November 18, 2017

It's one thing to have valuable collectibles and rare finds but it's another thing to ensure they stay in their condition. Preserving your memorabilia can be challenging if you're new to the collector community. There's lots of bad advice online and offline. 

So Muzeum went to the experts for this how-to column on cleaning and storing your prized possessions. We interviewed Karen Knapstein, print editor of Antique Trader Magazine, and John Sewell, an art and antiques appraiser based in Stratford, Ontario. 

Here are 6 ways to keep your antiques looking fantastic and surviving for decades:

1. Make room for the right temperature

If a collector or seller wants to store antiques, they should place them in areas of the home at room temperature, advises Sewell. "Avoid hot attics or damp basements," he stresses, noting how swinging climates in the home can damage vintage art, for example. 

2. Bright lights, big mistake

Antiques and heavy lights don't make a great partnership. Knapstein says both artificial and natural light can warp or damage vintage furniture (her specialty), especially wood items. "UV-blocking film for windows and UV filters for fluorescent lights can reduce those effects," she says. 

Art appraiser John Sewell.

Also, sunlight can be hard on leather. Knapstein suggests keeping "that cozy leather club chair out of direct sunlight and consider conditioning it with leather conditioner once or twice per year."

3. Polish smart

For items like wood furniture, Knapstein advises dusting weekly with a soft, dry cloth."If dusting no longer reveals the shine, then it's time to wax, which should only be necessary once or twice per year. Make sure you use a good-quality, natural product and follow the instructions, taking care to remove all the excess."

But don't clean if you don't have to, Sewell points out. For your precious jewellery, constant cleaning can wear away certain diamonds, like Sewell has seen with sterling silver.

4. Take some acid....acid-free tissue paper, that is

When Muzeum interviewed a military memorabilia insider last week, we learned how vital it is to use acid-free tissue paper for delicate items such as old letters and medals. Sewell agrees, mentioning how paintings, especially watercolours, are often sandwiched between that kind of paper while in transport, or in storage. 

5. Repair quick

If you start to see a chair's screw loosening and the leg is wobbly, don't forget about that crucial repair job, Sewell says. "The longer you wait, the more damaged that vintage chair will get," he adds.

It also makes sense to monitor your items closely, such as stored artwork or ceramics. Some thorough collectors have a written database of their items with reports of monthly check-ins on the status of their antiques and collectibles.

6. For rare toys, ditch washing

A rookie mistake for antique toy collectors is washing plush toys like teddy bears, Sewell has noticed. "If you accidentally wet an area that shouldn't be wet, you could loosen some glue, and maybe the bear's eye starts to come out," Sewell says, calling to mind quite a macabre image.

The next time you have antiques or collectibles worth preserving, bring up these tips to help you navigate the critical role of cleaning them effectively. Your antiques will thank you.

If you missed our recent blog post on how to clean yourjewellery, go here.


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