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How to care for antiques: Part 1

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Antiques can hold a very special value for us; In this two-part series, we give you tips on how to care for them

What a treat it is to relax on that antique rocking chair handed down to you over generations or display that beautiful brass record player you managed to get your hands on after hours of scouring the lanes of Chor Bazaar. Taking proper care of these treasures will ensure they continue to give you joy for years to come. While proper maintenance can keep your antiques in top condition for ages, restorations should always be handled by an expert.

Wooden Furniture:
Antique furniture is highly susceptible to environmental conditions. Never place your antique furniture where it gets direct sunlight, close to a heat source or an air-conditioning vent and keep away from hot, dry areas when storing. Dust and rub down your antiques frequently with a lint-free cloth to maintain lustre and blot up liquid spills immediately.

Polish wood at most once a year using a beeswax based furniture polish sparingly (see our story ‘How to care for your wooden furniture’).

Never use a silicon based polish and always rub in the direction of the grain. Use only candle wax along the sides of stuck drawers to ease friction and always use coasters or mats on an antique dining table that is in regular use.

The antique wood is also affected by the amount of moisture in the air and changes in humidity levels cause the wood to expand and contract. Dry air causes the wood to shrink and split along the grain while high levels of humidity can lead to mould and insect infestations. Depending on the climate you live in, use a humidifier or de-humidifier to maintain an optimum humidity level of 45-55%. Invest in a good hygrometer to monitor temperature and humidity levels of the room.

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Metal Antiquities:
Metal antiquities or metal parts on antique furniture will develop a soft patina over time which actually adds to the beauty. Removing heavy tarnish should be left up to a professional. Antique silverware should be washed in hot, soapy water and completely dried immediately with a soft cloth (see our story 'How to care for silverware'). Store your silverware in a moisture-free environment in flannel bags and never wrap them in newspaper or plastic.

If you decide to polish your metal antiquities, always use a chemical-free, eco-friendly polish on antique metals including bronze, brass and copper. Pewter is highly susceptible to dents and scratches and needs to be handled with extreme care. Keep away from anything abrasive like scrub pads or toothbrushes while cleaning and never allow them to air-dry after a wash. Give your antiques a good buff frequently with a soft cloth.

Porcelain, Ceramics and Pottery:
Porcelain, ceramics and pottery are extremely delicate and chances of accidental breakage are higher with them. When handling and moving these types of antiques, always hold on to the main part of the body and never the extremities like the handles as this is the weakest point (see our story ‘Pretty like porcelain’ for tips on how to style a dining table with porcelain).

When it comes to cleaning them, stay away from commercial chemical cleaners. Gently immerse the object in warm water with a hint of mild, detergent-free liquid soap and then use a soft sponge to wipe the surface. Pottery is more porous and should only be cleaned with a soft, damp cloth. While displaying these antiques, keep them in a closed, glass cabinet.

Direct sunlight, humidity and changing temperatures usually do not have any effect on antique glass, porcelain and ceramics but keep in mind that if they have been restored, then bright light and water can weaken or stain the adhesives used. Display or store antique pottery in a moisture-free environment as they are more porous. For mild stains on antique glass like decanters or glassware, use a mild solution of vinegar and water (see our story ‘Glasses for your home bar’). Do not use ammonia-based cleaners, commercial glass cleaners or household bleach; all stubborn stain removals and restorations should be left to the experts.

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