The use of surfactants in the cleaning of works of art
Surfactants have been historically used for cleaning artifacts, but it was only in the last decades that serendipitous approaches were replaced by research in the field of soft matter and colloid science. Surfactants are components of nanostructured fluids, which were assessed for the removal of soil and aged coatings from paintings and are fundamental in processes that range from the inclusion of grime in micelles to the swelling and dewetting of polymer layers. Intriguing aspects involve the synthesis and use of biodegradable and self-cleavable surfactants, and the confinement of nanostructured fluids in gels, which boost the selectiveness of cleaning interventions. The performances of these advanced systems surpass those of traditional cleaning materials such as solvent blends and thickeners. The most important results are here reviewed and future perspectives given. Besides granting the transfer of cultural heritage to future generations, advanced cleaning materials are relevant to transversal fields, such as detergency, cosmetics, and drug delivery.