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cleaning bullion embroidery, I cracked the mystery!


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#26 manayunkman

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 05:24 PM

It went right over my head.

I have no sense of humor.

#27 Military_Curator

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Posted 10 October 2019 - 12:30 PM

I have a question regarding the rinsing process, when you are rinsing, do you mean taking the clean tooth brush, dunking it in water, and using that to rinse?



#28 MastersMate

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Posted 10 October 2019 - 02:13 PM

When I did my cleaning, the rinsing was done under light running warm tap water and a very gentle brushing with the soft tooth brush.  Then I would blot it dry between a dry face cloth and let stand till dry..



#29 TLHSS

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Posted 12 October 2019 - 09:06 AM

I guess I'm a bit different.  I'm a bigger fan of the uncleaned patina.



#30 Kaigun Shosa

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Posted 12 October 2019 - 12:02 PM

I have a question regarding the rinsing process, when you are rinsing, do you mean taking the clean tooth brush, dunking it in water, and using that to rinse?

 

I put the patch under the flowing water and scrubbed the excess tartar off with the clean brush. Then blotted it dry with paper towels then let it air dry for a couple of days.
 



#31 cagedfalcon

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Posted 03 November 2019 - 07:23 AM

Fantastic discovery.
I have a Colonels visor cap & was wondering if you had an idea how to deal with water on the visor? Would it be an issue or are they fairly water resistant?

Paul Posted ImagePosted Image

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#32 cagedfalcon

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Posted 04 November 2019 - 10:32 AM

Rear Admiral epaulets turned out fantastic.
No damage whatsoever.
Posted Image

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#33 36thIDAlex

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Posted 06 December 2019 - 06:32 PM

This is insane! What a way to bring a piece back to life. I look forward to some collectors using this to restore stuff on uniforms themselves.

#34 cwnorma

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Posted 23 December 2019 - 09:36 AM

So I don't want to rain on the parade, but there are a number of facts to be considered with respect to Tartaric Acid (Cream of Tartar):

 

To begin with, Tartaric Acid has a pH of ~3.5 making it a strong "acid" on the pH scale (between grapefruit juice and tomato juice).  Acids can dissolve organic materials (silk, wool, & cotton) and may react with synthetics (nylon, rayon, etc). Use of an acid on these materials may tend to weaken them over time potentially causing additional damage.

 

The cleaning properties of Tartaric acid are well known.  A paste of Tartaric acid, mixed with hydrogen peroxide is sometimes used in naval applications to dissolve rust in instances where naval jelly may be inappropriate.

 

Tartaric acid in its natural state is a crystal and while it is soluble in water, it requires a lot of water for it to fully dissolve and thus the small amount of water used to make a paste leaves many crystals suspended in the solution.  A paste of Tartaric acid would not be dilute and so would be fully 3.5 pH.  The Tartaric acid is probably chemically dissolving the uppermost metal layer along with the tarnish (oxidation, or in the case of silver; sulfuration).

 

Some of the cleaning/polishing action can be attributed to the abrasiveness of the Tartaric acid crystals.  I could find no Mohs scale hardness rating for Tartaric acid but would suspect it is similar to other abrasives used for polishing purposes.

 

It may be impossible to fully rinse away all of the tartaric acid.  When the water used to rinse the item evaporates, microscopic crystals of tartaric acid may precipitate and be left behind.  The jagged, abrasive edges of the tartaric acid crystals may themselves cause physical damage to the underlying threads.

 

It also remains to be seen what the long term impact of using Tartaric acid might be (to both the bullion and the substrate materials).  Some attempts to clean bullion promise good initial results but ultimately cause the item to tarnish more than if the piece had been left in its original state.

 

So while Tartaric acid is generally safe for human consumption, and naturally derived, it is still a strong acidic crystal.  Using Tartaric acid paste to clean bullion is probably chemically and mechanically similar to using toothpaste.

 

Finally, a word about toothbrushes.  Even infant toothbrushes have nylon bristles.  Nylon bristles themselves are abrasive enough to polish metals.  Whenever polishing valuable metal objects, always use natural (horsehair, boar, badger) bristle brushes.

 

Chris



#35 US Victory Museum

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Posted 25 December 2019 - 09:12 PM

I cannot begin to count the number of century old belt buckles I've seen ruined by some

well intentioned person who thought removing decades of patina with Brasso would enhance

the luster, and hence enhance the display of said artifact.   I see them on Ebay all the time,

and nobody is buying them.

 

I seem to recall an old adage concerning the road to somewhere and good intentions...

 

In my opinion, ya'll have vandalized those items.   I suspect the future may judge you

harshly.   As Chris noted, the acidic nature of tartar paste may have a negative effect

on the underlying cloth that may not be apparent in the short term, but will ultimately

cause problems over the long run.

