Useful Tips and Hints for cleaning and repairing antiques

how-to-clean-brass-1000x550 Useful Tips and Hints for cleaning and repairing antiques

The antique website has a great page of tips called Antique Alchemy which have been compiled from various reader feedback and other web sources.  Its a great little resource which I though I might reprint for you here. As they mentioned on their page – these tips are all use at your own risk!




Don’t soak alabaster in water, and never use an acid to clean it. Use a sponge dipped in soapand water, squeezing the sponge well before wiping the piece.


The inside of pots which have been darkened by alkaline foods may be brightened by boilingin them one quart of water to which two teaspoons of cream of tartar have been added. Boil 10minutes. (Cream of tartar may be purchased at most food stores in the spice section.)Lime deposits from hard water may be removed by boiling a solution of equal amounts of water and vinegar in the pot and allowing this mixture to remain in the pot overnight. Then polish the inside surface with a steel-wool soap pad, wash, rinse, and dry. To brighten and remove discoloration, polish aluminum with steel- wool soap pads, rubbing in one direction only. Spun aluminum pieces should be rubbed in the direction of the surface lines.



If you value your books, don’t crowd your bookshelves. The bindings may break apart from thepressure if you jam them too tightly together and you may also scratch the covers whenremoving and replacing books. Also, always store books upright; leaning them strains the  bindings. Use bookends on partially filled shelves to keep them erect. Books too tall for the shelves can be laid flat.Mildew can often be removed from a book cover by carefully using Baby Wipes. Use lanolin to clean leather bound-books then treat the book with a leather restorer using a clean, soft cloth. Another suggestion for leather covers that have become old is to apply a coat of a mixture containing 6 parts castor oil and 4 parts alcohol. Let the book stand one day, then apply pure castor oil to the cover. To destroy mildew fungi in the pages of a book apply powdered sulfur.



If you have old perfume bottles that are cloudy from hard water minerals,drop adenture-cleaning tablet in, fill with water and let the fizzing action clean it. The insides of bottles can sometimes be cleaned by swirling lead shot or sand around in the water-filled bottle.To deodorize jars or bottles, pour a solution of water and dry mustard into them, then let them stand for several hours.



(See Copper and Brass)



First, be sure you really want to clean the bronze item you have; removing corrosion, for example, often lowers the value of an item as an antique. If cleaning is desired, first carefully remove the loose flakes of corroded metal with a penknife or fine, brass-wire brush. Remove green spots by soaking the item in water or by soaking it in a weak solution of vinegar and water. (Do not use ammonia to clean bronze.) Rinse the piece and let dry. The piece can be preserved with a coat of clear varnish, although this will result in a commercial-appearing gloss. It is not recommended on real antique pieces. Use hot buttermilk to clean un-lacquered bronze. Ultraviolet radiation (black light) can be used to discover touch- ups or repairs made on bronze.



Chill candles in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using them on the table. They will burn evenly and will not drip.



(See Statuary, Carvings)




If you love your fine china dishes, put paper doilies or paper towels between plates and saucers when stacking to prevent scratches. Never, never hang cups by the handles or stack them. Set them in a row, instead. You can sometimes salvage cracked china by placing it in a pan of milk and boiling it for 45 minutes to an hour. Not only will a minor crack disappear, but the piece will sometimes actually be stronger than before. Porcelain is easily cleaned with salt sprinkled on a soft cloth. As a rule you may clean porcelain (hairline-cracks, broken edges, and chips) with a 20% hydrogen peroxide applied with cotton strips or swabs. It is best to remove all soiling and trapped particulate matter first with enzyme detergent or a steam wand as peroxide will only “bleach” or lighten stains, not clean them. (Peroxide is a powerful oxidizer and will burn your skin so use in controlled environment with ventilation and latex or rubber gloves.) It is not a good idea to clean or bleach soft-bodied ceramics without professional advice. Never use Clorox to clean soft-bodied ceramics as Clorox is a compound of soluble salts and they will reemerge as small fluffy crystals which in time push off the glaze or enamel decoration.


CLOCKS & other mechanical instruments

Electric clocks sometimes stop working due to dirt and grime that has jammed it up. Put the clock in a slightly warm oven for a few hours and the grime should melt out. A sardine can opener can be used as a great screwdriver for tiny screws. Often if a clock winds too easily, a broken spring may be the problem, however first check to make sure the spring has not become disconnected. This often happens, as well. If a pendulum clock does not work, carefully try bending the pendulum wire into slightly varying positions. If this does not work, try tipping the clock slightly in different positions. Be sure to remove the weights and pendulum when moving clocks.



