A tip on how to clean antiques could be a tip that covers how to clean everything. After all, anything can be an antique once it gets old enough. However, since that seems a little ambitious, we’ll just cover some broad basics. Here are some guidelines to follow when cleaning antiques of different materials. We recommend consulting a professional if you are cleaning something very old, highly valuable, or are unsure how the piece will react to the cleaning.
Ah, plastic. You can pretty much clean it the same way in its 100th year of existence as in its first. Dampen a soft cloth with warm water and wipe the plastic antique piece. Dry immediately with another soft cloth. Clean antiques make a statement, even if made out of plastic.
How you clean wood depends on its finish. Check out our How to Clean Wood Cleaning Tip where we break down finish types and how to clean them.
As far as antiques go, experts say leave the wood alone as much as you can. You can refinish your wood to make it look nicer and newer, but it often loses much of its value. Avoid using oil on antique woods. The wood can soak up the oil, which will oxidize and then turn black. AWax, however, is usually fine.
Wash antique silver with mild detergent and water. Do not use heat or harsh detergents as these will whiten your silver. Letting the silver air dry will leave spots on the piece, so wipe the silver dry after cleaning. If you need to remove tarnish, check out our How to Clean Silver Cleaning Tip where we tell you how.
Consider hiring a professional cleaner to bring leather antiques back to life. If you choose to clean the leather at home, hand washing is best. Before washing, remove any stains first. A good way to do this is with rubbing alcohol and a cotton ball. Test how your leather reacts to this method in an inconspicuous spot on the piece.
For general cleaning, mix together warm water and a mild cleaner, like baby shampoo. Get the water frothy and use the suds and a soft cloth to wipe the leather. Rinse the leather a cloth dampened with just water. Allow the leather to air dry.
For antiques, the definition of “clean” is not always the same as it is for non-antique items. Chips, wear, patinas, faded paint, and other things we would usually consider blemishes can be seen as part of the character of an antique. When you are cleaning antique, know whether you are trying to keep the item as close as possible to its original state or want it to look like new. Your goals for the piece will affect your cleaning methods. We recommend consulting a professional whenever you are in doubt about cleaning an antique.