Two experts on Judaica share their tips for restoration, whether it's made of silver, gold, or another precious metal.

By Caroline Biggs
November 11, 2020
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glass menorah
Credit: Ryan Liebe

The holiday season is fast approaching—and for some of us, that means it's time to pull out our favorite menorahs and prepare to celebrate the eight-day Festival of Lights. "A menorah is a candelabra used in the celebration of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, also known as 'The Festival of Lights,'" says Jackie Collier, direct sales operations manager at Simon Pearce. "One candle is lit on each of the holiday's eight days, and at the end the menorah is fully lit, resplendent with its nine candles."

However, once Hanukkah has ended, we're often left with menorahs covered in hardened wax. "Since many of the candle holders are lit night after night, there can be some serious wax build-up, especially on the first, second, and third candle holders, as well as on the ninth 'servant light', which can be used to light the other lights," explains Tsadik Kaplan, an appraiser of antique Judaica and author of Jewish Antiques: From Menorahs to Seltzer Bottles ($45, amazon.com). "The wax does not need to be removed after the holiday, you can procrastinate (like I do), until the following year, when I spend a little time the day before the holiday cleaning my menorah."

Curious about how you can safely clean your menorah and remove any stubborn wax buildup? We asked Collier and Kaplan to share their tips, and this is what they had to say.

Be extra careful when cleaning silver menorahs.

Kaplan says that how you clean your menorah depends entirely on the material it's composed of, as well as the finish. "A menorah made from sterling silver should be handled with great care, as silver can easily acquire dents, dings, and scratches," he explains. "Use soft cotton cloths (like an old T-shirt) or paper towels to wipe down silver menorahs, and look for a high-quality silver cream polish—stay away from silver chemical dips—to make it sparkle."

Use metal polish to clean brass menorahs—unless they're painted.

When cleaning a solid brass menorah, Kaplan recommends using a metal polish liquid, such as Noxon Multi-Purpose Metal Polish Liquid ($9, amazon.com), to safely removing dust, dirt, and other debris. However, he says it's important to double check that your brass menorah doesn't have a painted finish before using one. "Most brass menorahs made in Israel from the 1950's through the 1970's had a green finish applied to them, known as 'verdigris,'" he explains. "Countless examples of these types of menorahs have been ruined because owners mistakenly thought this green finish was some type of oxidization, meant to be cleaned with a brass cleaner."

Try nonstick spray to prevent wax buildup in the first place.

Once you've cleaned your menorah, Collier says in some cases, you can spray a tiny amount of nonstick spray in the candle holders to help keep the wax from sticking. "However, this advice only applies to certain metal and glass menorahs," she warns. For this reason, she recommends first researching whether or not your unique menorah is actually safe to spray with cooking oil, especially if it's made of a precious metal.

Use drip cups and glass inserts to keep your menorah clean.

According to Kaplan, there are an assortment of reusable Hanukkah candle drip cups on the market, like these from Traditions Jewish Gifts, designed specifically to prevent wax from building up on your menorah. "There are also many types of glass inserts available, including these from aJudaica, that hold oil and a wick, so the menorah doesn't get covered in oily residue," he says.

Remove stubborn wax buildup with hot water.

If nonstick cooking spray and drip cups haven't stopped wax from accumulating on your menorah, Kaplan suggests soaking your menorah in hot water to help loosen up the buildup. "I never use any kind of tools to remove wax, as it could scratch the menorah itself," he explains. "For heavy wax buildup, I fill up the kitchen sink with very hot water and let the menorah soak in it for fifteen minutes. After this, most of the wax comes off quite easily, and I use my fingernails to scrape off the most stubborn wax deposits."

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