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Art & Furniture Care

Art & Furniture Care



This guide to the care & maintenance of fine art & antiques has been specially
prepared as a courtesy to Conservation & Design International Care & Maintenance
Program Clientele

Preventative maintenance is the best way to preserve the integrity of any valued possession.
Through awareness of the points in which a piece is at its most vulnerable, a collector may
take the proactive steps necessary to protect their valued collection. Our plan will review the
handling, environment, and cleaning of an antique or art object, and present the issues
that a collector must consider to ensure the longevity of their collection.

Bernacki & Associates, Inc. - SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR FINE ART & ANTIQUES


Assess the Stability of the Piece to Be Moved

The first point in safe handling of an old or valuable piece is to make sure it is stable enough
to be moved. Fragile and loose pieces or areas will need to either be secured or avoided.
Depending on a piece’s value or type of instability, there may be work to be done before
moving in order to insure its safety. You may need a specialist to assess the instability
or stabilize the problem areas first.

loose or broken arms Check all furnishings for loose or broken arms, legs, detached moldings, carvings,
or any part at risk of detaching or becoming unstable—any potential hazard to the stability
of the piece during a move.

lifting or loose pieces and areas Check finishes for lifting or loose pieces and areas. This is especially crucial for
hand-painted, gilded, and any finish with a gesso ground.

Check pieces of sculpture or exposed areas of extended decoration for loose or broken

broken arms or handles Check all ceramics and serving ware for broken arms or handles.

parts that are supposed to detach or slide out Check all parts that are supposed to detach or slide out. On furniture, this includes
drawers, doors, slide-out surfaces, shelves, etc. On ceramics & serving ware, this includes
lids & interior pieces. All of these moving pieces need additional consideration & planning to
be secured or removed before moving.

areas of delamination Check any layers for areas of delamination. This is especially true for veneers or other
types of inlay. Problem areas need to be secured or avoided.

Dry Run Your Route and Method

Before you pick up an old or valuable piece, make sure you know how you are going handle
it, what your route will be while moving the piece, & where you are going to place it.

avoid all fragile areas Decide where and how you are going to place your hands in picking up the piece to avoid all fragile areas.

Decide whether you will need gloves Decide whether you will need gloves. All objects or finishes that will be damaged by the
oils on your fingers (or by the cleaning required to remove the fingerprints) should be handled
with gloves. Sliver, ceramics, and high-gloss finishes are in this category. Extremely heavy
slippery pieces should not be handled with gloves.

Remove all loose objects that are not part of the piece. Remove all loose objects that are not part of the piece. Remove all objects from the top
of tables, all heavy or sharp objects from inside of drawers, pillows from furniture, etc.

Make sure your entire route is free of obstacles. Make sure your entire route is free of obstacles and sufficiently wide for your piece.
Do not pick up a valuable piece and then find yourself caught in a bind or corner.

Actual Moving of the Piece

Always pick up and carry a piece by holding and supporting it underneath its center of Always pick up and carry a piece by holding and supporting it underneath its center of
gravity. For a chair, this means holding it underneath the seat rails, not by the arms or back.
A table should not be picked up by the top but by the lowest part of the frame possible.
A figure sculpture should not be picked up by the arms or head but by the base with a hand
farther up to steady it. A painting should not be picked up by the top of the frame or any part
of the canvas or stretchers, but rather with one hand underneath the bottom frame stretcher,
with the other hand on one of the side frame stretchers.

If you pick up a piece and you cannot see where you are going, a second person will be If you pick up a piece and you cannot see where you are going, a second person will be
needed either to help carry or to direct.

keep your hands to the outside When carrying a valuable piece, if possible, keep your hands to the outside, using your
knuckles to buffer any possible collisions, rather than risk damaging the edges of the piece.

make sure the piece can withstand If you are transporting a piece in a moving vehicle, make sure the piece can withstand
the vibrations. Tables with thin legs or pieces that are top-heavy may need to be turned
upside-down or sideways.


