How to Clean Clock Movements With Turpentine

Written by darla ferrara
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How to Clean Clock Movements With Turpentine
The movement of a clock contains many small pieces. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

A clock may seem like a simple device, but the movement section can have as many as 500 individual pieces. Over time, dust settles into the oil used as a lubricant, changing the consistency. This affects the ability of the movement to function. For quick home cleaning, basic maintenance keeps the clock running between visits to the clock smith. Turpentine is one possible cleaning agent, but check with a professional technician or the manufacturer before applying any chemical to ensure it will not damage the piece.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Duster
  • Compressed air in a can
  • Dust cloth
  • Cotton swab
  • Lint-free cloth

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  1. 1

    Turn the clock around to access the movement. You may need a screwdriver to remove the panel and some panels may have latches for easy opening.

  2. 2

    Clean the surface of the movements with a duster or soft cloth. A can of compressed air will help you remove dust behind the movement. Carefully insert the tube on the can into the movement and blow out the dust. Avoid touching the delicate parts with the tube.

  3. 3

    Dip a cotton swab in turpentine. Look for springs and metal pieces that may get gummed up with dust. Gently wipe the surface with the swab. Only use turpentine if the manufacturer or a clock smith recommends it for your piece. Avoid touching any plastic parts with the turpentine.

  4. 4

    Wipe the surface of the movement with a soft, lint-free cloth to dry the pieces and remove residue.

Tips and warnings

  • For a deep cleaning, the movement must be disassembled by a professional. Clocks need deep cleaning and reoiling every few years. This is not something you can do at home. According to Conservation Online, for proper cleaning, the movement must be disassembled and oiled. If your clock is not working, it is best to take it to a clock smith for maintenance. A clock smith can replace parts that are broken and grind gears to sharpen the teeth as well as thoroughly clean the movement.

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