White Wash

On American Independence Day, 2005, the German firm Kärcher, which styles itself the “world’s leading provider of cleaning systems,” began the three-week project to remove lichen, moss, and other organic stains that could cause “bio-corrosion” from the monumental faces of the American presidents on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. Kärcher, whose large-scale projects include the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the statue of Jesus in Rio de Janeiro, and the Colossi of Memnon in Luxor, was founded in 1935 and currently provides multipurpose nuclear, biological, and chemical decontamination systems to the Pentagon. Kärcher also developed the pressurized water trucks that drive around French cities removing graffiti, leading then–Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy to remark, during the 2005 riots in immigrant neighborhoods in Paris, that rioters ought to be “Kärcherized.”