clean antique

How to Properly Clean Antique Pieces

I’ve found that generally if a client of mine wants to steer clear of antique pieces it’s usually because they don’t want to deal with the maintenance of said antique. What many of them don’t know is that cleaning antique pieces is easy peasy. I personally think that maintaining a clean antique requires a lot less maintenance than most contemporary pieces. Antiques may have layers of grime due to years of exposure to dust, dirt, and pollutants. While that is the case, you can restore and properly clean antique pieces in no time.  


How to clean antique upholstery

My mother has some really lovely heirloom pieces of upholstered furniture that she refuses to get reupholstered. She takes such good care of these pieces that she really doesn’t need to get them reupholstered, but the color scheme is a little dated.  

When it comes down to cleaning antique upholstery, all that is really needed is regular vacuuming. Using a vacuum hose attachment and a low suction, vacuum upholstered pieces to guard against pests and dust build-up. Apart from an occasional spot cleaning, there’s not much more that goes into having a clean antique upholstered piece. 


How to clean antique wooden furniture 

The biggest factor that goes into establishing a clean antique wooden piece is “feeding” the wood. Feeding the wood simply means to condition the wood with polish.  

Put a very small amount of a high-quality, beeswax-based polish on a soft cloth. Moving in small circular motions, sparingly apply the wax. If possible, apply the wax at night and dust with a clean duster the following day. Waiting several hours will allow the wax to penetrate and nourish the wood. You only need to wax once every few months and dust regularly.  

Side note: If you are cleaning a wooden dining room table, use a soft damp cloth that is well wrung out to spot clean. Allow the wood to dry completely and then polish with the wax. 


How to clean antique china 

Cleaning antique china is most likely the fussiest of the bunch … and to be frank, it’s not all that finicky! Ideally, you’d clean antique china the same way that you’d clean all of your dishes, with a few precautions.  


First, make sure that you have a soft towel or mat at the bottom of your sink in the event of a drop. Partially fill your sink with warm, not hot, water. Add a very small amount of mild detergent to the water and mix until suds form. Using a soft cloth, gently wash dishes. Avoid scrubbers and abrasives as it can damage your china. Allow your china to air dry or hand-dry with a microfiber cloth.  

Whatever you do, don’t clean antique china in the dishwasher! The heat from the dry cycle can crack your china. 

Side note: If you are cleaning china with a silver rim, be sure to occasionally use a silver cleaner. Make sure that you use gloves when handling silver cleaner!  


Maintenance and monitoring your environmental conditions


Congrats! You now have clean antique pieces! Maintaining clean pieces is primarily regular dusting. With that said, you also have to be mindful of the environmental conditions that your antique pieces are in. Sunlight, excess humidity, central heating, and pollutants can all impact organic materials like wood, leather, and fabric. Avoid placing your antique pieces in direct sunlight, try to maintain a humidity level between 50 to 55 percent, and attempt to keep the temperature as consistent as possible. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity can really damage the state of your antiques over time. 


With all of that said, I am not an antiques professional, these are just what I’ve found has worked for me. If you have any doubt at all in terms of cleaning and maintaining your antique pieces, it won’t hurt at all to consult an antiques expert. It’s kinda what they do! 


Happy antiquing! 

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