Spring cleaning has its drawbacks and its advantages.

The drawbacks are many, as no one really enjoys house cleaning all that much. But for art and antiques collectors, spring cleaning offers a great opportunity to review the condition of art, collectibles, and vintage objects.

Deciding to repurpose items can result from a good cleaning spree, too. Identifying what to keep and what to sell can be the benefit of spring cleaning and so can making new display areas within your home.

Here are some tips when it comes to spring cleaning your art and antiques:


1. Don’t be too hasty to clean an oil-on-canvas painting. On my video-call appraisals, I can’t tell you the vast number of collectors who want to clean their antique and vintage oil paintings.

Many paintings don’t need to be cleaned. Paintings will darken over time, but cleaning paintings may not be the solution. For instance, if a painting only has minor evidence of surface dirt or dust and it has no evidence of yellowing varnish, leave the painting alone.

Never clean a painting using soap and water, an early-1900s technique, because this process will dry out the pigment and the canvas. It will lead to pigment flaking and serious damage over time.

If you still want to clean a painting, contact a professional art-restoration service.


2. Don’t be overzealous when cleaning sterling silver pieces like tea sets, trays, water pitchers, picture frames, and candlesticks. This goes for silver-plated items, too.

When cleaning silver or silver plate, you are basically rubbing off a layer of the metal’s sheen. So, don’t polish your silver too often. Try to polish sterling silver and silver-plate items no more than every six months.

Use appropriate white-cotton cloths and recommended silver or silver-plate polish. They are different, so don’t use silver polish to polish silver plate and vice versa.

Be gentle when polishing silver plate so you don’t rub the silver off to the point where the under metal — usually copper — is showing through the silver plating. Flatware of sterling silver should be placed in a protective storage box when not in use.


3. Crystal and glass items require special care when cleaning. Crystal is supposed to be very clear and attractive when compared to glass items.

For cloudy vases or bowls, use equal parts of white vinegar and distilled water, and wash the crystal or glass object very gently. Try to avoid using any harsh chemicals or cleaning agents on any of your antique items.

Do not submerge any glass or crystal item into standing water that is too cold or too hot, as this “shock to the system” may result in cracking your item upon impact.

Be sure to keep vintage and antique glass items away from other items that may damage them, and never put them in the dishwasher.


4. The tools you use during spring cleaning of your art or antiques are just as important as the cleaning agents and techniques. Cloths that do not leave textile or cotton residue behind are the desirable choice. Q-tips or cotton swabs can be very helpful to get into those tight places.

And, don’t forget to do your cleaning of fragile collectibles while seated at a table when you are well rested and have plenty of time for the task. Happy spring cleaning!


Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning media personality Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide and appears on History channel’s The Curse of Oak Island and Pawn Stars Do America. Visit DrLoriV.com, watch her Real Bargains show on YouTube.com/DrLoriV, or call (888) 431-1010.

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