'Satisfying' Video Shows Artist Cleaning '90 Years of Grime' in Museum

An art conservation student has shown the intriguing way historic buildings are cleaned, sharing a video of the "face mask" like process that revealed over 90 years worth of dirt.

TikTok user @ellieah_art volunteered to clean the Toledo Museum of Art for a second time in December, and filmed the entire process of transformation. It impressed viewers and racked up over 1 million views in just one day.

The Toledo Museum of Art's (TMA) Cloister Gallery reopened on December 12 after a year-long renovation project, which included the complete cleaning of three medieval arcades and the Venetian wellhead, and the maintenance of stained glass windows and other works of art.

The student, called Ellie, had previously cleaned the cloister at the museum in 2021, as part of a renovation of the space, and had similarly gained over 700,000 views with the experience. This time, however, she took on almost a century's worth of grime on the capitals in the same space.

The cloister and capitals were installed in the 1930s, where they've stayed since and haven't been cleaned in the entire time.

"As a pre-program art conservation student, I was absolutely thrilled to be invited to help clean the capitals," she explained in a voice-over.

"We used the same gel that we used on the column but mixed a little thicker," she added, showing a thick layer of gel poultice being placed onto the historic capitals.

The next morning, it's revealed as a dried, peelable substance, in a process she compared to a face mask for the stone.

"Pulling 90 years worth of grime out of the stone, " she narrated as the gel peeled off, taking the dirt and discoloration with it.

"The relief carvings on the capitals required extra attention to detail. We used toothpicks to get the peeling started by carefully puncturing bubbles in the gel, always being careful not to scratch the stone with the tips of the toothpicks,"

In a final step, a UV flashlight was used to detect any last little parts of the gel hanging on before "gently removing them."

Like a Face Mask

Viewers were left somewhat enchanted by the face mask-like process used to clean the museum, and took to comments to explain their thoughts.

"This is like the adult and occupational version of putting glue on your hand and peeling it off," commented one user.

"This is my dream job, just so you know," added another.

"Thank you for doing this for my city," wrote one Ohio resident. "The museum is one of the few free activities for people to enjoy."

"This is so satisfying," noted a user.