"dusting"soda straws in commercial cave

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"dusting"soda straws in commercial cave

Postby glassgnom » Dec 25, 2006 8:47 pm

As a tour guide at a commercial cave where dust is gathering on soda straws , I have a question-what is the best way to clean them? The cave custodian is talking a brush, I say a garden sprayer filled with water is better. Any opinions on this? (there is a stream flowing in the cave, and the water could be drawn from that-no cave life in there that we know of, it drains into a local river.)
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Postby wendy » Dec 25, 2006 8:51 pm

I wouldn't use a brush cuz soda straws are too fragile, i'd be afraid of breaking them. The garden spray sounds like a good idea. We are using them on a clean up down here in florida in a tour cave. And yes, using the water in the cave is the best water to use, cuz tap water may have bad stuff in it
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Postby Ralph E. Powers » Dec 25, 2006 9:10 pm

wendy wrote:I wouldn't use a brush cuz soda straws are too fragile, i'd be afraid of breaking them. The garden spray sounds like a good idea. We are using them on a clean up down here in florida in a tour cave. And yes, using the water in the cave is the best water to use, cuz tap water may have bad stuff in it

Also distilled water has been found to be good and "non-invasive" in the several clean ups I've been involved with at Timpanogos Cave Nat. Mon. and once at Lehmans Caves Nat. Mon. With a light misting with the garden sprayer (pressured hand-pump) varieties can be very good as you can ease the pressure just enough to mist the formation(s) without fear of breaking them. Also a large mouth bucket (5 gallon types) placed under the formations to catch the water and sherpas to regularly cart out the ones (partially full ... they can get heavy if full :-) ) and replace with empties.
Those are good projects for grottos and scout-groups to be sure.

Hey Jerry, what do you all do for lint clean ups?
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Postby Teresa » Dec 26, 2006 8:18 pm

Ditto no on brushes--how about a feather duster with a light touch? Depending on how dirty the stal are, water might just incorporate the dust into them, instead of cleaning them off. I wouldn't use anything heavier than a plant mister set to a diffuse spray, and let gravity do the work, if you go with water.
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Postby glassgnom » Dec 27, 2006 6:49 am

about 95% of these decorations are non-active, so I dont think incorporation would be a concern. I am not sure, but I think since this was a closed cave until it was discovered and opened for tourism, human intrusion has changed the moisture level considerably-possibly the sole reason they are not growing anymore. Ralph-the lint is not an issue in here. Come take a tour.
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Postby Squirrel Girl » Dec 27, 2006 8:02 am

Ralph E. Powers wrote:Also distilled water has been found to be good and "non-invasive"
Just so you know.... Distilled water has a pH below 7 because it absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere and therefore is corrosive to calcite. I don't know if it's significant to the formations, but technically it is . Non-muddy cave water would probably be a better choice.
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Postby Ralph E. Powers » Dec 27, 2006 10:29 am

Squirrel Girl wrote:
Ralph E. Powers wrote:Also distilled water has been found to be good and "non-invasive"
Just so you know.... Distilled water has a pH below 7 because it absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere and therefore is corrosive to calcite. I don't know if it's significant to the formations, but technically it is . Non-muddy cave water would probably be a better choice.

Hmm, well I guess it would be. Yet some of the western caves have little to no water to draw upon. What pools there are have accumulated over time from drips.
Hmm, interesting.
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Postby mgmills » Dec 27, 2006 4:26 pm

glassgnom wrote:about 95% of these decorations are non-active, so I dont think incorporation would be a concern. I am not sure, but I think since this was a closed cave until it was discovered and opened for tourism, human intrusion has changed the moisture level considerably-possibly the sole reason they are not growing anymore. Ralph-the lint is not an issue in here. Come take a tour.


