clean your home at some stage.

Levels of cleanliness are a personal thing of course, as are the delights of visiting National Trust properties in your spare time.

But whatever your thing you can't help but notice when you visit any trust property that everything is incredibly clean.

This is down, in part, to their legendary deep cleaning.

It is carried out before the annual "putting to bed" for the winter, and is carried out at the end of the season and where every single item is checked.

Peter Jones starts on the work of cleaning the table
Cotton wool and skewers - who knew cleaning could be so much fun...

According to Marian Gwyn, at Penrhyn Castle near Bangor, this is a huge task with 2,000 books in the library alone.

After being checked - and sent off for the relevant repairs if need be - every single item is then put in a cover, or a little "night dress" as Marian Gwyn calls it, for the long winter snooze before the property is reopened the following spring.

As any house-holder knows of course cleaning once a year - although a very appealing idea - will not keep the dust away.

In fact trust properties are meticulously cleaned daily in the hours before they are opened to the public.

Close-up of cleaning
Wena picked up some cleaning tips for her own funiture

Now this 'below stairs' work is being brought to the open in a bid to show visitors how the trust actually works.

It's not a huge army either - it's more of a team using (mostly) tiny equipment.

Sitting on the floor in his socks, "bought new for today, so no holes", is Peter Jones.

He's cleaning the Dolphin table - a slate creation carved with dolphins and inlaid with Anglesey marble - with wooden skewers with a bit of cotton wool dipped in water on the end.

There's also a tiny vacuum cleaner to remove, not just move around, the dust.

His training was a three day "housing keeping course" when he joined the trust.

It is not rocket science - precious items are treated tenderly - sometimes using "tiny amounts of detergent, the one which is kind to hands, so should be kind to marble too", but it does require the patience of a saint.

Tools of the trade
There is a different brush for every job

"It's enjoyable when you see something getting cleaner, but sometimes it doesn't look like you've done anything," he said.

The idea of getting the cleaning out in the open seems to appeal to visitors too.

"I think it's a brilliant idea to see what actually happens," said Yvonne Hampson visiting the castle with Elaine Roberts from Parkgate in Cheshire.

The techniques were to be admired rather than copied though, according to Mrs Roberts.

"I wouldn't like to clean the brasses in here," she said.

Meanwhile, I'm off to get my duster.




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