Art & Antiques by Dr. Lori: Spring cleaning tips

Submitted Photo 
While many people want to clean old paintings, it is important to remember that unless absolutely necessary, cleaning can do damage. Unless a painting has evidence of yellowing varnish, it is best to leave it alone.
Submitted Photo While many people want to clean old paintings, it is important to remember that unless absolutely necessary, cleaning can do damage. Unless a painting has evidence of yellowing varnish, it is best to leave it alone.

Spring cleaning has its drawbacks and its advantages. The drawbacks are obvious... Nobody really likes to clean. Once the task is complete, the advantages to spring cleaning include additional storage space, discovering items that you thought you lost and some quick cash if you work to sell some of your unwanted stuff online. In the world of art and antiques, spring cleaning is a great opportunity to review the condition of objects, re-purpose items, sort out what to keep and what to sell and reconsider a collection’s display options within your home.

Here are some tips for your own spring cleaning when it comes to antiques:

Don’t be too hasty to clean a painting. Many people automatically want to clean an old painting when many paintings just don’t need to be cleaned. If a painting only has minor evidence of surface dirt but no evidence of yellowing varnish, consider leaving the painting alone. Never clean a painting using soap and water, as this will dry out the pigment and the canvas and lead to pigment flaking and damage over time.

Glass jars and bottles require special care when cleaning. For cloudy glass jars and bottles, use equal parts of white vinegar and distilled water and wash gently. Try to avoid using any harsh chemicals or cleaning agents on your antique items. Do not submerge any glass item into standing water that is too cold or too hot as this “shock to the system” may result in cracking your antique or vintage glass item.

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Don’t be overzealous when cleaning silver pieces including silver plate.

Basically, as you clean or polish sterling silver or silver plate, you rub off a layer of the metal’s sheen. Try to polish silver and silver plate items like tea trays, water pitchers and frames, no more than once or twice a year. Use appropriate white cotton cloths and recommended polish. 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.

The tools that you use during spring cleaning of your art or antiques are just as important as the cleaning supplies and techniques. Q-tips or cotton swabs can be very helpful to get into those tight or rough places. Cloths that do not leave textile or cotton residue behind are also the desirable cleaning choice when it comes to antiques and art. And, don’t forget to do your spring cleaning of fragile collectibles while seated at a table and when you are not tired or in a hurry. Happy spring cleaning!

Ph.D. antique appraiser and award-winning TV expert, Dr. Lori Verderame is the star appraiser on Discovery channel’s international hit TV show, Auction Kings and appears on FOX Business Network’s Strange Inheritance. Visit www.DrLoriV.com or call 888-431-1010.