 

 

Would anyone reading this consider using this technique on century old buttons?   Maybe

spiff-up the buttons on an old civil war uniform to make it shine?  So why do it to bullion?

 

 

Conservation, not restoration!  

 

Msn



#36 rooster77

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Posted 28 December 2019 - 03:14 PM

I did some reading on tantaric acid. It comes from Grapes and is used as a mordant to pretreat fabrics and even silk to make dyes

soak into the fabric better. If tantaric acid was so damaging to cloth fabrics etc. why is it used on fabrics silks etc.?

Not to argue but just posting the question. Why would it be used in textiles fabric production?

 

Tartaric acid is a white, crystalline organic acid that occurs naturally in many fruits, most notably in grapes, but also in bananas, tamarinds, and citrus. Its salt, potassium bitartrate, commonly known as cream of tartar, develops naturally in the process of winemaking.

 

The various tartaric acids and the common tartrate salts are all colourless, crystalline solids readily soluble in water. Tartaric acid is widely used as an acidulant in carbonated drinks, effervescent tablets, gelatin desserts, and fruit jellies. It has many industrial applications—e.g., in cleaning and polishing metals, in calico printing, in wool dyeing, and in certain photographic printing and development processes. Rochelle salt is used in silvering mirrors, in processing cheese, and in compounding mild cathartics. Cream of tartar is incorporated into baking powders, hard candies, and taffies; and it is employed in the cleaning of brass, the electrolytic tinning of iron and steel, and the coating of other metals with gold and silver. Tartar emetic is used as an insecticide and a dyeing mordant.

 Encyclopedia Britanica.

 

It is very soluable in water. Used on wool Used to clean metals... etc etc etc.

 

All of that info makes me doubt it will damage fabric or linger in it if rinsed well.



#37 rooster77

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Posted 28 December 2019 - 03:35 PM

And since it is used to dye in the process of dyeing fabric and wool, cotton and thread......

theres a good chance these items already contain micro crystaline resdiue

of tantaric acid

in them bfore anyone uses it to clean their items.

And being highly water soluable...more than likely it mostly washes out..


Edited by rooster77, 28 December 2019 - 03:48 PM.


#38 cwnorma

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Posted 28 December 2019 - 07:29 PM

...used as a mordant to pretreat fabrics and even silk to make dyes

 

...Why would it be used in textiles fabric production?

 

... All of that info makes me doubt it will damage fabric or linger in it if rinsed well.

 

Fabric production

 

Acids are used to soften fabrics.  Recall; "acid washed jeans."  As a mordant, acids "open up" or "soften" fibers so that the die can penetrate more readily.  By definition, this softening process is causing mechanical damage to the threads.  Which would last longer if washed the same number of times; a pair of pre-softened acid washed jeans, or a pair of stiff, never washed jeans?

 

Chemicals used for new textiles fabric production is not necessarily appropriate for antique and vintage materials.   For example, phosphates are used in fabric production to make colors brighter.  Would anyone here argue that WW2 patches should be rinsed with phosphate bearing detergents in an effort to make them display better?  The colors would indeed look brighter--just don't shine a black light on them...

 

Rinsing

 

Ever tried to get dog urine out of a carpet?  No matter how much water/steam/carpet shampoo you use your puppy's "Oops!" will be rendered permanently visible by black light--revealing the futility of the exercise.  Some materials are easier to rinse than others.  However most bullion is made of multiple materials; 1) metal coils, 2) thread, 3) backing material, & 4) stiffening material; each with different physical and absorptive properties--failure of any one may destroy the bullion.  With so many varying materials, and multiple layers in complex configurations, how can anyone be assured all remaining acidic crystals are fully rinsed away? 

 

Acids used in the production of new textiles

 

In new garments, softness (and not nessesarily durability) is an important quality. To achieve this softness, manufacturers use acids to physically soften the product.  As noted above, manufacturers also use acids to make dyes saturate better to achieve better coloration.  A typical new garment is only intended to last a few fashion seasons and clothes purchasers frequently care more about how the garment feels than how long it will last.  Additionally brand new garments are at the peak of their durability, softening the material to sell a product is not a bad thing in the eyes of the manufacturer.

 

Is a 100 year old bullion badge the same as a T-shirt in the store?  Should they be treated the same?

 

My opinions

 

Just so everyone knows where I stand, I am firmly in the camp of; "If you own the Mona Lisa, its 100% up to you if you want to burn it to ashes in the shed behind your house.  It is foolish to do so, but it is your property."  

 

I am also of the mind set that if you intend to take some sort of positive action for an item you own, you should at least know what you are getting into.

