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How to Clean & Preserve Family Heirloom Christmas Decorations

Opening a box of old-world Christmas ornaments can bring memories of the past flooding back. Sharing these recollections with your entire brood can help resurrect almost long-forgotten customs, therefore spurring you to create new ones.

Christmas ornaments are more than pretty trinkets to be admired; they’re cultural relics revealing much about the past. You could easily purchase vintage ornaments from an antique store to give your holiday decorations an otherworldly feel, but there’s nothing that beats authenticity. Passing down items that have been in your family for decades is a tradition still in practice. Unfortunately, when gifted with such antique and precious possessions, they typically don’t come with instructions on how to preserve them properly.

Our sentimental and tradition-loving cleaning experts at Merry Maids® are here to teach you how to clean, preserve, and store vintage Christmas decorations and ornaments for future generations.

Avoid Chemical and Wet Cleaners

Harsh chemicals aren’t always the best for everyday cleaning, let alone delicate keepsakes that are generation’s old. In fact, you’ll want to avoid “wet” cleaning ornate and painted traditional decorations, as you could rub off the original surface and jumpstart deterioration. Instead, you should use a soft brush to gently remove years of dust and dirt. We prefer the Valentino Geremi dusting brush for old-fashioned items because this tool is made of 100% horsehair, which is dense yet soft.

Inspect Before Cleaning

Antique Christmas ornaments likely haven’t been handled in decades, making them highly fragile and prone to damage. When removing ornaments from storage boxes, do so with care and make sure you’re wearing gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints. From there, you can inspect the items to ensure no damage was sustained while it was stored.

A few ways to inspect vintage Christmas decorations include using a magnifying glass or holding the ornament up to the light. Either option will help you see cracks, knicks, and scrapes before you begin cleaning. Knowing your ornaments have slight damage will make it easy to avoid those parts, so you don’t create further deterioration.

Also, ensure that adults are handling your antiques. Already fragile ornaments can sustain more damage while being handled by inexperienced hands.

Cleaning Vintage Ornaments by Type

If your dear great-great grandmother left you vintage ornaments, you likely have an assortment, from glitter to painted and everything in between. After all, your great-great grams was the epitome of style and class. Remember, before removing your ornaments from the storage box, put on latex gloves to keep your natural oils from transferring onto the surface.

Ways to Clean Vintage Christmas Decorations

  • Glass ornaments – Using glass cleaner on these elegant decorations may seem like a good idea, but we beg to differ. The chemicals in glass cleaner could cause irreversible damage. Try using a slightly damp lint-free cloth to remove dirt and fingerprints, but don’t apply much pressure as the ornament may crack or shatter.
  • Glitter ornaments – Ornaments with glitter require careful handling and cleaning, as you could rub off its unique features. A static duster will remove debris without compromising the decoration.
  • Wood ornaments – Avoid wet cleaning wood or resin-covered ornaments. Instead, use a dry microfiber cloth to gently wipe the surface to eliminate dirt.
  • Metal ornaments – To remove dust and fingerprints from silver or gold-plated ornaments, use a microfiber cloth and jewelry polish, or you can use a condiment (such as ketchup) to clean precious metals.

Store in the Proper Box

Properly storing your antique Christmas ornaments may be slightly more important than cleaning. Keeping these heirlooms stored correctly will reduce having to clean them, potentially causing deterioration. The less handling and cleaning you have to do to delicate porcelain and glass ornaments, the better. According to the AIC (American Institute of Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works), it’s better to safeguard pieces from dirt, dust, and soiling instead of washing them frequently.

We recommend an acid-free box and packing paper. Like storing rare books, avoid using newspaper as the acid from the paper and ink could wreak havoc on your old-world Christmas ornaments.

Your treasured family heirlooms will add the wow factor your home needs, but is your space prepped and ready to be a stunning holiday backdrop? If not, Merry Maids is here to help! With holiday cleaning and specialty cleaning services, we can take all of the cleaning responsibilities off your hands so you can focus on the reason for the season.

To get in touch with a Merry Maids location near you, call (888) 490-4227 and request your free estimate.