An easy, economical way to clean copper is to dip half a lemon in salt and rub the object. Rinse in hot water and polish with a soft cloth. A solution of salt and vinegar will quickly clean un-lacquered brassware or copperware. There are also commercial paste-type polishes on the market that cleans and polishes at the same time. Test these, however to make sure you get the desired outcome before trying it on something truly cherished. Brass polish can be made with equal parts of salt, flour and cider vinegar. Rub on paste witha soft cloth and let dry. Rinse thoroughly with hot water. Buff dry. Clean lime deposits out of old teakettles by placing vinegar in it, heating it and letting it sit untilthe next day. Renew very old discolored brass or copper by scouring lightly with the finest steel wool(#0000) and then treat.  If your piece has been lacquered and is purely ornamental, don’t do anything with it other than an occasional, gentle dusting. You don’t want to scratch the lacquer coating.  If you want to remove the lacquer coating on a piece of brass or copper, soak the article in approximately two gallons of water in which one cup of washing soda has been dissolved. After  soaking the piece in this mixture for 20 minutes, the coating should peel off.




Your cut glass will sparkle if you wash it in warm, soapy water with a small brush and addvinegar to the rinse water. Soap film on glass or tile? Apply lemon oil with a soft cloth or rub the glass with a cut lemon,then rinse and wipe dry with paper towels. Some people also use white vinegar or alcohol. Don’t wrap satin glass or glassware with similar finishes in newspaper because it will mark thefinish. When purchasing satin glass, be sure to ask the dealer to wrap your piece in tissue ora paper towel before adding newspaper for extra cushioning. To remove sticky price tags from glassware soak the piece in water or saturate with glasscleaner. (The commercial product “Goo Gone” also usually works well for removing stickersand also works on crayon marks, gum and tar.) To remove hard water stains, try “Lime-Away” but be sure to follow instructions. Calcium deposits can be removed by soaking several days in distilled water, or by soaking in a vinegar solution, or by applying a solution of dilute hydrochloric acid with a soft bristle brus or by soaking in water into which bits of newspaper have been mixed.

Scratches can be removed by rubbing with jeweler’s rouge with a chamois. (Antique glassware with scratches on the bottom should not have these scratches removed, however, as they are a proof of age.)

Hot vinegar will remove paint stains from glass.  Two glasses stuck together? Don’t risk an accident pulling the apart. Instead put the bottom one in warm water and pour cold water into the top one. They should now separate easily.  Sometimes glass objects will shatter for no apparent reason. The cause may be “stress fractures,” which occur because of faults during the manufacturing process. Although shattering can’t be prevented, you can reduce the likelihood by limiting the extremes of temperature to which glass is subjected. Plunging a cold glass into hot dishwater is one way to induce a stress fracture.




Don’t clean a cloth doll’s body with water. Instead, rub cornstarch or talc into the fabric, waitfour hours, then gently brush it away. Old dolls and teddies will last a long time if they are stored and cared for properly. You canshorten their lifetimes dramatically with improper storage. Absolutely nothing works better forstoring dolls than an old cedar chest. Sometimes you can pick up a battered specimen for justa few dollars at a flea market or auction. So, yesterday’s hope chest can be your dream chestfor dolls and teddy bears. Obviously, the cedar protects from moths. But it also helps preservethe fabric and the paint. Or so doll and teddy fanciers declare. The place NOT to store yourvaluables is in a hot attic. In fact any extremes of temperature are ruinous. Shifts between hotand cold will cause cracks in porcelain doll faces. Fabrics will discolor. So, an interior closetbeats the attic. Moisture–or lack thereof–is another important consideration. Storing in abaking attic will dry out your valuables, causing rapid deterioration. So, you’ll want to find a storage place where there is some, but not excessive, humidity. Finally, although it should g without saying, sunlight is ruinous. It will age a valuable doll or bear years in just a few weeks.





