Joint 44th AIC Annual Meeting and 42nd CAC-ACCR Annual Conference – Objects Session, May 17th – “Acne Gel for Green Ear Syndrome? A study on copper corrosion stain removal from poly(vinyl chloride)” by Dawn Wallace

This talk, given by Dawn Wallace, caught my eye because it focused on a treatment that I had heard of, but largely amongst doll collectors, not amongst conservators – and I had never had the guts to try it! The use of acne treatments, such as gels containing salicylic acid and benzoil peroxide, to reduce or remove copper staining has really interesting potential, but was not previously well-tested. Dawn treated various PVC dolls (including Barbie!) and completed analysis using pyrolysis GC/MS, XRF, and mass loss/mass attenuation. The results showed that for most gels, there was movement of copper within the stain, although with some there were changes to the plastic makeup. The salicylic acid did remove copper, but showed a slight weight gain rather than a weight loss – pyrolysis GC/MS then confirmed that a residue had indeed been left on the surface. The benzoil peroxide showed significant weight loss, but had its downsides as well.
Although this was a quick talk (15 minutes), I found it very informative and enjoyable. I would have liked to see more visual comparisona of the before and after treatment, as I wonder if the success in removing the stains is enough to make it worth pursuing removal of the residue as an additional treatment. I will be interested in any future research into this treatment!