Ask Andrea | Clean and Care for Vintage Pieces

With outdoor flea market and estate sale season just around the corner, we've received an uptick in customer queries on how we clean, care for, and restore vintage pieces here at the shop. From a holy grail soap to brass cleaner, these tools, tips, and tricks will help your treasures withstand the test of time. 

Even with a little love and elbow grease, it's important to keep in mind that the wear on vintage pieces tells the story of their history. It's precisely that combination of mystery, discovery, and aesthetic that attracts us to vintage in the first place, so we love to teach our customers how to clean these items so they retain both function and historic charm. 

Shop our current vintage selection here and keep reading below for care recommendations.  

What do we use to remove fabric stains?

Marseille soap. One of our best sellers in the shop, this versatile French soap is made out of 100% natural ingredients! It's a miracle stain remover that comes in multiple forms depending on your need and purpose: soap block, flakes, or liquid detergent. We use marseille soap as a spot treatment, laundry detergent, and make-up brush cleaner. It's especially great when paired with our favorite laundry brush to gently but efficiently lift deep set, old stains from vintage clothing, furniture, and linens!



What do we use to clean brass? 

Brasso. Personally we like the patina on brass candlesticks but if you want to shine them up or maintain your brass, Brasso is the way to go! Our key tip with Brasso is to start with a very light hand so as to not over-buff your brassware; if necessary, you can always go in twice to get the desired effect.

What do we use to shine and clean silver?

Silver polishes. This category requires a little investigation to determine the best care solution. If your item is sterling silver and heavily tarnished, we recommend Tarn-X to remove really stubborn buildup. Although Tarn-X also could be used on silver plate, it is highly abrasive so we prefer to use MAAS metal polish on the more thinly formulated silver plated pieces. MAAS is pricey but in our opinion is worth the expense because the polish lasts a long time in comparison to other options. For both polishes, we use a standard sunshine polishing cloth that also works well for jewelry!

How do we clean old canvases of oil paintings?

Dust & dampen. The first step is to ensure that the canvas surface is totally free of any dust. If the dust is thick enough that a feather duster doesn't fully work, use a small handheld vacuum with a low setting in order to limit the suction force. Then go in with a lightly dampened microfiber cloth—absolutely no chemicals on it, water is key here!

How do we clean gilding (on frames, mirrors, etc.)?

Damp cloth. Similar to canvases and oil painting, our first approach is always a damp microfiber cloth. For stubborn tarnishes or deep set grooves, use a tiny bit (read: not saturated) of rubbing alcohol on either a Q-tip or cotton ball to gently spot treat.

What do we use to clean leather?

Saddle Soap. This stuff works wonders—trust us, Andrea used to use this soap on her saddles in Arizona. Simply lather up the soap with a stiff brush or cloth, rub into the leather, and rinse. Optionally you may follow up with a cream to make the leather extra supple, but the saddle soap provides enough protection to the material as well. 

What do we use to clean wooden furniture?

Marius Fabre olive oil black soap. Our round-up post wouldn't be complete if we didn't end on another tried and true Marseille soap favorite, the olive oil liquid black soap spray. This spray is our favorite all-purpose cleaner for wooden surfaces: vintage furniture, shelves, even the insides of cabinets and dresser drawers. 

Let us know how these tips worked for you and if there are any care hacks that have worked well that we've missed! We're always excited to learn new methods of restoring beauty and prolonging the use of vintage pieces. Happy springtime flea market shopping! Shop all Cleaning here and current featured Vintage here

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