Loosen the glue holding a joint by squirting it with vinegar. Loosen a tight screw by applying peroxide to it. Tight screws can also sometimes be loosenedby hitting the screwdriver with a rubber mallet; or by applying a red-hot poker to the head ofthe screw, then letting the screw cool before removal; or by using penetrating oil, first waitingfor it to work its way along the length of the screw. Tighten a loose screw by wrapping a bit of steel wool around the screw and screwing it back in. When screws work loose, or are removed permanently, fill the hole with a mixture of sawdustand glue. The mixture can be smoothed flat if the screw is not to be replaced, and gives thescrew a firm grip if it is to be replaced. Take the sag out of can chair seats by soaking down the cane which will cause it to shrink as it dries. Drawers that stick and jerk will open smoothly if you rub a little soap in the grooves in each side. Or, you can use an old candle to make the drawer runners slide more smoothly. Eradicate white spots on mahogany furniture by spreading a thick coat of Vaseline over the spots and letting it stand 48 hours before wiping off.

Hard to remove dirt on wooden floors can sometimes be gotten rid of by carefully rubbing with fine steel wool (#0000) moistened with turpentine.

Varnished surfaces can usually be cleaned nicely with a cloth dipped in cool, weak tea.

To remove the “foggy” appearance frequently found on high polished furniture, rub with the

grain of the wood, using a clean, soft cloth that has been dampened with liquid wax. Follow with polish.

To polish very old furniture use a mixture of two parts turpentine to one part of linseed oil, or equal parts of turpentine, linseed oil and vinegar. Apply with a soft cloth and rub. Polish with a dry cloth.

To make scratches “invisible” in mahogany and other dark wood, carefully go over them applying iodine, or lightly rub the scratches with a piece of cut walnut meat or Brazil nut meat.

To remove heat marks from a varnished or shellacked finish, dampen a cloth with spirits of camphor or essence of peppermint; dab on spot. Let dry thoroughly. Polish. If the surface is lacquered, rub with a paste of powdered pumice and linseed oil, in direction of grain. Polish.

Wicker furniture should be cleaned by scrubbing with a stiff brush moistened with warm salt water. Salt keeps the wicker from turning yellow.

Don’t use force with sticky drawers, or you may ruin a good piece of furniture. If possible, wait until dry weather makes it easy to open the drawer, then rub the surface that is sticking with soap, paraffin or stick lubricants. If this doesn’t solve the problem, the sticking edges may need to be sandpapered or slightly planed down.

A practical ounce of prevention that will keep painted furniture free of scratches and color fading is a thin coat of furniture wax applied to the surface. Makes cleaning easier too.

Dents can sometimes be removed by applying a hot iron to a damp cloth covering the dent.

Holes in wood can be filled with plastic wood stained to match the piece or with white,

all-purpose glue mixed with some sawdust from the piece.

Worms in wood can be killed by applying a liquid insecticide into the wormholes, but the wormholes themselves, unless they are dangerous to its strength, should be left to enhance the value of the piece.

Loose chair rungs can be a problem. If the chair dowels appear fairly tight in their holes, glue alone may secure them. Before you glue, however, remove any traces of old glue or you won’t get a bond. Resin-base carpenter glues usually will hold the best. Very loose rungs may require the expertise of a cabinetmaker. He will probably cut a slot in the end of the dowel and then partially insert a hardwood shim slightly shorter than the slot. When the rung is tapped into the hole, the shim is driven into the slot, expanding the end of the dowel.

Glue is then used, as well.

Blisters in veneer can be repaired by splitting the blister with a razor blade, applying white, all-purpose glue inside, then laying a sheet of wax paper over the blister and weighting it down with a very heavy object.

Water rings may be removed by rubbing them first with cigar ash, then with olive oil, removing the oil with naphtha, then re-waxing.

Does your piece of furniture really need refinishing? Before jumping into the job, try wiping the piece with a damp rag. If it still appears to need refinishing, try cleaning it up with a soft rag and turpentine, removing all signs of the old wax. If the piece now appears satisfactory, stop here and apply a new coat of wax. If this fails to produce a satisfactory result however, try rubbing the piece evenly with a soft cloth soaked in denatured alcohol. If this doesn’t smooth out the finish, try rubbing with a soft cloth and lacquer thinner. If one of these methods works, rub the entire piece down using that method, then use fine steel wool to smooth the surface and apply a new coat of wax. Should all of these methods fail to make the piece presentable it will be necessary to strip off the old finish.

You can replace a piece of bulging or missing veneer if you have better than average woodworking skills…and considerable patience. Here is an overview of how to do it. Purchase a piece of veneer of the same wood as the missing piece and with an approximately similar grain pattern. You replace mahogany with mahogany, etc. A tight grain pattern with a tight pattern, etc. Wood specialty stores will help. Next lay the veneer over the damaged section so that its edges overlap the undamaged veneer. Cut through the replacement veneer and the old veneer with a razor sharp knife.

