Maintaining the Eiffel Tower's signature sparkle requires monumental effort. The soaring iron lattice gets a complete makeover with a fresh coat of paint approximately every seven years—certainly no small feat. At 984 feet, the tower earned the title of the tallest structure in the world when Gustave Eiffel designed it as a temporary exhibit for the 1889 World's Fair.
The frequency keeps everything rust-free, but the color choice is purely aesthetic. Monsieur Eiffel chose to paint the Tower red, and since then, the Eiffel Tower changed colors several times, from reddish-brown to mustard yellows, and more recently, shades of brown. Now the Iron Lady's three different shades of specially made "Eiffel Tower Brown" paint—darkest at the bottom and lighter at the top—perfectly compliments the Parisian sky.
Around 25 crew members fearlessly scale the tower using some 35 miles of climbing rope for 18 months during the last painting, which began in 2009. Some 66 tons of lead-free paint proves necessary to cover each crevice, beam, nut, and bolt.
All of it gets done the old-fashioned way. The Eiffel Tower still gets repainted using the same tried and true method from its first painting in the 19th century—completely by hand, using small round brushes. Working this way keeps the tower open, plus no paint drips on anyone's head.
The beauty regime doesn't end there. Ongoing cleaning and restoration work needs four tons of wipes, 25,000 garbage bags, and 105 gallons of metal cleaning solution per year. No corners get cut, not even while facing difficult times. Workers spent half a day just climbing the 1,665 steps (108 stories) to start cleaning the Eiffel Tower in 1946 when electricity rations after World War II kept the elevators off.
Never built to last, the Eiffel Tower endures as the symbol of Paris. The 128-year-old iron structure welcomes around seven million visitors per year, making it the most-visited paid-for attraction in the world.
Now city authorities plan a major 300 million euro renovation over the next 15 years to improve access and security. The city hopefully bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics and the 2025 World Fair. So a squeaky clean Eiffel Tower helps Paris put it's best face forward.
- Nat Geo Expeditions