WE all tend to stand that little bit straighter after a good wash and brush-up. And that includes the not-quite-so-Leaning Tower of Pisa. As well as cleaning centuries of grime from the Tuscan landmark, restorers helped stabilise its tilt by removing soil from beneath one side of its foundations. Its angle was previously 5.5 degrees from the perpendicular, but is now only 3.99 degrees off straight. Experts say the seven-storey bell tower should now be safe from further intervention for at least the next 200 years. The reason for the 183ft buildings lean is believed to be shallow foundations of only 10ft, coupled with weak, unstable sub-soil. 'It was on the verge of collapse, but we managed to stop the tilt and secure it, said a spokesman. Using lasers, chisels and syringes, the restoration team took eight years and three months to clean the 24,424 blocks of stone. The man in charge, Anton Sutter, said: 'The stones were in an appalling state, mainly due to air pollution, though tourists and pigeons played a part. 'The columns are decorated with capitals: flowers, ghoulish faces, fantastical animals. 'But sea salt carried on the wind and rain water that collects in certain areas because of the towers tilt have damaged many [stones]. 'Weve taken out the concrete used in past restorations and cleaned up the pigeon dirt, graffiti and hand-prints left by tourists as they struggle to keep their balance while climbing the winding stairs to the top. As our pictures show, the 838-year-old free-standing, seven-storey bell tower has never looked better, following the work done by the 10-strong restoration team. The tower, which took 177 years to complete originally, owes its trademark lean to soil subsidence, but the restorers are confident no more work will need doing to the tower for the next two centuries. Having undergone an 11-year restoration from 1990 to 2001, which helped stablise the buildings lean - it was 5.5 degrees and is now 3.99 degrees - the past eight years have been all about giving the bell tower a good old sheen-shine. And the Tuscany city can be proud once more of the gravity bending, free-standing bell town, that completes the venerated Cathedral Square.Just seven miles from the Mediterranean Sea on the west coast of Italy, the tower is frequently battered by storms that eroded and discoloured the tower, which weighs some 14,500 metric tons. The distinctive, yellowish stone came from the quarries of San Giuliano, visible from the top of the tower, which mark the green hills behind Pisa.In 1987 the Tower of Pisa was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations cultural organisation UNESCO, but as fears grew that it would topple over it was closed to the public in 1990. The eleven years served to save the tower - the worry was that it would come crashing down, and Italy would lose one of its most significant and popular landmarks. 'The tower was on the verge of collapse, but we managed to stop the tilt and secure it, said Giuseppe Bentivoglio, from the Opera Primaziale organisation that preserves the tower. The tower was reopened to the public in 2001 and has remained open throughout a restoration costing almost 6million - partly to keep tourists happy, but partly because the revenue from ticket sales helps pay for the upkeep. The tower attracts over one million visitors a year. 'Its now out of risk for at least the next 200 years, said Bentivoglio. But how did the tower achieve its lean? The most respected theory suggests the tower began to sink after construction - which began in 1173 - had progressed to the third floor after five years. This was believed to have been caused as there was only a three-metre foundation which was set in weak, unstable subsoil - a design that was flawed from the beginning. Back then that area of Italy was very belligerent, with various local factions jostling for position and land-grabbing.Because of the battles between Pisa and nearby Genoa, Lucca and Florence, the construction of the tower was put on hold for almost a century. Thankfully this allowed enough time for the soil to settle - had there not been that length of break, many believe the tower would have toppled over centuries ago.