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How to care for antiques: Part 2

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Antiques can hold a very special value for us, be it sentimental, aesthetic or monetary. In this two-part series, we give you tips on how to care for them

It’s an absolute pleasure to sift through your grandmother’s jewel box or through the slightly faded pages of that first edition book you found in that old bookstore. In the second part of our guide to taking care of antiques, we bring you tips for maintaining art, antique books, jewellery and woven textiles like rugs and tapestries. 

Chalk and charcoal drawings should be stored or displayed in moisture-free areas to avoid discolouration. While framing, keep the glass away from the paper with the help of an acid-free mount. To prevent smudges, take the drawing to a restorer to be stabilised which is a process of spraying a sealer over the artwork. Always take oil paintings to a professional for restoration. Antique prints and maps should be backed and mounted using acid-free card and kept away from direct sunlight. Watercolour paintings are highly susceptible to fading and should be displayed in moisture-free areas away from direct sunlight.  

Rare and antique books
Old books are quite forgiving of moderate environmental factors like temperature and humidity but extremes can do irreparable damage. Store your rare collection in areas with mild temperatures and free of moisture. A closed bookcase with glass doors is the best way to display them, as long as it’s placed away from direct sunlight. To counter mould and insect infestations especially in humid climates, place a few silica gel packs in muslin bags in the bookcase. Dust the bookcase on a regular basis and give leather bound books a good rub with a soft cloth from time to time. If a book comes apart at the spine, never use regular tape or glue to fix it. These adhesives can be very abrasive; preserve the pieces and take it to a professional restorer.    

When it comes to antique jewellery, remember to apply any form of chemical spray (hair spray, perfume etc) beforehand and let it dry completely before putting them on. Do not use commercial metal or jewellery cleaners on your antiques; warm water, mild soap and a soft toothbrush can work wonders. Store your jewels separately to avoid scratches and in felt-lined cases (see our story ‘10 home organising products you need’).   

Both spring-driven and weight-driven antique clocks benefit from regular, careful winding using the correct size key. Spring driven bracket and mantle clocks need to be held steady while winding. Open the door when winding weight-driven, grandfather or long-case clocks to make sure the weights don’t hit the pendulum or case. Always turn the hands clockwise while setting the time and stay away from ammonia based glass cleaners.  

Carpets, Rugs and Tapestries
Never place antique rugs and carpets directly on a hard floor, use a non-slip lining to reduce wear and tear. Don’t place heavy furniture on top of the carpets and try not to tug at the ends. Heavy-duty vacuum cleaners should be avoided and have your carpets cleaned by a professional who understands the care required for these delicate pieces, every three to five years. Blot accidental spillages immediately with an absorbent cloth or sponge and use a watered down, mild soap solution (make sure the soap used is detergent-free) to remove stains. When hanging tapestries, make sure you have ample support so as to not damage the warp and weft. It is always better to line your tapestries before framing or displaying them and stay away from damp areas or those with direct sunlight.

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