To clean or not to clean, that is the question

One of the oldest questions in collecting is when to clean—or not to clean—an item.

Sometimes an item’s value will go up if it is cleaned, and other times the items value will go down.

Some items are perfectly fine to clean.  Costume jewelry, glassware, pottery, clothing from the 1970’s or the 1980’s, and even graniteware are perfect for this area.  A little research can go a long way with these items, though.  You need to find out what can and can’t be used on an item; cleaner can potentially do damage that can’t be undone.  Things like graniteware can be cleaned with oven cleaner, while cheap costume jewelry can be cleaned with toothpaste that has baking soda in it.  Even Alka-Seltzer can be used to clean jewelry.

There are some items that you should take to someone that knows what they are doing when it comes to cleaning.  Artwork, antique books, pricy jewelry (pieces that feature precious stones like diamonds), quilts or antique clothing, and quilting samplers are items that fall in this category.

When it comes to old furniture, silver, gold, modern coins, brass or even copper, make sure that these don’t get cleaned.  The best way to ruin the value of these items is to get out the cleaner.  Patina on these pieces is a great thing to have; it helps prove an items age and provenance.

A great way to start is to get an appraisal of the item.  This way you know what you have.  If the item is in fact valuable and in the need of a cleaning, you could ask the appraiser for a recommendation.

I think the best rule of thumb is that if you have any doubts about cleaning an item, don’t!  Once the original finish is gone, there’s no getting it back.

Have you ever cleaned an item that you wished you hadn’t?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.