Nocturnal high-pressure mission, hanging from a rope

Having successfully cleaned the presidents’ heads on Mount Rushmore in 2005, we turned our attention to another American landmark in May and June this year: the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington. The 184-metre structure was given a thorough wash with pressure washers to remove the very tenacious contamination that covered most of the surface. The whole operation lasted eight weeks.

“It is of immeasurable value to us that Kärcher has committed its knowhow and environment-friendly cleaning technology to our landmark", says Peter Beck from the Space Needle administration. “We are very pleased that the Space Needle has been restored to its original brilliance.“

Cleaning heavily soiled steel
Cleaning heavily soiled steel Pure water was used for cleaning – without chemicals. The water was heated by three electric pressure washers to 90°C and applied to the surface at a pressure of 180 bar. Over the years, contamination from emissions, bird droppings and layers of greasy dirt had become firmly attached to the painted steel surface. For the first time in a large scale Kärcher cleaning project, the work was performed in night shifts so as not to disrupt normal operation of the building which welcomes 1.3 million visitors every year. Equipped with helmet lamps, specialist Thorsten Möwes and his team lowered themselves by rope from the top deck of the tower. The sessions, quite acrobatic at times, each lasted from 11pm until the early hours of the morning. “Apart from having to work at night, access to the surfaces on the underside of the three storey tower rotunda was a particular challenge because they had to be cleaned from a horizontal position,” reports Thorsten Möwes. “There were also pretty strong winds 150 metres up the tower; but we only had to put off the work twice, when a wind velocity of more than 80 km/h was measured at the Space Needle.”

The German-American team works extremely well

The project was supported by our service technicians Derek Knight and Doug Yates from C-Tech, two technicians from the Space Needle as well as five industrial climbers from the U.S. company Skala Group. “The atmosphere in our German-American team was great, we worked together without a hitch from the very beginning,” is how Thorsten Möwes sums up the project. And the reaction of the press to our cleaning operation was very positive. Television stations, the radio, the dailies and weeklies ran several hundred reports on our project.