Clean the world! Meet the world’s best cleaner – who’s spent his entire career polishing up the world’s most famous monuments
Thorsten Mowes has a more intimate knowledge of the world’s most famous monuments than perhaps anyone else on the planet – because he’s spent his entire career CLEANING them.
As a cultural cleaning expert with nearly 25 years’ experience, he has been commissioned to make wonders all over the world shine like new – from the London Eye to Christ the Redeemer.
The places he has been to, stood on top of, or even hung halfway down include Mount Rushmore and the Space Needle in America, the London Eye, the Statue of Christ in Brazil and the Forbidden City in China.
In total, he has been involved in over 80 cultural cleaning projects.
Thorsten, who is employed by cleaning firm Karcher, in Germany, said: “It’s a fascinating job because there is a huge amount to think about and every project is different.
“I have been doing it for 24 years. It started off as a small project in Germany and as it was a good idea, it has since expanded all over the world.”
Along with the significant perks, including travel and unprecedented access to many of the world’s most famous sites, the job comes with some major challenges.
Thorsten said: “There are different priorities in each job, but one is always the same – we must never destroy or damage anything.
“On a project like the Space Needle, for instance, we had to clean it without destroying any of the lacquer that covers the building.
“Then you also have to think of protecting people. It can be quite dangerous when you are 100 metres up in the air with heavy equipment and hot water spraying around.
“But to solve these problems all you need is good preparation. Obviously we don’t always have much time, so when I get there I don’t want anything to be held up. Everything must be planned in advance.”
But Thorsten says the most difficult projects are also the most compelling.
He said: “My favourite project was Mount Rushmore in 2005.
“There were so many challenges. There water supply nearby, no roads to give you access to the top, and the object itself is huge.
“In the end we had to fly our equipment to the top in a helicopter, and have the local fire department use their fire engines to help pump the water to us through 2km long pipes.
“And all this had to happen while tourists still had access to see it too.
“But it was great fun to work on.”
Closer to home, the London Eye also presented a set of unique challenges to Thorsten and his team.
He said: “The London Eye was quite hard.
“Firstly we had to clean it at night, is at would have annoyed people trying to see the city if we were cleaning the capsules during the day.
“Secondly, we had to make sure none of the cleaning chemicals got into the Thames, so we had to contain the water that dropped down.
“But once everything was in place, it was just a matter of repeating the process on each capsule over and over again.”
The results speak for themselves. According to Thorsten, over 90 per cent of the work he does is commissioned by heritage groups and governments that approach him after the seeing the sparkling effects of his previous work.
In a minority of cases, however, Thorsten does reach out and offer cleaning services to places he feels need it.
The number of people working on each individual project varies greatly, owing to the demands of each task.
Thorsten said: “For smaller projects closer to home it can just be three or four people.
“But for large projects, when you count cleaners, engineering experts, support staff and photographers, it can be a lot more people.”