Antiques were made to last, but looking after your keepsakes and protecting them from possible damage is important if you want to retain their charm and character. So what can you do to keep your prized antiques looking their best?
Protect antiques from the elements
While you’ll no doubt want your antiques on show, it’s important to keep them out of direct sunlight to avoid UV rays, which can discolour or fade antique furniture, materials or paintings. UV rays can also cause other materials to dry out or crack, which can then alter their value. If your displayed antiques are situated in a room that catches the sun, be sure to pull down the curtains on a bright and sunny day to protect them.
You should also avoid putting antiques in a cold, dark spot too, as moisture can also have a damaging effect. Humidity can also be an issue, as too much moisture can be a particular problem for antique wooden furniture.
Try and keep your antiques in a temperature-regulated and well humidified room, as extreme changes in temperature can be a curse.
Don’t alter the finish
Where possible, it is best to maintain the original finish on a piece of antique furniture, as this can form part of its beauty and charm. Avoid stripping antiques of their old finish, as this can decrease its value. Instead, maintain and preserve the original with natural products.
If you are troubled by an imperfection, such as a chip or dent, consider how much it really affects the appearance of your antique. Often, they can add to the appeal, especially where they highlight the piece’s age or history.
If the damage is really bothering you, don’t rush into restaining or altering the piece yourself; professional antiques conservator-restorers are trained to identify which restoration techniques are suited to different materials.
Dusting and polishing
An accumulation of dust, smoke, moisture and oil that collects over the years can cause damage to your antiques and cause their appearance to deteriorate. To preserve the finish and keep your antiques in good condition, dust them regularly with a dry, soft cotton cloth, moving in the same direction as the grain to avoid scratching surfaces.
Avoid using spray or liquid polishes, as these can often contain damaging oils or solvents and leave an unsightly sticky residue. Instead, opt for a solid wax polish, such as a good beeswax, and limit polishing to once or twice a year.
Rub the polish on sparingly in circular motions, leave overnight and then buff - again in the same direction as the grain. It’s important to take your time with this, as applying too much wax all at once will leave the wood looking dull. Waxing will not only act as a cleaning agent but will also create a protective surface for your antique furniture.
Movement and handling
If you are moving house or need to transport your antiques from one place to another, take care when handling them as many pieces can be extremely fragile. Be sure to cover antiques with protective materials, and consider hiring professionals who will handle them with care.