If your old or valuable possession needs to be moved outside of your house or building, it will
usually need to be protected by wrapping or crating. Crating of antique objects should be done
by experienced specialists. Objects that should be crated are extremely valuable irreplaceable
pieces, very top-heavy pieces, many types of sculpture (especially stone), paintings, works
on paper, framed objects, most things with glass or mirrors, etc.


Crating is probably not necessary for most antique objects. Proper wrapping with the correct
materials is usually sufficient. It must be remembered that what is proper for new furniture
and objects is often extremely bad or problematic for antiques.

If a cloth pad is put over loose or lifting veneer, gesso, or many other types of finishes, the pad can catch on edges and tear off crucial parts of your piece. While cloth pads are proper for new furniture, they should not be used directly on old
pieces unless you are absolutely positive there are no loose or lifting structural pieces or
finishes. If a cloth pad is put over loose or lifting veneer, gesso, or many other types of
finishes, the pad can catch on edges and tear off crucial parts of your piece.

Antique objects with fragile surfaces need to be covered first with plastic before additional wrapping. Antique objects with fragile surfaces need to be covered first with plastic before additional
wrapping. Furniture bags may be obtained from upholstery shops or Bernacki & Associates.
Cheap trash bags of poor quality should be avoided as they can let off gas fumes that may
damage fragile finishes and materials. Antique objects should never be sealed airtight in
plastic or stored for any substantial length of time in plastic.

Fragile pieces that may suffer losses in transportation should be wrapped in a bag. Fragile pieces that may suffer losses in transportation should be wrapped in a bag with
the open end at the top so any detached pieces will be caught in the bag. Detached pieces
of veneer or gesso can possibly be reattached, thus avoiding expensive infills and loss of
historic integrity.

Gesso Many elements, such as carved or raised decoration, cannot take the weight of a moving
pad and will break off or crack. Many mirror and picture frames have wood, gesso,
or composition extensions that are very fragile. Figure sculptures with extended arms, hands,
fingers, or legs often present a problem. Antique furniture often has carved wood extensions
that can snap, crack, or loosen under the pressure of a cloth pad.

Extremely fragile pieces need to be protected by foam wrap or bubble wrap. Extremely fragile pieces need to be protected by foam wrap or bubble wrap, if possible.
Some pieces are so lightweight & fragile that they cannot even take the pressure of
bubble-wrap or foam and have to be carried by hand with minimum wrapping.

Shrink-wrap should always be used around fragile finishes instead of adhesive tape. Shrink-wrap should always be used around fragile finishes instead of adhesive tape.
Shrink-wrap will only stick to itself and will not damage fragile pieces or finishes if the packing
slips. Adhesive tape should never be used around lifting finishes and never on gilded objects,
as it will pull off large sections of surface finish. Shrink-wrap may also be used to build up
additional layers of protection on corners and edges.

paintings If paintings are not crated, they need to be protected by cardboard with an open space
separating the canvas and the cardboard. Plastic or foam can also be used between the
cardboard and canvas, but never use a cloth pad directly over a painting because the pad
can sag against to canvas and cause deformation.

loose pieces All loose pieces such as doors, drawers, swing-out legs, flip-top tables, roll-top tables,
drop-down writing surfaces or secretaries, need to be secured prior to or throughout the
wrapping process. Shrink-wrap is very good for this.

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Bernacki & Associates, Inc. -  SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR FINE ART & ANTIQUES


The second important consideration for maintaining an antique object is the environment it is kept or placed in. While moving an object opens the door to immediate damage, a piece’s environment can cause gradual and long-term catastrophic damage. Often this long-term damage is larger, more systemic to the entire piece, and more difficult to treat because it is usually not so localized. There are four main factors in the environmental envelope surrounding an antique object: light exposure, temperature and humidity fluctuations, air pollution or air-born particulates, and pests.

