India’s most iconic monument—the Taj Mahal—is in need of a good cleaning. Air pollution from the nearby city of Agra has gradually turned the building’s famous white marble a sickly shade of yellow. Though the discoloring hasn’t deterred any of the millions of annual visitors who come to marvel at the elaborate 17th century mausoleum, preservationists prefer to keep it clean.
Remarkably, the accepted technique was inspired by a traditional recipe Indian women used to give their skin a natural glow: a mud mask.
Seriously. Chemists at the state-run Archaeological Survey of India developed a concoction of lime-rich clay that’s slathered onto the Taj Mahal’s white marble and left to dry overnight. The mud attaches to impurities on the stone and are washed away the next day using soft brushes and distilled water.
The Taj Mahal has gotten this spa-inspired treatment in 1994, 2001, and 2008. Select areas of the building have already undergone the latest round of mud cleaning, but in order to reach the famous dome next year, scaffolding will have to be erected and could remain for up to six months.
No word on whether the mud mask will also clean off the green goo left by lovemaking insects that swarmed the Taj Mahal earlier this year.