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Find cleaning and preservation techniques for your antiques.

Preserving and cleaning antiques requires special and, often, professional care. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Preserving and cleaning antiques requires special and, often, professional care.

Individuals should use great care when cleaning and preserving antiques. In fact, if an antique is a valuable collector's item, people should be wary of cleaning it at all. Many collectors prefer antique furniture in its natural state.

Guardsman FurniturePro recommends having antique furniture restoration professionals clean antiques if they must be cleaned. However, if individuals want to clean and preserve their own antique furniture, they should understand proper preservation and cleaning techniques to avoid inadvertently damaging the furniture.

Preserving Antiques

The term used for preserving antiques is "refurbishing." Antique furniture, especially wood, will split, crack and weather without refurbishing. However, refurbishing should not destroy the original characteristics of the antique.

Furniture Care Tips.com explains that antique furniture cannot be treated the same as other household furniture. For starters, it is important to keep antiques out of the sun. Antiques should also be kept out of the way of artificial temperature variations caused by stoves, heaters, air conditioning or other machines. Dehumidifiers are important in very humid conditions, because humidity can harm antiques. Waxing furniture will help preserve it.

When preserving antique furniture upholstery, it's important to consider a variety of elements, such as what will cause the least damage to the frame and what will remain in alignment with the original style of the piece, according to CINOA. It's best to consult a professional for a more complicated upholstery process, which involves attaching new webbing to the seat rail, filling it with stuffing and stitching and covering the chair.

Cleaning Antiques

The aging appearance of antique furniture is called "patina," explains From Times Past Ltd. The term "patina" is also used to describe the mellow aging of wood.

Although many collectors prefer patina pieces, if the item must be cleaned, certain techniques are used.

  • Removing wax. Wax cleaners and strippers, available at many hardware stores, can remove old wax buildup from antiques. People should wear gloves and masks when using wax cleaners and should only use them in a ventilated area.
  • Wiping the surface. The next step is to remove remaining wax cleaner from the furniture surface. Dish soap and water can be used to wipe the surface. Beaded water means there is still wax on the antique.
  • Touch up marks and scratches. Stain pens or wood-colored pens can be used to touch up marks and scratches on antique furniture.

Individuals should use a mixture of vinegar and water to clean undamaged wood, according to CINOA. They should use a soft cloth to wipe the antique furniture with warm clear water and should dry the furniture with a soft cloth.

Polishing Antique Furniture

After touching up stripped furniture, two coats of new, high-quality wax should be applied to the furniture. The wax should be left overnight to set.

Using furniture oils can damage antiques. Instead, high-quality paste wax is the preferred method for polishing antique furniture. According to Art & Antiques Online, wax should be beeswax based rather than a spray polish. Polishes with silicone also should be used annually with a soft cloth, cloth diaper or sock. Waxing too much can cause dullness.

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