Light Exposure

Light is a form of energy that will break down all organic materials. Light, both natural and
artificial, causes emulative and irreversible damage to finishes, wood, color, textiles, etc.
Since the effect is cumulative, a long exposure at low levels is equal to a short exposure
at high levels. Because most antique objects are made of organic materials that already have
been exposed to years of exposure, you must control and limit the future exposure in order
to maintain a pieces integrity and longevity.

Light comes in three types:

Ultraviolet - UV light is the most energetic & ultimately the most destructive to your antique
objects. UV light has the shortest wavelength and is found in the invisible lower part of the
spectrum below blue. It does nothing to help in your viewing of an object. Some ways to limit
UV exposure are:
Filters Filters – These can be placed at the source of the light, on windows or lights, or in front or around the object – through filtered glass or plastic sheets.
Painted Surfaces Painted Surfaces – These surfaces, especially when painted white, absorb a lot of UV
light. Reflected (diffused) light can also be very good for illuminating glossy surfaces and other
difficult to light objects.
Use Lights With Low UV – Incandescent lights give off the lowest amount of UV,
halogen and florescent give off a much higher amount, and natural light contains the most.
The ideal situation for very sensitive objects is incandescent lighting with UV filters and no
direct natural light.

Infrared Light – Infrared is contained within the invisible part of the spectrum above red.
Infrared light has the longest wavelength and while less damaging than UV, it can cause heat
build up that can lead to deterioration. Sunlight has the most infrared, incandescent less,
and florescent the least. Since temperature build up is the biggest problem with infrared,
the best way to minimize damage is to avoid direct sunlight whenever possible and make
sure artificial lights are far enough away from objects. A common problem is lights that attach
directly to the frames of paintings. Another possible problem area is having lights contained
within an enclosed space such as a display case. This may also lead to extreme dryness.

Visible Light – Visible light makes up the middle of the spectrum. It is potentially more
damaging on the lower end of the spectrum nearer blue where it is of shorter, more energetic,
wavelength. Sunlight and full spectrum florescent light is more damaging than incandescent.
UV filtered natural light can still be more damaging than incandescent. Always remember that
the effects are cumulative – so you must reduce the overall exposure. Some ways to help
protect against damage from visible light are:

Make sure the most sensitive pieces and finishes receive the least amount of direct light Make sure the most sensitive pieces and finishes receive the least amount of direct light
as possible. Paper, textiles, baskets, and wax will be more susceptible than oil paint and
wood, which will be more affected than most ceramics, metals, or stone.

Monitor the light exposure in your environment throughout the day Monitor the light exposure in your environment throughout the day, as well as with the
changing seasons and weather. A certain placement may receive direct exposure for only
a short period per day or season, therefore, you may only need to make sure a blind or drape
is pulled during this time.

Use reflected or diffused light whenever possible in your placement or lighting designs Use reflected or diffused light whenever possible in your placement or lighting designs.

Move or rotate antique objects when possible. Move or rotate antique objects when possible. If you have an identical set of objects,
such as chairs, do not keep them in the same positions and combinations. If an object does
not have a specific front or back, rotate it so that one surface does not receive the majority
of the exposure. Since it is inevitable that antique objects will change through light exposure,
try to spread that exposure over different pieces in your collection and over different surfaces
on an object.

Temperature & Humidity Fluctuations

While light can be extremely damaging - especially to color, tonalities, and finishes – the most
structurally damaging environmental elements are extreme fluctuations in the temperature and
humidity. When controlling the environment for an antique object, you must consider
temperature and humidity separately and, most importantly, in combination.

Temperature – Temperature extremes and fluctuations alone can cause damage and deterioration to antique objects. High temperature can accelerate chemical changes in chemically unstable materials such as photographs and paper. Temperature alone can cause expansion and contraction in many materials that can lead to layers delaminating and joints loosening. But while temperature alone can cause problems, it is in combination with humidity that leads to the most serious deterioration.

Humidity/Relative Humidity – While the moisture in the air is the most damaging
environmental element to your antique object, it is impossible to approach humidity without
combining it with the temperature. To understand this, we must define some terms:

Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air.