If you do this correctly the replacement piece will perfectly fit the outline you have cut in the undamaged portion of the old veneer. The next step is tricky. You need to remove every bit of veneer and old glue from the entire area to be patched. Do this carefully and thoroughly, with whatever scraping instrument seems best suited. But the surface must be “clean” before you glue down the replacement. There are two ways to glue down the replacement veneer. The first is with contact cement. It is effective, but it leaves no room for errors. You must place the patch perfectly. Alternatively, use wood glue. Once the patch is in place, you need to roll it down. You can buy a special “veneer roller.” But a rolling pin from the kitchen works just as well. Then, for added adhesion, weight down the patch overnight. Stacks of books, placed carefully on a sheet of waxed paper, work very well. (This step probably isn’t necessary if you use contact cement.) There is one final step, refinishing. Chances are you’ll have to refinish the entire piece. Or maybe, after reading this, you’ll let a “pro” do the whole job.  Damp used tea bags or strong tea, left to stew after breakfast, and put onto a soft cloth, are great for darkening sun-damaged pieces of wooden furniture. It’s especially good with oak and mahogany. A few applications are necessary, and then varnish or polish as normal. This can also work with small scrapes and blemishes. Contributed by Lainey 



Gold can be cleaned with soap and water. An ammonia solution helps remove tarnish, or itcan be rubbed with jeweler’s rouge, which is a form of ferric oxide usually used as a pastewith water for polishing gold and silver.



Graniteware is an enameled coating on an iron base. Care should be taken not to scratch orchip the enameled finish, as the iron base will then be exposed to rust. Burned foods or otherforeign objects on graniteware can be loosened by putting a solution of one teaspoonful ofbaking soda and water into the utensil and allowing the solution to boil for 15 minutes. Thena gentle rubbing should remove the residue.



Objects made of horn should simply be cleaned with warm water.



To clean small pieces of iron, try soaking them in white vinegar for 24 to 48 hours. You’ll prevent the inside of your salt shaker metal tops from rusting or corroding if you paintit with ordinary nail polish. When the lacquer is dry, use a needle or small nail to re-open theholes from the inside out. For those items intended for food contact or cooking, careful attention should be given so thepiece will be safe to use, and at the same time, assume as closely as possible its originalappearance. (Years ago newly bought cast iron cooking wares were well greased with lard,put into the oven to heat-season, then wiped and stored in the cupboard away from dampnessuntil needed again. After using they were carefully cleaned, maybe oiled, and set back. In manyhomes, nevermore did the vessel touch soap or water. For normal rusting and/or heavyincrustations of grease, or where stripping is needed from a piece that has been painted, firstapply an oven cleaner; the alternative is to use a fine wire brush. Then, wipe carefully (paper towels recommended). Wipe with a light coating of mineral oil or a solid cooking shortening (some use salad oil). Bake in a low heat oven, 250 to 300 degrees F. for about 15minutes; another group advocates oven-baking for an hour at up to 450 degrees F.; this latter turning the iron even blacker. Finally, let cool, wipe carefully, and the piece is ready to use. Pieces only ornamentally intended, or to be used outside food contact (tools, sadirons, bookends, doorstops, etc), can be cleaned with steel wool or a fine wire brush, followed bya choice of: 1) wiping with mineral oil, 2) wiping with an antique- care product containing a good cleaning agent, or 3) spraying (not brushing) with a satin finish clear lacquer-type preservative. Sandblasting is appropriate only for very large iron objects. If steel wool is used, proceed carefully, as bearing down too hard could cause scratches. For very seriously pitted or badly worn iron collectibles, sometimes painting is the only answer to making them look presentable. On iron, a spray pint is more effective than a brush. Loosen a rusty screw by putting a drop of ammonia on it. Rust is the arch enemy of ironware. Wrought iron resists rust better than cast iron. Soak badly rusted articles in kerosene for 24 hours. Next, briskly rub off the loosened rust with a steel- wool pad. A brass-bristled brush will work more efficiently on pieces with embossed or raised designs or lettering. A steel- bristled brush may be used on larger, heavy items. There are modern commercial rust removers that do the job well. After the rust has been removed, scrub the item with a stiff brush, using hot sudsy water with a few drops of disinfectant. Towel dry and then air dry. When completely dry, coat lightly with salad oil. To preserve cooking pots and to lessen future rusting, coat with vegetable oil, linseed oil, or olive oil. Heat the coated article in a 250-degree oven for two hours. The iron will absorb most of the oil. Apply more oil as it becomes absorbed during the heating process. When this seasoning is completed, allow the utensil to cool and wipe off the excess oil with paper towels. The basic rules for the care of ironware are keep clean, dry thoroughly, and keep oiled.



