Antique Cleaning 101: A Guide for Beginners
Antiques last for a reason: they’re cared for! Whether it’s by accident or intentionally, that old dresser in your attic has stayed alive to this point due to a combination of proper care, suitable climate and a bit of luck. Like with your newer stuff, cleaning is an important ingredient in their long life. Here are some starter tips for cleaning your priceless antiques!
Antique wood often appears dull, as if it needs refinishing. That’s not always true: often under the grime there’s still a beautiful finish. Use the cotton ball test to determine how, or even if the wood needs refinishing. Techniques differ depending on the type of finish.
For cleaning, diluted dish soap works great. Never use straight water, as it can cause wooden joints to swell. If you need a bit more power, Murphy’s Oil is a good choice, but use it in small amounts. Use gentle swipes, and use steel wool – carefully – to remove stuck-on stains. A toothbrush works well for crevices and
The most common killer of vintage metal is rust. Thankfully, rust is also surprisingly easy to remove! White vinegar is the safest option, but can require several days of soaking and thorough scrubbing to completely remove. Stronger cleaners like CLR can help, but read the instructions carefully. Light surface rust can also be removed with sandpaper: start with a low grit, and finish with high grit to smooth it.
For routine washing, use a strong detergent like 409 and plenty of water. Some surface rust can appear after this, which can be quickly removed with a soft cloth dabbed with paint thinner.
Old fabric is particularly fragile! For loose linens, never use a washing machine, even on the gentle cycle. Soak it in cold water and mild soap, and maybe swish it around with your hands. Dry them on a thick towel away from the sun. OxiClean works great for stains.
For upholstery, the main enemy is dust. Use your ordinary vacuum attachment, but be gentle. For set-in stains, Tuff Stuff cleaner works great.
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