cleaning klaf of old S"T

I think someone once mentioned a chemical method of cleaning klaf of an older sefer without ruining the ksav. Does anyone know how this is done or have any other ideas?



  1. When my son was in 8th grade he was hired by a local sofer to clean old Sifrei Torah. He did it with a soft pencil eraser. He consumed many erasers on each Sefer.

    1. Yes, I used the method of the soft pencil eraser, too. Must be very careful not to touch the actual ktav, though. Also, quite tedious - which is likely why hiring a student (that is very responsible) would be prudent. I've also used an electric (battery) eraser, which goes a bit faster and less hand cramping.

  2. Replies
    1. How does this work? How is it applied? Does it affect the ink? How can I get more info on this pls?

    2. I don't have details. When I need work done on an older sefer I turn to one of the top experts. I can give you his contact info via e-mail.

  3. Using a chemical is very risky. Most of the dirt on an old Sefer Torah is ink powder that was rubbed off the letters. If a chemical removes the ink powder it could also remove the ink from the letters.

  4. Hi Eli,
    The simplest chemical cleaning agent for an inexperienced sofer to utilize is Acetone. It is usually available in large gallon containers at any paint or construction supply store.

    The magic of Acetone is that it evaporates quickly, much faster than denatured alcohol. Therefore, it doesn't soak the parchment in a way that would readily damage the writ. However, it must be allowed to dry at least 1/2 hour - outdoors in shaded area, to reduce after odor of the parchment. Also, if you have corrections to do, don't make them until you leave about 1/2 hour elapse as your ink is likely to bleed.

    The method of cleaning with it is straight forward. Take a soft cotton wiping rag. (These can also be purchased at your local paint store). Moisten it with the Acetone and then wipe clean. One or two light passes will suffice. It is important not to overdo it, working-it-in or rubbing too much, as you may begin dissolving the ink.

    The cleaning should take place outdoors, as the fumes are toxic. Make sure to wear a breathing mask as to not inhale the fumes. Likewise, you will like to wear gloves, as the quick evaporation of acetone will make your hands feel extremely cold and also dry your skin.

    As a side line, be aware that just as it dries your skin, the acetone can also dry out the klaf, causing it to loose a bit of it's natural moisture. If used in moderation, it will not visibly harm the klaf. However, as klaf looses its moisture, it also looses its ability over time to retain the ink. This is more readily seen in the smoother older klaf. However, our newer klaf that is finished to a velvety feel is less prone to it, as the ink grabs on to the little hairs and won't separate as easily. Likewise, it works fine with klaf mashuach.

    If you decide to go ahead with it, I suggest to first try it over a line of text, so that you'll see how it works. It quickly lifts-up the grime and dust, and it is easier and faster than the eraser method. Be sure to let us know what you decide.
    Best regards,

  5. Shalom, I have used dry cleaning pads (example here - which people use on things like lampshades and are basically eraser bits in a bag - easier and gentler than an eraser and go further. I am told that the other type would work too (example image here as it works on fine fabrics but I've never tried them o can't personally vouch for them. For really stubborn dirt I have also used the alcohol wipes as they evaporate but am always concerned about drying out the k'laf as R. Alberto says.


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