Caring for Treasured Keepsakes

Caring for Treasured Keepsakes

By Brenda Hyde

and Eileen Titterington

Caring for family keepsakes can be a tricky process, especially if you are now cleaning a treasure that was buried in Grandmother's attic for years and needs more than just a simple dusting. We have gathered tips both from personal experience and advice given to us over the years. We hope you can use this as a guide to caring for your collectibles.

Furniture Care

Before you refinish a very old piece of furniture try cleaning it first with a little soap and water using 0000 fine steel wool to get all the old wax off, don't rub too hard , make sure you dry it all off with clean rags.After it is dry apply a coat or two of good paste wax, follow the directions on the can of wax that you use. Always keep in mind that with very old furniture you detract from the value of it if you refinish it unless it is not the original finish.

Oil Lamps

To clean old oil lamp bases you can try warm soapy water at first, but if the residue is stubborn try putting crushed ice along with canning salt. Shake, and it removes the residue. In a pinch you can use regular salt, but the canning salt is much courser.

Musty Paper Collectibles

To rid paper collectibles such as magazines, pamphlets or sheet music of a mildew or musty smell enclose the item in a closed container such as a plastic storage tub with a lid. You can sprinkle baking powder directly on the item and keep it enclosed for a few days. Check the smell, and repeat if necessary. A less messy method is to place dryer sheets around the item, not on it, and enclose.

Collectible Books

Collectible books are more valuable with the dust jackets, however they can become brittle and torn through the years. If you have a book you are handing down in the family look into covering it with a special plastic covering for the jacket. Brodart has many archival supplies and you can request a free catalog at their website: Brodart: Archival Supplies.

Brass Collectibles

Clean with a solution of either ammonia and water, or salt and vinegar. Rinse well after cleaning and then polish.


Clean with a damp sponge or with a mixture of ammonia and water. Hydrogen peroxide OR a solution of bleach and water may help remove stains.

Remember that you do need to be very careful with your collectibles. Often attempts at restoration will detract from the value. If you have something that you feel needs to be restored contact a professional or research your options carefully.

About the Authors:

Eileen Titterington helps to run T's Old Things, which sells collectible book and antiques. Brenda Hyde is editor of Seeds of Knowledge


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