12 Simple Yet Crucial Tips to Care for Antiques Like a Conservator

This is a must-read for safeguarding the longevity of your cherished heirlooms.

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Brace yourself for some essential, game-changing tips to clean and store antiques like a preservationist. Remember, caring for antiques is about regular maintenance and prompt action when issues arise. A little bit of care can go a long way in preserving these pieces of history for future generations.

1
Maintain a Cool Atmosphere

First thing first—temperature control is so important when you care for antiques. Antiques detest extreme heat or cold as it can cause wood to shrink or swell, leading to cracks. So, ensure your antiques aren’t placed near radiators, fireplaces, or in direct sunlight.

2
Bid Farewell to Dampness

Since we’re still talking about climate control, let’s talk about antiques and moisture. Bad combo! Dampness can lead to mold and mildew, causing damage. Ensure your antiques are stored in dry, well-ventilated areas.

3
Limit Light Exposure

Prolonged exposure to light, especially direct sunlight, can cause antiques to fade or discolor. Use curtains or blinds to protect your antiques when not on display, or consider using UV-protection film on windows.

4
Dust Regularly, But Gently

Antiques don’t appreciate dust, but careful—harsh cleaning can scratch the surface. Always use a soft, lint-free microfiber cloth.

5
Avoid Abrasive Cleaners

Steer clear of abrasive cleaners and materials which could scratch or damage the surface of your antiques. Use gentle cleaners specifically designed for antiques, like a natural plant-based all-purpose cleaner. Use a small amount of product and test a small inconspicuous spot before cleaning the antique.

WARNING

Items like hand-painted ceramics, gold gilt items, wood antiques, textiles, paper-based materials like books or manuscripts, and antique metal objects should not be cleaned with water as it can cause fading, tarnishing, rust, or even structural damage.

6
Polish Wood Furniture

After you clean wood antiques, they will benefit from a good quality wood polish and conditioner. It offers shine and adds a protective layer. Apply sparingly and always buff in the direction of the wood grain. Also, in most cases, you should never paint antique furniture.

7
Handle With Care

This tip might seem obvious, but antiques can be delicate, so always handle with care. The last thing you want is to break a leg off your great-grandmother’s prized end table. Lift from sturdy parts and ditch rings or sharp jewelry when handling. Safety first!

8
Do Regular Check-Ups

Just like us, your antiques need regular check-ups too. Keep an eye out for any signs of damage or wear and address them promptly to prevent further damage. For example, delaying maintenance on wood furniture can lead to untreated cracks expanding and compromising the item’s structure, potentially turning a minor repair into an extensive restoration project.

9
Protect From Pests

Insects such as beetles and termites can harm wood antiques, while moths can damage vintage textiles. Keep a close eye on your collection for any signs of pests and address the issue promptly to prevent serious damage.

10
Ensure Proper Storage

If you need to store your antiques, make sure they are properly packed and protected. For example, when storing antique books, photos, and papers, use acid-free materials for packing. Do not stack heavy items on top of delicate antiques.

11
Insure Your Antiques

Consider insuring your collection. In case of damage or loss, insurance can help cover the cost of repair or replacement. If you’re unsure if your antiques are valuable enough for insurance, appraise them first or get a free appraisal online.

12
When in Doubt, Seek Professional Help

For significant repairs or restorations, always call in the experts. Professional conservators and antique dealers have the right knowledge and tools to care for antiques. Don’t risk DIY and end up causing more harm.

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