Clean ivory by rubbing the item with lemon and salt and letting it sit in the sun. Old ivory has a soft yellow appearance that should not be bleached away. It can be cleaned witha damp sponge, but never soak it. If further cleaning is desired, try making a paste of whitingwith a solution of 1 part hydrogen peroxide and 4 parts water. Cover the object with the pasteand wipe it off when dry. Ivory can be cleaned with a pure liquid dish washing detergent (not dish washer) and spongebut prolonged soaking is not advised. A light coat of almond oil will protect pieces of ivory. To discover repairs on ivory pieces, use can use an ultraviolet or black light.



To clean silver, gold or diamond jewelry, soak it in a glass of vodka over night. Fine jewelry can be easily, and expensively, cleaned with a mixture of ammonia and water.Mix two-thirds water with one-third ammonia. Dip the jewelry items into the mix and move themabout vigorously. If there is stubborn dirt, a very soft toothbrush can be used in an attempt todislodge it. (Be careful not to loosen prongs on rings and other settings.) Caution: Do not usethe ammonia-water mix on pearls or stringed jewelry, such as pearls or beads. And don’t usewater of any type on emeralds.



Leather furniture can be cleaned by using saddle soap or mild soapsuds. Rinse with a dampcloth. Dry thoroughly with a soft, clean cloth. Follow with a leather conditioning dressing.Never use furniture polish, oil, varnish, shellac, wax, or even a treated duster on leather.



To clean the old lampshades made of metallic paper or genuine parchment apply a mixture of1 part turpentine and 10 parts mineral oil with a soft cloth. Wipe off gently but thoroughly. Crystal lamp bases sparkle after this treatment. Add a few drops of household ammonia to clearwater and apply with a soft cloth. Rinse with a water moistened cloth and polish until dry.



To whiten tea towels, boil them with lemon rinds. To properly maintain framed needlecrafts, you should vacuum them frequently to prevent dirtor dust buildup. Bleach will often do the trick with age-yellowing, however washing in hot suds and thenexposing  the item to direct sunlight sometimes helps, although this practice is beingquestioned by many experts that feel sunlight damages the fibers. Soaking items in cold water will usually remove bloodstains. For stubborn stains use asalt-water solution (1/4 cup salt to 2 cups water). Do not use hot water first; it may set thestain. When through, wash item in warm suds then rinse. To remove candle wax, first scrape off the excess wax then place the stained part betweenblotters and press with hot iron. Sponge with carbon tetrachloride. An ice cube can sometimes be used to get rid of chewing gum on fabric or carpet.

Grass stains can often be removed by rubbing with cooking fat or oil and then washing in hot water. Ink stains can sometimes be removed by soaking in cold water and then applying vinegar or lemon juice. Bleach remaining stains and rinse well. Wash items with mildew stains in hot suds, moisten with lemon juice and salt, and dry in the sun. If stain is old, bleach and rinse well. Scorch marks on old linens can sometimes be removed by simply moistening them and exposing hem to sunlight although it may need to be repeated several times. Normally bleach can reduce the sight of scorch marks, but again treatment may need to be repeated. Sheer curtains hang better and resist dust if lightly starched. Old “Candlewick” bedspreads will not be “de-tufted” if placed in a large sack or pillowcase when laundered in the washer. For several generations it was common practice to hand wash lace linens and doilies with water and bleach and to place them outside in the hot summer sun to dry. Experts are changing their mind on this topic. Now they are beginning to caution that hot sun can damage the fine fibers in lace. And they are beginning to endorse the notion that the fine yellow patina that unbleached lace develops is perfectly acceptable. Now, experts say, lace can be washed with a very mild detergent only. Excess water should be “patted” out of the fabric. The lace then should be allowed to dry on a towel.