Absolute Humidity is the actual amount of humidity in the air independent of the

Relative Humidity (RH) is the percentage of water vapor in the air compared to what air
can hold at 100 percent (full saturation) at a given temperature. Warmer air can hold more

This means you don’t need to have an increase in the amount of moisture in an environment
to cause problems with moisture sensitive materials. A drop in temperature will cause the air
to be able to hold less moisture. If there is an excess of moisture in the air when that
temperature drops – that moisture will have to go somewhere. It may be inside of a frame
onto (or into) a work on paper, or it may be into the wood or other porous materials of furniture
and art objects.

Since most organic materials have the ability to absorb moisture – if the environment is going
through fluctuations of hot and cold – those organic materials will expand and contract as
they accept and lose moisture. Because most furniture and art objects are not made of
a single lump of one material, you will have differing rates of expansion and contraction in
different parts. This can cause joints to loosen, wood to warp, veneers and boulle work to pop
up and off; can detach paint, finishes, and gesso on canvas and gilded objects; and cause
tarnishing and rusting on metals. These fluctuations can occur daily, weekly, seasonally,
and with changing weather patterns.

Another major problem with relative humidity and antique objects is that there is no perfect
level, different materials have different reactions. An ivory handled steel knife is a frequently
mentioned example as the ivory starts to dry out and possibly crack at below 50% RH,
while the steel may start to rust at levels over 50% RH.

High RH (over 70%) can accelerate rusting, tarnishing, bronze disease, and chemical
deterioration. It can increase the potential potency of air pollution, the extent of warping,
and the development of mold and other biological problems.

Low RH (below 30%) causes shrinkage and increased brittleness, making objects more
fragile. The biggest problems develop when there are drastic and quick changes from one
extreme to the other. Ideally an environment will be kept in the 45% to 55% (RH),
while avoiding extremes above 70% or below 30%. Perhaps the most important aspect is
to make sure any fluctuations are gradual, allowing objects to adapt rather than fail.

Some suggestions for minimizing the effects of relative humidity:

Monitor the Environment Monitor the Environment – This may be as simple as one gauge or as complex as
a system of monitors that not only measure and chart daily and hourly variations, but are
located in different rooms and even different areas of the same room.

Evaluate Heat & Humidity Sources Evaluate Heat & Humidity Sources – Radiators, fireplaces, and heat ducts will create
their own little mini-environments that can be much drier and experience much greater
humidity fluctuations than other parts of the room. Valuable objects should either not be
placed near these sources or monitored for problems.

Evaluate Placement on Walls Evaluate Placement on Walls – Exterior walls will cool and heat differently than interior
walls, especially in the winter. This can affect humidity and condensation on these walls and,
consequently, paintings hung on these walls or furniture placed against these walls.
Locations around windows can also be problematic.

Air Conditioners Air Conditioners – Air-conditioning can help control high humidity but you must be aware
that while air-conditioning removes moisture, it also lowers the temperature – consequently
not always lowering the relative humidity. Air-conditioning needs to be set so that it takes in
the least amount of humid outside air, so that the relative humidity is actually lowered.
There are also more exotic and expensive methods such as reheat coils, which allow you to
really cool the air, thus losing a lot of moisture, and then reheating the air to acceptable levels.
A lot of museums do this but it is much more expensive and requires a lot of energy.

Humidifiers & Dehumidifier Humidifiers & Dehumidifiers – These can be used to create mini-environments in certain
rooms or areas of rooms that contain your most fragile objects.

Monitor Heating Monitor Heating – In the winter, make sure you do not over heat as temperatures should
be kept as low as possible near sensitive materials. Also try to minimize the fluctuations
between daytime to nighttime temperatures so the changes are as small and gradual as

Display cases Display cases – For extremely sensitive objects you can do what you see in a lot of
museums – use display cases to create very specific mini-environments tailored to specific

Monitoring and controlling relative humidity will never be addressed as a one-size fits all
solution. In a challenging environment such as Chicago, with such extreme changes in
seasons, controlling relative humidity will always be a balancing act between attributes
and deficiencies. You should concentrate mainly on avoiding large, sudden changes in
humidity and trying to protect your most sensitive pieces from those changes.

