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
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
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