(See Newspapers and Magazines)





Clean marble with soap and water, or with weak ammonia solution, or with carbonic acid. An oily substance spilled on marble should be cleaned up quickly. Blot the area with talcumpowder or plaster of Paris. Stains on marble can be removed with five-percent solution of oxalic acid, or with gasoline,or with alcohol, acetone or benzene. Use flammable cleaning agents outdoors. Broken pieces of marble may be glued back together using a glue composed of 4 parts gypsum(sulfate of lime) and 1 part gum arabic. Mix well and then add enough borax to make a thickpaste. This glue will need several days to set. For waxing marble use beeswax or paraffin. There are also some good commercial productson the market for waxing marble. This information was posted on our BB.We are not experts so the information is presented here as received.                                         

On marble, any kind of acid removes the shine. Oxalic acid is used by pro’s in conjunction with putty to re-polish marble. Used alone it DISSOLVES the surface. Vinegar is used to clean non-shiny marble. Please do everyone a favor and remove the acids advice. The best care for stone of any kind is keep it clean and buff it up. Use a mild detergent, then rinse well and buff. Beeswax is fine if you like sticky yellow marble. Carnauba wax over clean stone is best. You can bleach yellowed statuary with liquid bleach, since it is not acid. You may have to leave the bleach and water mix in for several days. OK! Jan the Marble Expert.

 This information was sent to us by e-mail on 4/13/03.We are not experts so the information is presented here as received.    If fine marble statuary is cleaned with ‘soap and water’ it will be ruined. Not only do certain soaps actually eat the surface of the stone, making it even more difficult to clean next time, the water will mix with the dust on the piece and create: mud. So, you will end up with an odd looking piece – dingy, with dark creases where the mud mix could not be removed. Maybe if you used a garden hose? (that was a joke 😉 I’m not a marble expert – just an archeologist. And I saw every statue at the Troy public library ruined with soap and water. It was amazing – I have *no* idea what the cleaning staff was doing. Dirt was literally ground into the pores of the stone – I have no idea what would have safely removed the muck at that point. Matte finish (Parian) marbles are the worst – leave them to the professionals!



(See Iron and Metal)




Old mirrors were made of thick glass. You can test the glass thickness of a mirror by placinga coin on the surface and judging the distance between the coin and its reflection. Remove paint splashes or specks from mirrors or glass by washing in turpentine, ammoniaor hot vinegar. Never use a razor blade.



You can sharpen scissors by cutting a piece of sandpaper several times with them. Never repaint old toys; this lowers their market value.



Don’t store your newspapers or magazines on bookshelves, especially oak or painted shelves.Keep them in “archival” boxes with lids. Stored magazines & newspapers should be placed in vinyl or Mylar bags (acid free). Store awayfrom sunlight or heat sources and away from areas where they can get dampness or highhumidity. (Attics and in basements are not the best places.)



Nickel-plated articles require little care. They should be washed in hot sudsy water, towel dried,and then gently polished to a shine with a soft towel or flannel cloth. Soiled or greasy spotsmay be rubbed lightly with a damp cloth and a small amount of cleanser. A final wiping off withalcohol, which evaporates quickly, will leave a smudgeless shine. To remove rust spots in nickel-plate, cover spot with oil or grease, let set several days, thenrub with cloth soaked in ammonia. This will remove the rust without harming the nickel- plate.Wash, dry well, and polish. Nickel silver or German silver may be made to shine by rubbing with a soap-filled finesteel-wool pad. Then polish with a good silver polish. Do not put nickel-silver articles in thedishwasher, as detergents will give the metal a greenish cast almost impossible to remove.



Wipe paintings with a soft, dry cloth to remove surface dust. If the painting is valuable,probably nothing more than this type of surface cleaning should be done by anyone except a professional. If a painting appears dirty, use a soft cotton cloth and rub the surface with turpentine,denatured alcohol or acetone. The following comes to us from one of our visitors: I am not claiming to be an expert, nor am I a professional restoration specialist. But I have had some experience in cleaning older paintings. As with any artist, I know I put my heart into my paintings and would be sad to see any piece of art ruined.If an OIL Painting appears dirty you “may” use turpentine, denatured alcohol or acetone. But this may also remove the varnish! I would not use these solutions on other mediums!!! If you are unsure as to the medium of your painting test a small spot first or contact a professional restoration specialist! Acetone, which is used in fingernail polish remover, can remove varnish and acrylic.For acrylic paintings I have had good luck with a solution of half vinegar / half warm water and a damp lint free cloth. Wipe gently. Followed by a final rinse with clean water and lint free cloth, then dry with a lint free cloth.A fresh coat of varnish is always a good idea (the painting must very clean before the varnish or any dirt or lint will be bound to the painting permanently). AND, again you must know the medium (oil, acrylic, casein?) as each medium has a varnish / finish that is best suited to it’s chemical make-up.Sincerely ~C. Theurer




