Agarose gel for controlled wet cleaning of textiles

Introduction to Agarose gel

Agarose is one of the two principal components of agar, and is purified from agar by removing agar’s other component, agaropectin.

Chemistry – Agarose, the gelling fraction, is a neutral linear molecule essentially free of sulfates, consisting of chains of repeating alternate units of ß-1,3-linked- D-galactose and a-1,4-linked 3,6-anhydro-L-galactose.

Agarose is a polysaccharide that can be used to form a gel (often used to separate molecules based on size). Basically, agarose behaves like gelatin. Scientists can heat and cool a mixture of agarose to form a gel.

What do we mean by the term ‘gel’?

A gel is a solid jelly-like soft material that can have properties ranging from soft and weak to hard and tough. Gels are defined as a substantially dilute cross-linked system, which exhibits no flow when in the steady-state. By weight, gels are mostly liquid, yet they behave like solids due to a three-dimensional cross-linked network within the liquid. It is the crosslinking within the fluid that gives a gel its structure (hardness) and contributes to the adhesive stick (tack). In this way, gels are a dispersion of molecules of a liquid within a solid medium. The word gel was coined by 19th-century Scottish chemist Thomas Graham by clipping from gelatine.

Use of Agarose gel in cleaning

Agarose gels, through capillary action, can be used as a slow, controlled cleaning method.

It has been established that agarose gels can be the best method for cleaning in following cases:

  1. if the textile requires a special chemical compound for stain removal, such as enzymes,
  2. for stains on textiles in danger of dye bleed
  3. controlled or spot cleaning where there are small exposed areas of textile in between metal thread embroidery.






Author: namitajaspal
Namita Jaspal, with inherited skills of art and aesthetics and passion for science, opted to pursue post- graduation in ‘Conservation of Cultural Property’ after her graduation in Science from Delhi University in 1992. Four year intense training at National Museum Institute provided the right foundation to start a career in Conservation. She is currently practicing conservation consultancy for Heritage property including monuments and collections. She has been doing independent research in conservation techniques and procedures in Indian context. She is currently working on the conservation of wall-paintings of Sri Harmandir Sahib Ji (The Golden temple at Amritsar. The project is nearing completion and getting a lot of appreciation for the organized and ethical treatment it is providing. It is for the first time in the history of Sri Harmandir Sahib Ji (The Golden Temple) that wall painting conservation and preservation is being done in a scientific manner, keeping the codes of Ethics into consideration while decision making. Another project just completed is of the Conservation of Krishna Temple at Kishankot, Gurdaspur, Punjab. In her private Conservation Laboratory, she is not only providing onservation services, but also mentoring young aspiring conservators and archaeologists by the way of training and paid internships. She has been a guest lecturer at DIHRM (Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management). With all the updated knowledge database and innovative practical approaches relevant to the Indian conditions, she could successfully do curative and preservative treatment of very old textiles like a nine feet long flag from nineteenth century that is regarded as priceless memorabilia of second Dogra regiment at Chandi Mandir, and four hundred years old (seventeenth century) Chola Sahib Ji of Sixth Guru of Sikhs, Sri Hargobind Sahib Ji. Apart from this she has done conservation of Photograph collections, archival records, numerous paintings, manuscripts and other cultural objects. She is also involved in preparation of up-gradation proposals for museums and such organizations. Her expertise includes Conservation and preservation technologies and procedures for conservation of varied material like wall paintings, paper, photographs, textile, ceramics, stone, metal and archaeological objects.

4 thoughts on “Agarose gel for controlled wet cleaning of textiles

  1. Congratulations on your work. I am a textile conservator working in Greece. I am experimenting currently with gels hoping to use them soon. Could you give us some more details on the treatment? (e.g.The concentration of the gel, its thickness, the duration of the treatment, if you used weight) You can use my e-mail as well to contact me.
    Thank you in advance!

    1. Greetings Tina! Thank you for taking interest in this brief write-up. We used 4% agarose in de-ionized water. It was roughly 2 mm thick. We did not use any weights.
      I would discuss further through email.

  2. Thank you for the quick response! Yes, I would like to discuss further through e-mail. You can send me an e-mail from your address to send you my questions. Thank you for sharing!

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