A 100-word story: A little bit of spit and polish

Alice and Kaori working on leather

Conservation is not always about expensive tools and special cleaning agents. Our collection of arms and armour contains many leather cartridges and bandoliers which are cleaned using human saliva. Yes we did! Spit and polish, just like an old fashioned shoe shine boy. Human saliva is a perfectly gentle cleaning agent as it consists of water and a small amount of enzymes (with some other bits and pieces).  Enzymes can play an important role in the removal of dirt and soiling not only from leather but also many other materials. We spent weeks in front of the visitors at Hampton Court Palace spitting onto the handsome black leather of the cartridges and bandoliers, bringing back their shine before they were returned as part of the complex display on the walls of the Kings Guard Chamber.

Kaori Moatung – textile conservator

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