 

The original poster posited that Cream of Tartar was a safe, natural, effective way to clean bullion.  I don't dispute the effectiveness as the photos themselves demonstrate fairly dramatic results.  Further, Tartaric acid is indeed naturally derived, however there are many hazardous materials that are 100% natural.  Safe?  For me the question remains how to define; "safe?"  Will a bullion shoulder board fall apart immediately after using this method?  Probably not.  Can anyone here assure us of the long term results?  Again, probably not.

 

Best practices in the museum industry dictate efforts to preserve or enhance an artifact must be completely reversible without causing additional damage.

 

Anyone who would use this method to clean their artifacts should at least be aware:

 

- Cream of tartar aka "Tartaric acid" has a pH of ~3.5 making it a "strong" acid

- Acids chemically break down protein based materials and react with synthetic materials

- Acids are used to "soften" fabrics

- Tartaric acid is a crystal in its anhydrous state

- Tartaric acid is soluble in water

- A paste of Tartaric acid and water would not be dilute

- A paste of Tartaric acid would be constituted of much material still in a crystalline state

- Some of the cleaning action is chemical

- Some of the cleaning action is mechanical

 

Again, and I cannot stress this enough:  It's your artifact.



#39 rooster77

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Posted 28 December 2019 - 11:26 PM

"Chemicals used for new textiles fabric production is not necessarily appropriate for antique and vintage materials"

 

Is the use of tartar or tartaric acid a new modern Chemical used on wool and cotton etc ?



#40 rooster77

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Posted 29 December 2019 - 12:01 AM

1

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#41 36thIDAlex

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Posted 29 December 2019 - 12:11 AM

Threads like this are why I keep friends in the chemistry department at my university

Edited by 36thIDAlex, 29 December 2019 - 12:12 AM.


#42 rooster77

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Posted 29 December 2019 - 08:58 AM

Threads like this are why I keep friends in the chemistry department at my university

 

Maybe you could run this thread past your chemist friends ?

Maybe they could clear things up ?
 



#43 36thIDAlex

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Posted 29 December 2019 - 09:18 AM

 
Maybe you could run this thread past your chemist friends ?
Maybe they could clear things up ?
 


Honestly, when I get back to school I just might

#44 rooster77

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Posted 29 December 2019 - 10:51 AM


https://books.google...fabrics&f=false

  Scroll up to page 111    its the start of the snippet I posted in post number 40

 



#45 rooster77

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Posted 29 December 2019 - 12:04 PM

Im putting my money where my mouth is. I did half of this wing and if it turns out bad, even if its years from now,

If I'm around, I'l update this if I see some bad results.

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#46 cwnorma

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Posted 29 December 2019 - 12:38 PM

"Chemicals used for new textiles fabric production is not necessarily appropriate for antique and vintage materials"

 

Is the use of tartar or tartaric acid a new modern Chemical used on wool and cotton etc ?

 

No.  

 

I never said it was.  Neither in the posts above nor in the part you quoted here.  Leaving me perplexed about what you are getting at...

 

What I have said all along is that Tartaric acid is a strong acid used to soften materials.  I think we agree on that part?

 

Chemicals and techniques used in the processes of newly-making garments and other textiles, even traditional techniques and chemicals, while perhaps generally safe, may not be appropriate for re-application to antique materials that have suffered the ravages of time.  Its not a matter of old versus new manufacturing techniques, its a matter of newly-made items versus 100 year old, already partially deteriorated items.

 

To begin with, let us deconstruct bullion:

 

The uppermost layer consists of coiled metal wires of various shapes and configurations.  These wires are sometimes made of various alloys with various platings--each with its own chemical and physical properties.  The next layer consists of some sort of thread to affix the bullion to the underlying material--different threads may have been used for different types of bullion or as accent colors--again each thread with its own unique properties.  In modern bullion, synthetics such as polyester are used.  In antique bullion, silk or cotton were most common.  The next layer is normally the facing material, usually melton or serge wool.  The final layer is generally a stiffener of some sort.  Sometimes the stiffener is made of woven horsehair, sometimes, woven cotton or jute. Occasionally, especially overseas, paper or cardboard were used.  Each layer is manufactured separately, with unique manufacturing processes, and finally assembled.  All considered, bullion is a heterogeneous and highly complex material.

 

The argument that acids may have been used in aspects of the object's original manufacture and thus should be benign on the same object 100 years later may be ignoring the complex nature of the finished artifact and the effects of time.

 

Now, we'll deconstruct those two ideas:

 

Presume Tartaric acid was used to soften un-cut melton wool, at some point prior to its use as a component of the finished bullion.  Inject 100 years of time.  That wool is no longer; newly manufactured, strong, fresh, at peak strength--it has now aged, worn, and deteriorated due to the ravages of simply existing.  We have already established that Tartaric acid is used to soften fabric.  Reintroducing Tartaric acid (at best) will serve to further soften the 100-year old, aged, worn, and partially deteriorated wool.  Additionally, un-cut, freshly manufactured wool was likely batch soaked to soften it, and subsequently batch washed to remove the chemical.  Rinsing of a complex bullion artifact does not allow for soaking only the wool substrate without destroying the artifact by separating the constituent parts--the entire complex item must be rinsed in total.  Each constituent part of the complex whole will react in a unique way with the chemical introduced and this reaction will be impacted by the current state of deterioration.

