A gilt finish is often used on furniture or jewellery and from time to time, the object needs 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.
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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.
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. However, if the object has deeper soil, water, a very mild soap, and a soft cloth are generally enough to clean the gilt finish on anything from picture frames to furniture. Do not immerse the object in water. If the object is heavily soiled, a professional antique restorer may be able to restore the object without disturbing the gilt finish.
Some cleaners use chemicals that could disturb the gilt finish, or are too acidic or alkaline for the object, which could cause the gilt to rub away.
Cleaning products that use abrasives will definitely scratch the gilt finish. Common abrasives, whether fine or coarse grade, may cause scratching on the gilt finish.
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