Air Pollution/Air-born Dust Particles – These problems can come from inside or outside
a building. Specific problems and their possible solutions:

Dust Dust – A lot of interior dust can be generated or held by carpets and rugs. The obvious,
simple solution is regular, good housekeeping and vacuuming. Outdoor dust can be reduced
by not allowing in as much outside air. Well-maintained air-conditioning with proper filters
can eliminate most of this problem.

Smoke Smoke – Smoke from tobacco, fireplaces, oil-burning heating units, and kitchens leave
deposits of very difficult to clean grime, especially on artwork. More sensitive and valuable
pieces should not regularly be exposed to these.

Gasses or Air-born Chemicals Gasses or Air-born Chemicals – Outside pollution of this sort is controlled through
limiting outside airflow. Inside, you should be aware that many paints, floor coatings,
and other materials give off some very powerful fumes that may damage extremely sensitive
finishes. While this type of damage is usually only to very sensitive objects, a good rule of
thumb is if you do not want to breathe certain fumes, do not make your valuable object sit
in them for an extended amount of time.

Pests Pests – Your best defense against pests is regular monitoring and keeping out as many
food sources as possible. The problem is that a lot of antique objects, and especially works
such as ethnographic decorative arts, are made out of prime food sources for many types
of insects. Regular monitoring will allow you to note new dead insects, new droppings,
fresh holes, and small piles of deposits or powdery substances under or on wooden objects
(this is called “frass” and is the result of something boring in or out of wood). There are
a variety of insects that attack wood – and what a lot of them do is bore into a piece for
the purpose of laying eggs – which then hatch – causing new insects to bore out.
Regular assessments are needed to determine whether the holes are new as many old
pieces will have bore holes, however, this does not mean there is an active infestation.

If you find signs of active insects, isolate your antique object as soon as possible from other
pieces, wrap and seal it in a plastic bag if possible. Do not use bug sprays, as many have
strong chemicals that can damage sensitive materials and finishes. Fumigation is the best
method, but you must be careful as all fumigators and fumigation methods are not the same.
Many treatments will go for overkill and can cause damage to sensitive pieces. Many of the
larger companies have one location or branch that specializes in antiques.

In exterminating rodents, traps are usually preferable to poison. A poisoned rodent will usually
leave a carcass in the wall or hidden place that will invite insects. When the insects are done
with the carcass, they can move on to more valuable objects. Back to top

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Bernacki & Associates, Inc. - SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR FINE ART & ANTIQUES
Bernacki & Associates, Inc. - Antique Objec Isolation


One of the best descriptions regarding dirt is that it is a substance that is not where it is
supposed to be. So how do you determine what substances are not supposed to be on your
antique object—and how can you safely remove that substance while keeping the original
object assembled in as close to the original condition as possible?

The cleaning of antique objects is a huge subject involving many materials, methods,
and consequences. There are libraries full of books on the subject and its many variations,
and many schools of specialists devoted to specific materials, types, and periods.
Valuable antique objects should, if possible, always be assessed first by a specialist familiar
with that type of object.

Perhaps the first thing that should be emphasized to an owner or maintainer of an antique
object is not to be afraid to allow it to be a little dusty or dirty. Remember all types of cleaning,
even the most gentle, are going to involve at least some friction and consequently, abrasion.
This abrasion, like exposure to light, is cumulative. It is better to have a little dust rather than
inadvertently remove irreplaceable original material.

Secondly, as in handling, you must first determine if an antique object is stable enough to
be cleaned. Before cleaning, the most important aspect to look for is lifting layers of finish
or surface material such as paint, gesso, or veneer. Valuable objects need to be addressed
regularly and before cleaning to make sure no new problems have developed since the
previous cleaning.

