How Museums Can Benefit from Abrasive Blasting

We’re lucky to have a lot of history here in the UK, and it’s important to maintain historical locales and artifacts for future generations to enjoy. As blast cleaners, we’re in a particularly fortunate position in that we can help museums and historical attractions do just that.

Naturally, we love helping private owners maintain their vehicles and properties, but we also relish the work we do to help museums preserve a small slice of history.

Today, we’re going to look at how abrasive blasting providers can help these organisations breathe new life into their attractions and take a look at some of the more memorable work we’ve carried out for historical organisations.

How Can Museums and Historical Attractions Use Blast Cleaning?

Manor Houses and Living Museums

There are many ways that blast cleaning organisations like ourselves can help preserve the look and feel of historical buildings, including those with a Grade I or II listing. Our gentlest cleaning method is soda blasting which is a great go-to when preserving historical structures.

Abrasive cleaning can be used to clean brickwork, cobblestones, stonework, tarmac, and metalwork – as well as wooden beams and paneling. It makes light work of cleaning away non-authentic paintwork, varnishes, and graffiti. Our blast cleaning options can also clear away environmental staining such as mildew, mould, moss, and general pollutants and grime.

But blast cleaning also has two surprising uses that you may not initially realise.

If you ever need to replace hardwood beams or features, you’ll most likely notice a stark contrast between the new and old woods – especially if new and old are closely juxtaposed. However, glass blasting can define and raise the grain of new wood, giving it an aged look.

And then there’s a type of clean we hope you’ll never have to call us for. Blast cleaning can also assist in the clean up operation after a fire strikes – chiefly in removing sooty residues and to assess any hidden structural damage. When working with listed buildings, we’ll generally opt for soda blasting, but glass and ThermaTech steam cleaning can also be used on unlisted properties, depending on the situation.

Automotive and Vehicle Museums

Just as we can clean components from classic, yet relatively contemporary vehicles, abrasive cleaning can also be employed when bringing historical vehicles back to their former glory.

Naturally this includes all kinds of vehicles and their components: cars, buses, trams, trains, planes, cars, motorbikes – even pedal bikes if they’re made of an appropriate material. We even clean horse-drawn vehicles from time to time, but generally only if they’re metal – traditional carts often feature softwoods that don’t fare well with blast cleaning. However, we’re more than happy to help if the vehicle is made of a hardwood like oak or elm.

Bringing History Back: How SBL Have Helped Preserve The Past

So let’s take a look at some of the more historically significant projects that we’ve had the good fortune to assist with…

The Zetland Lifeboat

This project was a real honour to work on. The Zetland is the world’s first ever lifeboat; first launched in 1802 and retired in 1864, it served the people of Redcar in Yorkshire for 62 years. It currently resides in a museum in the town.

When the client first got in touch, they needed a blast cleaning team who were willing to strip the entire boat at their facility in Redcar. They originally thought that soda blasting would be the best method for the task at hand, but after our technician James visited the museum he knew that crushed glass (at a very low pressure) would be more suitable.

Cleaning the outside of the boat was pretty straightforward because it’s made of tough oak – perfect for glass blasting. We used soda blasting on some of the boat’s interior sections.

This was a real “once in a lifetime” opportunity for the team, and the boat has a fascinating, storied history. We’d strongly recommend a visit to the Zetland Lifeboat Museum and Redcar Heritage Centre if you’re ever in the area.

A 1930 London Tram

We were approached by Crich Tramway Village to help restore an original 1930 tram – namely to remove years of rust from the steel “up and over” seat frames. They had 22 frames in total that were in dire need of some TLC; they were rusty, dirty, and caked in an thick layer of blue paint. They needed this stripping away without damaging the integrity of the steel.

It was agreed with the museum that we would clean a sample frame so the Tramway Village could assess our work before committing to the remaining 21 frames. Thankfully they were happy for us to proceed and we completed the project over a two week span. They also asked us to apply a specific paint primer to the frames – which they provided – and we were happy to oblige.

The frames represent a unique part of transport history and they looked wonderful once we were finished. People will soon be able to see (and sit on) the frames in situ at the Tramway Village once work on the tram’s refurbishment is complete.

Car SOS Double-Whammy

We’re incredibly fortunate to be a trusted provider for the TV show Car SOS. Car SOS projects always stick in our minds as they’re always for such a good cause – namely completing restorations for people who are prevented from doing so due to illness or hardship.

Through working with Car SOS, we’ve had the pleasure of working on a Volvo P1800 and an AC Aceca – two super-rare gems that many of our team hadn’t heard of before! Both of the vehicles we worked on went on to feature at The British Motor Museum.

The vehicles may be fascinating, but the projects themselves were relatively pedestrian. We used crushed glass blasting on the P1800’s [component?] to clean away oil deposits and rust, and cleaned the entire fibreglass outer shell of the Aceca with soda. We haven’t had a P1800 or an Aceca through our doors before or since.

The people behind Car SOS rely on us to get the precise task at hand completed to a high standard – each and every time. We put this ethos into all work that we complete; carrying out projects precisely as each customer requires and going to lengths to fit in with client timescales.


So if you represent a museum or historical organisation who may need blast cleaning services, why not get in touch? Our cleaning may be abrasive, but our team certainly aren’t! Whether you just need a spot of advice or have a full-blown project ready to go, we’ll gladly take the time to help you out – call us on 0800 774 7632 today.