Paper collectibles require special storage and are extremely sensitive to the effects of impropertemperature, humidity, light, acidity and even pollution. High temperatures (above 80 degreesFahrenheit) will accelerate chemical reactions that attack paper; if heat is combined with highhumidity (above 70 percent), mold will grow. If humidity is too low, however, many paper itemswill become brittle and crack. Don’t store paper collectibles in the attic! Keep your collectiblesin a room controlled by a thermostat and with air conditioning. Wearing cotton gloves when handling paper collectibles is not eccentric. The perspiration onour hands can leach onto the surface of a document and, over time, create a chemical reactionthat destroys the fibers of most papers. Cotton gloves absorbs perspiration and protects thepaper from stains and acidity. Remove creases and surface dirt from your paper collectibles before framing and displayingthem. Most maps, documents, books and papers can be cleaned lightly with “Opaline”, A non-abrasive cleaning agent handled by art supply stores. To clean a document, put on your cotton gloves, sprinkle the Opaline on the soiled document, rub erasures lightly in a circularmotion, and brush away soiled particles with a soft-bristled artist’s brush. Use a bone folder(also available at art supply stores) to unfold creased documents. Begin in the center of yourdocument and press the bone folder lightly, along the back of the crease in an outward direction and toward the edge of the paper. When your document is flat and clean, you’re ready to frame it. Never glue or tape your paper collectibles in an album or scrapbook. Adhesives leave permanent stains on paper and cause your collectibles to tear and break upon removal. If framing paper collectibles, use an acid-free mat. Mats prevent prints, photographs, document sand other items from contacting the frame’s glass. The precaution will reduce stress on the paper and provide extra protection against deterioration. If your find paper items infested with silverfish, crickets, etc. seal them in plastic bags and store them in the freezer for 72 hours. This will kill the vermin that eat and destroy paper. Keep all paper collectibles away from direct light and store them in acid-free materials. Acid-free folders and boxes–also known as archival materials–have a neutral pH of 7 and are sold by a number of companies.



Save a dried up ballpoint pen by holding a lighted match to the tip.



To clean pewter which is so easily scratched, make a paste of whiting and lemon oil and applyit with a soft cloth, rinse with hot water and polish with a dry, soft cloth. (Most antiquecollectors prefer a time-darkened, mellow finish on their old pieces of pewter.) Corroded pewter can be cleaned by polishing it with an electric buffer, or by rubbing it withcigar ash, or by applying a bathroom scouring powder with a kerosene rag, or by using veryfine (#0000) steel wood and kerosene.



Straighten a warped record by placing it between two sheets of glass and putting it in the sunto “bake”.



Remove spots from old photographs by adding a few drops of ammonia to a cupful of warmwater, dip a soft cloth into it, wring it out as dry as possible and gently wipe. Torn photographs can be carefully mended with archival-quality tape, placing the tape on thepaper side of the photograph, never to the emulsion side. Damaged daguerreotypes,ambrotypes or tintypes should be mended by a conservator. Tintypes may be carefully cleaned by washing with distilled water.



If your pottery piece is potentially valuable, it is wise to obtain professional advice rather thanattempting to clean the item yourself. Many chemicals, particularly salts, if used improperly, caneventually crystallize, damaging the item, particularly if it is glazed. Absorbent materials such aspottery will draw in cleaning materials/chemicals with long term harmful effects. Never usechlorine bleach, even in a diluted solution. It is safe to say that stable soft bodied glazedceramics/pottery can be quickly cleaned with a pure liquid dish washing detergent (not dishwasher) and sponge but prolonged soaking is not advised.



To remove a crease, dampen the back of the print and press it against a sheet of glass until dry. To repair a tear in a print, apply a small amount of paste made from starch and boiling water tothe back of the tear. Reddish brown “foxing” marks can sometimes be removed from prints by immersing the printin a strong solution of sodium chlorate and then quickly washing with water, or applying asolution of 1 part hydrogen peroxide and 1 part alcohol with a soft-bristled brush. Remove pencil marks or other blemishes with a soft art gum eraser or by carefully rubbing withbread crumbs.



