Can Gilt Finish Be Cleaned?

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Care needs to be taken when cleaning the gilt finish often found on furniture and picture frames.
Care needs to be taken when cleaning the gilt finish often found on furniture and picture frames. (Image: taviphoto/iStock/Getty Images)

A gilt finish is often used on furniture and decorative items such as picture frames or figurines. From time to time the object may need to be cleaned. Care needs to be taken when cleaning the gilt finish for two reasons. First, the finish may not be as stable as the rest of the object, and second, some people value the patina that develops on the gilt finish.

Considerations

Some gilt finished objects are antiques, and care needs to be taken when cleaning their finish so the valuable patina is preserved in the cleaning process. Copper and bronze objects develop an attractive oxidation that most owners do not want to disturb.

Significance

Most antique collectors appraise gilded objects with a patina as more valuable than an antique that has been stripped of its patina. When cleaning the gilt finish, care should be taken to avoid contacting the gilt with chemicals that will erode into the finish.

Safe Ways to Clean Gilt

If the object just needs to be dusted, simply use a soft brush. If the object is soiled, gently wipe with a soft cloth and very mild soap diluted with water. Do not immerse the object in water. If the object is very heavily soiled, a professional antique restorer may be able to restore the object without disturbing the gilt finish.

Chemical Cleaners

Avoid using chemical cleaners. Some chemicals may disturb the gilt finish, or are too acidic or alkaline for the object, which could cause the gilt to rub away.

Abrasive Cleaners

Cleaning products that use abrasives will definitely scratch the gilt finish and should be avoided. Common abrasives, whether fine or coarse grade, may cause scratching on the gilt finish.

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