When to clean
At times it is appropriate to clean the Airform, before or after the building is completed. This may be necessary because of dirt accumulated during shipping or construction, or from our not-so-clean environment.
Our Monolithic Dome Institute in Italy, Texas sits immediately alongside Interstate 35E. Twenty-nine thousand vehicles pass us everyday, and the prevailing winds blow most of the resulting smoke and soot over our domes. At least once every year, that grime must be washed away.
How to clean
Airform dirt can be removed by washing with a mild soap and water. We recommend detergents designed for hand-washing dishes that are mild and will not affect the Airform’s finish. Some experts suggest a 50/50 mix of a mild, hand-washing, dish detergent with an inexpensive, automatic dish-washing detergent.
TSP is also a good cleaning agent. Adding a few ounces of household bleach to the wash water can effectively remove mold and stains. With long-handled mops or brushes and a bucket, you can make quick work of the job. Do not use high-pressure washers; they can damage the finish and shorten the life of the Airform’s surface.
If there is graffiti or spilled paint on the Airform, it should be removed as soon as possible. A small area should be tried first. If it is a water-based paint, just detergent mixed in water may wash it off. A plastic scrubber can be utilized to help. If the paint is older and has a better bond, chemicals such as industrial strength cleaners may need to be tried. Other choices include mineral spirits, acetone (nail polish remover) and methyl ethyl ketone (high-power paint thinner). They should be utilized with great caution; the repair-person and the Airform’s surface should both be protected. We recommend doing a small area first, then proceeding to larger areas. Once the paint has been removed, the area should be washed with soap and water to eliminate all paint-remover residue. A complete cleaning of the entire dome is not always necessary, but is sometimes very nice to have.
Wearing smooth or soft-soled shoes (tennis shoes), workers can wash a dome as they would a big car, by soaping an area first, then rinsing it off. This process should start at the top and continue out within a safe distance from the center. Long-handled mops can be used to reach out over the curve. Remaining areas can be washed from a ladder or scaffolding placed at ground level.
For larger domes, workers must be tied to safety lines. The most satisfactory method necessitates tying off the center anchor point and working from a rope, as a mountain climber would. If your dome has no anchor point, consider installing one. If there is nothing at the top, throw two separate ropes over the top of the dome, forming an X at the center top. Tie these ropes securely to the base of the building; also tie the center of the X securely. Then tie onto the rope for a safety line.
It is extremely important to use all safety precautions. We recommend not working alone, tying off with a proper climbing harness and safety ropes, using ladders and long-handled cleaning tools.
Note: This information was first presented in April 2007 and updated in February 2013.