CARING FOR A CANVAS LABYRINTH

KEEP IT CLEAN

Canvas is meant for indoor use. Yes, there are people who carefully use it outdoors, by putting a tarp under it and keeping the dogs away, but of all the possible things that could happen, the vast majority of them are bad. Even a polycanvas or vinyl labyrinth used outdoors must be folded and stored dry, or it will mildew. That may mean spreading it over some pews indoors for a day. Plus, fabric doesn't work well at all on grass, which is far too unstable. It would need to be over a paved surface. So why not quickly draw a labyrinth on the paved surface, using chalk, and keep the fabric labyrinth indoors.

The key is to keep the labyrinth clean rather than finding ways to remove the dirt and stains. You can keep socks for people to wear in a basket near the entrance. Walkers can even put them over their shoes (or use disposible paper booties). Take a clue from Labyrinths International in Davenport, Iowa. Their rules for renting a labyrinth specify no food or drink or candles of any kind, within 10 feet of the labyrinth. An ounce of prevention . . . .

CLEAN IT UP

If you own a canvas labyrinth, have a broom that is used only on the labyrinth. Before folding the labyrinth up to put away, sweep the top side of the labyrinth. Then, as you fold it and the bottom becomes exposed, sweep off the back, also. A beater-type vacuum cleaner works quite well (make sure the wheels won't leave a mark). A beater is a cylinder with brushes attached, which spins and aggitates the carpet a little to get the dirt out. Most older stand-up vacuums, like Hoover, work that way. It shouldn't hurt the canvas or the paint.

When you think of candle wax, you think of the old brown bag and iron trick. (Put a brown paper bag over the wax and iron with a warm iron, just enough to melt the wax, which is then absorbed by the brown paper.) The probolem is, the melted wax also flows into the fabric of the canvas, making it harder to remove. Plus, if it is a colored candle, the paper bag doesn't absorb the dye. Rather, it gets heat-treated and very hard to remove. Instead, try using the very tip of the blade of a thin box knife to carefully (and patiently) remove the wax, bit by bit. The box knife or the point of a compass can remove a lot of things stuck to the surface of the canvas.

Other ways to remove stuck things is to dab at them with sticky tape, or to erase them, using either a soft lead eraser or a harder ink eraser. Once you erase, use masking tape or a cordless mini-vac to pick up the erasure debris. Sometimes it takes all of these methods to clean up the canvas. The more difficult task is with wet stains, say, coffee or bird poop or scuff marks. Liquid cleaning solutions leave rings often worse than the stain being cleaned. Ironing a clean damp cloth may generate a little steam that could soften a stain so that it can then be blotted with something. There is one cleaning solution which, in small amounts, may be effective on canvas. It is called Lift-Off, by Motzenbockers (available at The Home Depot). You can get a trial sample with three small 2-oz. bottles, each for a different kind of stain. Use just a tiny bit on the top of a rag or with a toothbrush. Toothpaste has a slight abrasive init. You might try brushing a soiled spot with toothpaste and then wiping it off with a wet rag, avoiding getting it too wet.

TRANPORTING AND STORING

Rubbermaid plastic bins are convenient for storing and transporting canvas. Labyrinth Enterprises, LLC, ships its three-piece Chartres labyrinths in 45-gallon RubberMaid Tough Totes with handles on both ends and wheels on one end. Because the labyrinth weighs slightly more than 100 pounds, lifting takes at least two people. Even pulling the wheeled bin can be hard on the back if done the wrong way. It is counter-intuitive, but the best way is to push the bin, not pull it. Judy Hopen of Labyrinth Enterprises, LLC, illustrates the right way (left photo) and the wrong way (right photo). Stand the bin on its end. From behind, pull the top handle toward you just enough to clear the bottom of the bin from resting on the floor. Then push forward. All of the weight is on the wheels rather than your back. Bins of this sort are available at some Lowes hardware stores. An alternative can be one or more rolling duffle bags, with wheels on one end and handles on the other. The kind sold in Target and WalMart tend to be too divided up into little compartments. Go to Sports Authority or a similar sporting goods store. There, the bags have large, open interiors. For a large Chartres labyrinth, the center piece and a few supplies can go into one duffle bag and the two side panels can go into a second one. Check them as luggage.

FOLDING THE LABYRINTH

Don't roll the labyrinth, as that would put the back of the fabric, which might be dirty, in contact with the face of the fabric. Not good. Instead, always fold the labyrinth. The first fold is in half, so that the design is inward, face to face and well protected. If there is a seam exactly in the middle of the fabric, fold the halves slightly unequally so that the fold isn't directly on a seam. This will keepthe seam in good condition. Once folded in half, continue to fold in some organized way so that it fits into the container. On the large, three-piece labyrinths, you may want to consider leaving it connected together. Fold the entire labyrinth. Put the storage bin next to it, on its side with the top open, and roll the labyrinth into the bin. Not taking the labyrinth apart creates fewer wrinkles and saves time when you next set out the labyrinth. However, if you are planning to travel, it is easier to have three separate pieces. Besides duffle bags, each section can be carried individually in acanvas bag, making it easy to throw into the truck of a car.