To reiterate, a specialist ought to be consulted first if the owner is in doubt about the condition
of a valuable antique. That having been said, here are some cleaning methods that may be
safely employed and perhaps more importantly, some objects that should never be treated
by the untrained.

Paintings Paintings – Never use any type of liquid on a valuable painting unless you are a trained
conservator. At most, paintings should only be lightly dusted and then only with a very soft
bristled brush called a gilder’s mop. Even dusting should not be done if there is extensive
cracking on the painted surface. Avoid feather dusters as the ends of the spines can scratch
and catch on edges.

Works on Paper Works on Paper – Never use any type of liquid on a work on paper as it can very quickly
cause an irreversible stain. Paper should always be framed behind glass/plastic using only
archival, acid-free materials. Paper should only be treated or cleaned by a trained conservator.

Gilded Surfaces Gilded Surfaces – Gilding is another extremely sensitive surface that should only be
cleaned by a trained specialist. Gilding is so thin that there is very little transition from being
there – to being completely gone. Gilding over gesso can be extremely fragile as the gesso
can completely detach from the substrate, yet remain in place due to a minimal mechanical
bond. It is very easy to detach and destroy large sections through cleaning.

You can determine if the surface is stable by lightly tapping your fingernails over the surface.
If there is a clicking sound or the surface moves, leave it alone. If it is stable it should only be
dusted with a gilders mop.

When cleaning the glass or mirror in a gilded frame, avoid rubbing off the gilding near the glass
by holding a piece of cardboard against the edge of the frame while cleaning. If you look at
most old frames, all of the gilding around the glass has been cleaned off.

Wooden Furniture & Objects Wooden Furniture & Objects – First assess the stability and look for loose and lifting
areas of finish or wood. The first misconception to be rid of is that wood surfaces need to be
fed oils and oily substances. Forget this completely as this is almost completely
marketing hype.

Most antique wood objects will either have a surface finish that will keep these polishes from
getting to the wood, or the furniture is going to have a fragile or deteriorated finish that can
possibly be destroyed or irreversibly compromised by many of these grocery or hardware
store products.

The best-case scenario with these types of products is that they will give a quick,
temporary shine that in the long run will only add a layer of dust & dirt-catching gunk that may
be very difficult to remove. In the worst-case scenario, these products can add materials and
solvents that can destroy or help deteriorate the original finish. If you have deteriorated historic
finish that may be capable of being saved – or at least restored- adding these products may
infuse impossible to remove elements that can hamper or prevent conservation or restoration.

If your wooden object is fairly stable with no lifting surface or veneer, the first step is to dust
the surface with a gilders mop or other soft-bristled brush, forced air (only if surface is very
stable), or a soft cloth. You want to remove the loose dust because it can act as an abrasive
and you do not want to drive loose dust down into the grain, cracks, or corners while cleaning.

After all the loose dust is removed, you can lightly and softly clean using water and mild soap.
You should use de-ionized or distilled water, not tap. Ideally, your soap will be a non-ionic
detergent such as Triton X-100 or Oruvs Paste. Some other options are Simple Green, Vulpex,
or at very least a gentle detergent such as Ivory Soap.

Mix a very weak solution, at least 1:50. Use a white cotton cloth as it will show if you are
picking up something you do not want – such as color. Take the cloth and dip it in the
solution, ring it out completely, and blot it on another dry cloth to remove all of the excess
moisture. First test your mixture and method on one of the less prominent surfaces to make
sure there are no adverse results.

Always wipe from the middle of a surface out over the edge so that you will not catch the
cloth on the edge. Immediately wipe the surface dry with a dry cloth. If there is more stubborn
grime and stains that water or detergent will not clean, the next safest, most benign cleaning
solvents are Naptha or Mineral Spirits. The Sunny Side brand is very good. These should be
used sparingly on only specific problem areas, not as your general cleaning solution—and
always test them first. Another possible solution is the addition of 1-2% ammonia to water,
again, testing first in a less prominent area.

For stronger cleaning solutions, you need to know what the finish is to avoid removing the
finish with the dirt. This should only be done by someone who knows what they are doing.

