Professional restorers advise on how to keep your collections presentable, including books, china, figurines, and other special items in your home.

By Alexa Erickson
April 06, 2020
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Have you been looking around your house as of late and realizing your most prized possessions are covered in a layer of dust? Or perhaps you've noticed just how unorganized your collectibles have become. They're stacked, scattered, and placed in a way that no longer pays tribute to their purpose. With spring in full swing, there's no better time to make your valuables shine as you scrub and dust the rest of the home.

Spring cleaning is your chance to shift the energy in your home, both by polishing your pieces and perfecting their placement. "If your growing art collection has begun to take over your living spaces, it's time to learn how to curate art like a professional," says Deana Caraballo of Art Recovery Technologies of NYC & Long Island. "Not only will this allow you to regain control over your collection, but it will also make your home feel more welcoming, organized, and beautiful."

Check out these helpful tips for cleaning and protecting your prized collectibles.

Framed Photographs and Artwork

"You should have your art periodically professionally cleaned for damage preventative measures and professionally varnished for protection," says Caraballo. Avoid displaying your artwork in a room that could have other smoke particles, such as a wood burning stove. Furthermore, "anything framed on your wall should be periodically checked to see if the bumpers are still in place," she advises. "Many people don't realize that bumpers don't only protect your walls, but they provide a very important air gap for ventilation inhibiting moisture build up which can lead to mold."

A good indicator that something needs to be replaced or tightened is if you find yourself straightening a hanging frame more than often than normal. This could be an indication that the hanging hardware on the frame as well as the wall hook may need to be replaced. "For long or heavy pieces of wall art, wire should not be used for hanging. To better distribute the weight, use two D-ring fasteners," she suggests. "This will prevent the eventual warping of the frame and better secure your art to the wall." She also suggests using a size up when framing photos in order to accommodate an acid free mat. "Over time, the chemicals of the photo adhere to the glass," she explains. "The matte prevents that from happening."

Porcelain, Pottery, and China

First, start by cleaning the display cabinet itself. "Once you've emptied it out, wash down the shelves, and clean the glass," say Georgia Dixon and Angela Bell of Grove Collaborative. "Handwash crystal with mild dish or castile soap, and a soft, European-style dish cloth and then dry with a microfiber or cotton cloth. Polish copper pieces by cutting a lemon in half, sprinkling with salt and rubbing it onto the surface, then hit it with a dry microfiber cloth."

Stuffed Animals and Toys

Maybe your animal collection is more of the toy variety. If your child's keepsake stuffed animals could use a pick-me-up, Dixon and Bell suggest pre-treating any stains with an enzyme-based stain stick, using an old toothbrush to scrub. "Use a delicate-specific laundry detergent or a non-chlorine oxygen whitener to soak and hand wash plush items, and then air dry," says Dixon and Bell.

Books

A beautiful bookcase filled with thoughtfully curated books is a precious thing to many, but cleaning off all the dust is an unpopular task. Nevertheless, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how gratifying it feels to pay special attention to your most cherished books. "Use a duster to clean off tops, bottoms, and sides," suggest Dixon and Bell. "Dampen a cloth with a water and mild soap solution to wipe down hardcovers. Pull out any bookmarks or earmarked pages."

Figurines

Have your figurines been neglected on the shelves? "Wipe down any ceramic or plastic collections with a diluted castile soap solution," say Dixon and Bell. "We recommend 1/4 cup of soap per quart of water, but for more delicate items. Feel free to cut the amount of soap in half. This is another one of those tasks where the old toothbrush comes in handy to get into all the nooks and crannies that collect dust."

Archival Heirlooms in Storage Boxes and Sleeves

Practicing good archival methods is essential for preserving inherited items, whether that's family documents, historical images, and decades-old garments. Caraballo suggests low humidity, comfortable temperature, and zero direct sunlight for storing them.

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