Might be easier to come take a tour if we knew the name of the cave :tonguecheek:

I've re-read all the posts in this thread and don't see a mention of which commercial cave you are referring to. Since your profile says you are from Signal Mountain I assume it is near Chattanooga and from you saying it was a closed cave until it was discovered and opened for tourism I think you may be talking about Ruby Falls. Am I right?
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Postby glassgnom » Dec 27, 2006 9:17 pm

Oops, sorry. Yes, it is Ruby Falls. There is so much damage done in the cave after 76 years of public tours, it is sad to see day after day-preservation of what is left in there is of concern to me, and since there are over 450,000 visitors there a year, it would be nice for them to see a cave that didnt have dust beards on the stalagtites that are sometimes 2" long! Thanks for all the input-hopefully the head of maintenance there will use your advice.
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Postby wendy » Dec 27, 2006 9:24 pm

glassgnom wrote:Oops, sorry. Yes, it is Ruby Falls. There is so much damage done in the cave after 76 years of public tours, it is sad to see day after day-preservation of what is left in there is of concern to me, and since there are over 450,000 visitors there a year, it would be nice for them to see a cave that didnt have dust beards on the stalagtites that are sometimes 2" long! Thanks for all the input-hopefully the head of maintenance there will use your advice.


have you thought of seeing if a local grotto would be interested in assisting with the clean up? My grotto is working on a clean up on a tour cave currently. We do it after hours when the cave is closed.
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Postby glassgnom » Dec 28, 2006 6:14 am

Actually, Wendy, another grotto member who works at Ruby Falls has volunteered her time to clean up -however, my politics prevent me from doing so. It is a privately owned cave, and my opinion is that the owners should be responsible. This is probably the most advertised cave in the U.S.,they make money hand over fist, and they could WELL afford to be accountable for their impact on the cave. Just my opinion, of course.
Is the cave your grotto working on privately owned, or does the state or feds own it?
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Postby wendy » Dec 28, 2006 7:51 am

glassgnom wrote:Actually, Wendy, another grotto member who works at Ruby Falls has volunteered her time to clean up -however, my politics prevent me from doing so. It is a privately owned cave, and my opinion is that the owners should be responsible. This is probably the most advertised cave in the U.S.,they make money hand over fist, and they could WELL afford to be accountable for their impact on the cave. Just my opinion, of course.
Is the cave your grotto working on privately owned, or does the state or feds own it?


the state owns it. The state does mainatence work, like cleaning the mold that grows cuz of the lights in the cave, but the formations had never been cleaned until we went in
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Postby glassgnom » Jan 5, 2007 9:29 pm

thanks for all your input. The maintenance man took the suggestion of using water, and it worked beautifully! There is a hallway with hundreds of soda straws that was REALLY dirty, with "dust stalagmites" hanging off the formations. It looks a whole lot better, and they are using water sprays on a lot of other sections of the caves. Again, thanks!
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Postby Ralph E. Powers » Jan 5, 2007 9:41 pm

glassgnom wrote:thanks for all your input. The maintenance man took the suggestion of using water, and it worked beautifully! There is a hallway with hundreds of soda straws that was REALLY dirty, with "dust stalagmites" hanging off the formations. It looks a whole lot better, and they are using water sprays on a lot of other sections of the caves. Again, thanks!

Glad to hear it, let us know if the grotto can help out on a major clean up... it'd be a fun project and might prove interesting to the owners/managers as well... call it... greasing the wheel :grin:
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Ruby Falls Cave

Postby Larry E. Matthews » Jan 9, 2007 4:57 pm

Since I am currently writing a book on the "Caves of Chattanooga" (which will feature 9 current and past commercial caves in the area), I have been to Ruby Falls several times recently.

The people there are really proud of their cave and trying hard to take good care of it. I'm glad to hear that the water "misting" cleaned the soda straws. The damage is not as bad as an earlier post might suggest.

Just the fact that they want to clean the formations, and do it without causing damage shows how concerned they really are.

However, during the Depression, some very underpaid "guides" did break off and sell some formations to the tourists to make extra money.

You know, almost all cave owners really want to take good care of their caves. To not do so would literally put them out of business.

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