Removing calcium carbonate deposits from archaeological ceramics. Traditional methods under review

Sáenz-Martínez, M. San Andrés, M. Alvarez de Buergo, I. Blasco, R. Fort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Although insoluble salts are one of the most common alteration forms that archaeological ceramics can present, the methods for their removal have not really changed within the past forty years. Furthermore, not many studies on the topic have been recently published. In this paper, a methodology to study the suitability of different traditional treatments for the removal of these salts, has been established. For this aim, ceramic mock-ups made out of a marketed red clay were fired up to 700ºC in an electric kiln. Their composition and physical properties were studied. Several tests were conducted in laboratory for the growth of calcium carbonate deposits similar to the ones that can appear naturally on archaeological ceramics. The method that provided the more alike deposits, was followed and applied onto the ceramic mock-ups. Different cleaning treatments based on three chemical products and three application methods were put into practice for the removal of such deposits. The products included two acids and a chelating agent and the application methods were direct and indirect, by immersion and using pulps and gels. The specimens’ characteristics were studied again to determine their changes due to the cleaning treatments. The analytical techniques of XRD and SEM, for mineralogical and elemental composition, microroughness, colour measurements, stereoscopic microscopy were used, and results showed efficacy differences linked to the product and application method. In general, the products applied by immersion and cellulose pulp poultice were more effective than gel treatments, which were less effective with any of the three products tested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-117
Number of pages11
JournalMediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge both research programs Geomateriales-2 (S2013/MIT-2914) and Top Heritage-CM (S2018/NMT-4372), and research groups Techniques for the Documentation, Conservation and Res-tauration of Heritage (UCM 930420) and Applied Petrology for Heritage Conservation (UCM 921349). In addition, the Moncloa Campus CEI and the assistance research centres from Complutense University of Madrid (CAI and ICTS), as well as the Interdisciplinary Thematic Platform from CSIC Open Heritage: Research and Society (PTI-PAIS). Finally, they also thank Complutense University of Madrid and Banco Santander for Águeda Sáenz-Martínez’s PhD scholarship (CT17/17-CT18/17).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, University of AEGEAN. All rights reserved.


  • And conservation of cultural heritage
  • Archaeological ceramics
  • Calcium carbonate deposits
  • Chemical methods
  • Cleaning treatments
  • Insoluble salts
  • Microroughness
  • Microscopy
  • Pulp poultice
  • Rigid gel
  • SEM
  • XRD


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