After you have cleaned your wood surface with minimal water and detergent, and you are sure
the surface is dry, the best general treatment is to wax it. Wax is a protective barrier coat that
is easy to apply, neutral to almost all surfaces, and is removable or reversible without
damaging almost all finishes.

The best general all-purpose wax is Renaissance. It is a microcrystalline wax developed by
the British Museum that can be safely used on wood, leather, stone, metal, etc. It will both
clean and impart a protective coating that can be buffed to a high shine that resists

As in all waxes, do not overuse in amount or repetition. Do not wax more than every few
months and usually once or twice a year is sufficient. If you know a piece has been waxed
before, first buff with a cloth to see if you can bring back a shine. If you can, there is usually
no reason to apply additional wax. Rub the wax on lightly and evenly using a soft cotton cloth,
let it sit for a minimum of 15-20 minutes, then buff with another clean cloth.

If you are not sure of the finish and substrate materials you are dealing with, this is all you
should do and all you should have to do. Beyond this, you should have a professional do the

Brass, Bronze, and Other Metal Hardware Brass, Bronze, and Other Metal Hardware – Often buffing alone with a cloth is enough
on hardware as you do not want a hard bright shine on an antique piece. If cleaning is
necessary, never do it with the hardware still attached to the furniture as you may stain the
surrounding wood or finishes with your cleaning solution or the materials rinsed from the
hardware itself. Remove the hardware and clean with a mixture of ammonia in water (1:100).
Rinse with distilled water and dry immediately and completely. When completely dry, apply
a coating of Renaissance Wax to prevent tarnishing and give a sheen. Metal polishes should
be avoided as they may quickly remove protective coating, patina, plating, or gilding. If a polish
is needed, Auto Sol is a good, very fine-grit polish. Use sparingly and always test first.

Ceramics and Glass Ceramics and Glass – Always dust first to remove as much loose dirt as possible.
Most ceramics and glassware can be safely wiped or washed with water but there are many
exceptions. Many painted or applied surface colors can be affected by water, as well as many
porous, unfired and unstable types. Always test on an inconspicuous area.

If a piece can safely tolerate water, it should first be cleaned with only a moist cloth and dried.
For more soiled and stable pieces you can submerge in water with a very small amount of
ammonia. Problems can arise if the piece is comprised of different materials joined together.
Be sure all of the materials can withstand water and that the adhesives used to hold the
pieces together are not affected by water. You should line the sink or container with a towel
or cloth and only wash one piece at a time to avoid chipping and scratching. Do not allow the
piece to soak, drying immediately.

Ivory and Bone Ivory and Bone – Should only be dusted as they may be permanently stained by liquids.

Silver Silver – Should be dusted first. Silver can be cleaned using water with a small amount
of non-ionic mild detergent and dried immediately. Ethyl alcohol applied with cotton swabs
or a clean cotton cloth can also remove dirt and grime.

Surface tarnishing is not a sign of serious deterioration and use should avoid the urge to use
most metal polishes and dips as they are abrasives and can remove more than you intend,
i.e. plating, or cause other long term problems. Auto Sol is a high-grade, low-abrasive brand
of polish that should still only be used sparingly and only after testing. A coat of Renaissance
Wax can help prevent tarnishing & fingerprints, while not adding a hard, new-looking shine.

Stone Stone – All stone objects should be first dusted with a soft-bristled brush. Most stone,
especially marble, is extremely porous and liquid cleaning solutions must be applied sparingly
as to avoid driving grime or unwanted material into the stone where it is difficult to remove.

Alabaster, soapstone and, of course plaster, should never be cleaned with water as it
dissolves them. Other stone can be wiped clean with a cloth moistened with distilled water
and a non-ionic or other mild detergent. The surface should be dried immediately.
A coating of Renaissance Wax can be applied with a soft-bristled bush and polished.

Textiles Textiles – Historic or antique textiles can be extremely sensitive, especially the dyes,
therefore a professional should be consulted.

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