How to Clean Decorative Feathers

Written by siva stephens
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How to Clean Decorative Feathers
Keeping your decorative feathers clean will keep them beautiful. (feather image by Kateryna Shamanovska from

Feathers have long been used for interior decoration. They are beautiful, natural and come in an infinite array of colours, sizes and patterns. Decorative feathers are most often the contour feathers or quills rather than the down feathers and so require careful handling to preserve their delicate shaping. There are several ways to clean your ornamental feathers that will help you to preserve their beauty for many years.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Blow dryer
  • Soft natural-bristle paintbrush
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 3 tbsp borax powder
  • Sealable bag (large enough, when closed, to hold your longest feather without bending it)
  • Gasoline
  • Bucket
  • Rubber gloves

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  1. 1

    Blow loose dust off the feather with a hand-held hair dryer set on its coolest, slowest setting. Remove remaining surface dust with a soft, natural-bristle brush by supporting the feather from the back and brushing gently from the base to the tip.

  2. 2

    Put flour, corn meal and borax powder into the bag. Add a feather (one that has been stained by grease or oily dust) and seal the bag. Shake the bag gently. Check frequently to see if the stain has been removed. Remove the feather and brush thoroughly to remove the flour mixture.

  3. 3

    Put on the rubber gloves. Pour gasoline into the bucket until it is as deep as your longest feather. Dip a feather (if it is still stained) into the gasoline and rub the feather gently with your fingers from base to tip, repeating until the stain is gone. Let any excess gasoline drip back into the bucket and set feather aside to dry completely.

Tips and warnings

  • The "sail" part of a feather is called the vane, and it is composed of a series of individual barbs. Each barb contains hooks that hold it to the adjacent barbs. When dusting or otherwise handling feathers, always work from the base to the tip of the vane, or you risk separating these barbs and spoiling the shape of the feather.
  • It is far better to dust feathers often than to allow dirt to build up and necessitate more drastic cleaning--such measures often damage the plumage irretrievably.
  • If you can display your feathers in a case made of glass or acrylic, it will prolong their life by preventing dust build-up and unwanted handling.
  • Getting feathers wet can damage their iridescence, remove their natural oils and cause both natural and artificial pigment dyes to run. If you use the gasoline method on heirloom-quality feather arrangements, you risk lowering their value or spoiling them altogether.
  • Gasoline has very strong fumes and should only be used outside. Keep it away from sparks, heat and open flames. Keep children well back during this process.

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