Wash silver with soap and warm water, go over it with a silver cleaner and dry it completelywith a clean, soft towel. If the item is not completely dry, small dark spots can form. Occasionally, because of the porous nature of old silver, small white spots will appear onsilver after it has been re-planted. These spots are never present just after plating, but theysometimes appear days or even weeks later. Use ordinary silver polish to remove them. Silver can be cleaned with toothpaste in an emergency, but apply with your finger, neverwith a toothbrush. Always rinse items thoroughly to remove all toothpaste or polish. Never use lemon-scented dish washing detergent on silver; it spots. And, never use any metalcleaner not made specifically for silver. Never wash silver, brass and most other fine metal collectibles in the dishwasher. When storing silver, wrap large items in silver cloth and store in a zip-type plastic bag. Neverstore unwrapped silver in plastic bags or close plastic bags tightly with rubber bands. Also, use silver bags for flatware. Silver that is stored when not in use is easy to maintain, due to the fact that tarnish develops from exposure to sulfides (found in the air).

If you choose to display special silver or brass pieces in a china cabinet, you will find that a few well-placed camphor blocks and anti-tarnishing strips will lengthen the life of the shine!

Never store silver salt & pepper shakers for a long period of time with the salt and pepper remaining in the shakers. Salt is very corrosive and if left in shakers will cause pitting. Remove the salt and wash before storing.



Soapstone requires little care as it will not corrode and is non- absorbent. It will take a highpolish and responds well to an occasional rubbing with fine steel wool and ordinary householdcleanser. It may also be cleaned by rubbing with salt and a coarse cloth. A light sanding(carefully) restores the original color.



Your hand hair dryer is an excellent device for blowing the dust from intricate woodwork,delicate carvings or statuary and artificial flowers.




Never fold fragile old textiles. Instead, roll them onto a cardboard tube. Grease stains can sometimes be removed with alcohol, ammonia or carbon tetrachloride. Samplers can be cleaned with potato flour, dry, warmed in a double boiler, applied about1/4″ thick, then brushed off before it cools. Silk should never be cleaned with a flammable liquid because rubbing may result in a sparkand fire due to static electricity. By using a black light, you can discover patches in textiles and rugs.




All old tinware was actually tin-plated; sheets of iron were coated with pure tin to prevent theiron from rusting. Therefore, tinware should not be severely scoured or scratched, as the tincoating will then be damaged, allowing the iron underneath to rust. Accumulated grease maybe removed by soaking the piece in one quart of water in which one-fourth cup of washingsoda has been dissolved. If there are rust spots, which must be scoured off, do so as gentlyas possible.



To restore the sheen to a tortoiseshell box, rub it with a cloth dipped in lemon juice and salt.Rinse with cold water and dry. Sometimes rubbing yogurt on the shell will help.



Get rid of paint odors by adding a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract to a quart of paint. Old rotary beaters make great paint mixers and have many other uses as well.



The care of old woodenware can be quite simple. First scrub the article thoroughly with astiff-bristled brush and warm, sudsy water to which a few drops of an efficient householddisinfectant have been added. Absolutely, absolutely do not soak! Woodenware will warp outof shape if allowed to get soaking wet. Scrub quickly, but thoroughly. Place on wire racks,such as cake- cooling racks, set in the bottom of the sink. Quickly pour very hot water over thewoodenware. This sterilizes the articles and hastens their drying. Leave the articles on the wireracks in the open air to dry completely. When absolutely dry, rub utensils, such as ladles,wooden forks and spoons, briskly with a clean cloth soaked in salad oil. The articles may firstbe very lightly sanded if rough or splintery. Allow the oil to penetrate for 10 minutes; nowcompletely wipe away all excess oil with a clean cloth. Wooden bowls, after cleaning (see above), may be finished with a thin coating of melted,harmless beeswax or of paraffin wax such as is used in home canning. The wax is heated until just melted in a tin can set in a pan of boiling water. Use caution, as wax is flammable.Carefully pour the melted wax over the article so as to coat it completely and evenly with a thin layer of the protective wax.

To remove the odors of onions, garlic, etc. from your wooden shredders, bowls, or mortars, wash them quickly in baking soda dissolved in warm water.


One Reply to “Useful Tips and Hints for cleaning and repairing antiques”

  1. It was nice that you suggested mixing two parts of turpentine to one part of linseed oil to polish an antique furniture and be able to take care of it. Actually, what I have at home is an antique stove that needs to be repaired. My goal is to ensure that I won’t do anything that can make its damages to get worse, so I will make sure to find a professional antique stove repair company. I’ll be sure to follow your tips for my other antique items.

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