 

The item, as a complete whole, is a complex item constituted of multiple materials and multiple layers each with vastly different physical properties.  For argument let's say the wool substrate will have one rate of absorption, the thread a different rate, and the stiffener a third.  As the threads are passed through the bullion coils and pulled fast to the substrate and stiffener, various voids and tight spaces will be created.  Tight spaces will have a reduced ability to absorb liquids, while voids will create a space for liquids to remain.  The resultant complex artifact is now the combined properties of all the materials, plus the way they are assembled, and is far more complex than any of its individual constituent parts.  This complexity contributes to difficulty predicting the totality of effects, both immediate and over time, to the artifact from introducing a cleaning process.

 

Finally let's discuss time and deterioration.

 

Perhaps I am misrepresenting your argument, so allow me to restate what I believe you are saying.  It seems to me that you posit that because Tartaric acid may have been used in manufacturing the parts originally, it is therefore relatively benign to re-introduce Tartaric acid again.  OK I think I understand, and my answer to that is; "Possibly."  I do think though that may be glossing over the effects of the ravages of time.

 

Newly made items (either today or 100 years ago) are at the zenith of their durability.  If I go down to the NEX today and buy a brand new bullion Navy Aviators badge and polish it with Tartaric acid, even with the small amount of softening introduced by the acid, the badge will probably not show any visible ill effects.  Contrastingly, If I take a 100 year old WW1 era Navy Aviators badge and subject it to the same treatment will I get the same results?  I don't know--and the not knowing is what troubles me.  Have the silk threads oxidized?  Did the Aviator's girlfriend sneeze on his badge leaving salts and proteins embedded in the badge?  Was it washed by a Philippine laundry in 1922 using pumice and lye?  Was it ironed? Dry cleaned? Steamed?  Stored poorly in an attic?  Moths?  Carpet beetles? Moth balls? Wrapped in newspaper and stored?  Played with by the kids? What are the effects to each of the several and various constituent materials and parts of the bullion by each of those (and perhaps 100s more) impacting scenarios?  At the very least the badge will have suffered some mechanical weakening solely due to years of wear and tear.  Considering all the myriad things we don't know about the condition of the constituent parts of the badge, is it prudent to introduce a chemical and mechanical process that we know will generate additional weakening (softening)?

 

I've said it above, I'll say it again here:  Its your item.  If you want to polish it, its your choice.  At this point, my objective has been met as there is enough information woven throughout this thread that any collector who opts to use Tartaric acid to polish their bullion artifacts will at least be making an informed risk versus benefit calculation.

 

Best wishes!

 

Chris



#47 cwnorma

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Posted 29 December 2019 - 12:55 PM

 

Maybe you could run this thread past your chemist friends ?

Maybe they could clear things up ?
 

 

If these chemists specialize in museum sciences and did graduate-level research including studying applications of lactic acids for their effects and impacts on complex antique textiles, I too will be very interested in what they have to say!



#48 rooster77

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Posted 29 December 2019 - 01:02 PM

Hi Chris,

What Im getting at in a long winded way is that I dont believe it will be harmful to the piece.

Its real possible that there are tartaric acid residues in the fabics and wool from production along with many other chemicals.

As you folks who think its a bad idea have said it "may" cause problems. It also may not.

"May" being the key word.

I can see not polishing brass belt buckles etc. But for Bullion.....

I personally like the look of it better than looking like it was smeared with ashes.

 I like the results on the half wing I applied it to. I do appreciate and understand what you are saying and the warnings in your posts are sound.

Time will tell.

And as you said its a personal choice.

And it would be great if Alex could get his friends in on this question.

 

Cheers !

 

Dave


Edited by rooster77, 29 December 2019 - 01:04 PM.


#49 cwnorma

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Posted 29 December 2019 - 01:05 PM

Im putting my money where my mouth is. I did half of this wing and if it turns out bad, even if its years from now,

If I'm around, I'l update this if I see some bad results.

 

rooster77,

 

Thank you for doing this.

 

Chris



#50 rooster77

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Posted 29 December 2019 - 01:22 PM

 

rooster77,

 

Thank you for doing this.

 

Chris

 

Glad to do it because I really am curious. I always wondered how the bullion could be cleaned.

And the wing I did this to cost me $90.00 so Im going to let it sit and if I see anything...I'l update this.

 

Dave




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