Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spring Cleaning for Antiques and Vintage

 It's spring cleaning time, even if the weather is still much too cold to do much outside cleanup. We did get the garage straightened up yesterday after we got home from an awesome auction. More about that in a later post. What I want to talk about here is cleaning.

I am not referring to the usual housecleaning. What I mean is cleaning that is more difficult, trickier, and that can restore a vintage or antique piece back to something near its former glory.

In my cleaning closet are some things you might not expect, along with some old standards. I'll be mentioning brand names, something I don't often do, because sometimes those brands are the only ones that do the job as I want it done.

To start with, the "usual suspects." Lemon oil is a given, as is Olde English Scratch Remover oil. Both give instant life to dull wood furniture and I think they feed the wood too. There's a can of Minwax paste wax to give the final finish to many furniture items, including the painted ones--it seals the paint and protects it from bumps and scratches. You'll also find Windex for the mirrors, glass and even for some dishes that are really grubby. Dawn dishwashing liquid beats the others all hollow in my book for really cleaning and disinfecting. Then there is Wright's cream polish for silver, and another for brass. Both do a great cleaning job--and Wright's silver cleaner can also remove some rust stains from china and glass. Goo Gone is another standard, great for removing labels and sticker residue, along with just general cleaning of a small item. And of course, Brillo or SOS soap pads for tough cleaning on things that can take their abrasive action. A scrubby for pots, scrub brushes of all kinds, and a bag of rags are essential. I seldom buy or use paper towels, although I know many people consider these a standard for cleaning too.

I also have a tube of toothpaste in my cleaning supplies; you can read about what I use it for in this post. Right up there with toothpaste is fingernail polish remover--this is awesome for all kinds of uses, including removing paint spots, cleaning off residual lacquer on brass and silver, removing magic marker from glass, and even getting white moisture spots off of wood finishes. Clorox 2 can help remove the brown stain that sometimes gets under crazed glaze on china pieces and is great for cleaning linens.

There are some websites that are amazingly useful when working with old and vintage items. I have posted a link before to the Vintage Tablecloth Club's cleaning guidelines before on cleaning old linens. I am still waiting for a sunny, warm day to try some of the tips on this page but I feel confident I will have good luck because the owner of this site has been restoring old linens for years. I am hopeful of success, especially with this cloth I bought even though it was stained because I loved its faded look.

I recently found a For Dummies website with excellent information for removing those heartbreaking water stains on wood furniture. I tried his methods just this morning, and they worked beautifully. We got a lovely Duncan Phyfe drop-leaf table at the auction for a very low price, probably because of the water stain that left a big white spot on the table top. I knew these could be removed so today I went looking for a way to do that. I tried his step one method first, a rub with lemon oil. That didn't work so I went to step 2, using mayonnaise. No luck. Then petroleum jelly. Still no sign that the spot was coming out. Finally I tried his suggestion for using paint thinner (but since I had none in the house, I used my handy nail polish remover. Voila! The white spot is gone.

Now I have rubbed the table down with scratch remover polish, and it is ready to wax.

Another recent find was a site called How to Clean Stuff.Net that has good advice on getting those horrible brown stains out of crazed china. I have passed up many pieces because of such stains and thought it was impossible to remove them. I am trying two of the recommended methods today (one is using toothpaste-on the ; the other, above, is my variation on using tissue soaked with a non-bleach whitener--I'm using Clorox 2) on a pretty blue and white casserole dish that was in one of those $2.00 auction lots. I can already see some progress. I have a long way to go, but even if the stains don't come out, this dish will be a keeper because it has such a great shape and style about it.

I've probably forgotten a few but these are my go-to items and websites. I bet you have some tips and tricks to add to this list. Please share if you do because we can all benefit from sharing the knowledge picked up by trying and doing.

Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


momalizzie said...

These are great suggestions, I'm going to try the method for removing yucky brown spots on some Spode casserole dishes I have. I use rubbing alcohol on permanent marker, it takes it off almost immediately. I also use a Vinegar based Windex cleaner for getting grime and sticky off of glass. It works quick and leaves a pretty product. I don't have alot of time at the store to clean the donations, but I still try to sell a clean one. Thanks G-Sue!

Nance said...

I'm going to try the finger nail polish remover on my 40's dining room table -- the white spots. I've tried the mayo and everything else. SOS, vinegar, Goo Gone and Windex are my staples. And baking soda w/vinegar. And don't forget the elbow grease!

Granny Sue said...

Liz, I don't think I've ever used rubbing alcohol but that makes sense. It might have to be added to the cleaning supplies!

Granny Sue said...

Nance, try it on a tiny spot first-it is a lacquer remover, so it could take off the varnish too. It worked on this table. I have a small spot on my oak table that I may try it on too. Nothing else has worked on that either.

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