How to clean mantel clock movements

Written by jennifer eblin | 13/05/2017
How to clean mantel clock movements
The complex interior movements of mantle clocks keep accurate time. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Clock movements are delicate and important features of any clock. When the movements are dirty, it causes the components to move sluggishly or unevenly. This makes the clock run slower and, in some cases, may even keep the clock from working. Cleaning a mantle clock is a process you should undertake once every five to 10 years to keep the interior mechanisms working properly and to remove any dirt or build-up trapped inside the clock.

Remove the back of the clock with a small screwdriver, like those designed for eyeglass repairs. Once you expose the inside of the clock, take out any parts that relate to the floating balance and any plastic gear levers you see. Set those in a safe place during cleaning.

Dip a 12mm paintbrush in rubbing alcohol and slowly brush it over the pinion teeth and pivots. The rubbing alcohol completely cleans the clock movements, and then naturally evaporates. Wipe the interior clock movements a second time with the paintbrush and more rubbing alcohol, making sure you clean all areas.

Rub the alcohol-soaked brush over the wheels and pinions. Unwind the springs inside the clock with an un-winder. Wipe down the springs with warm water, knocking loose any dust or debris stuck on these areas. Check the clock movements carefully for any spots you may have missed.

Direct a hairdryer at the back of the clock and turn it to the lowest setting. Slowly move the hairdryer around the back of the clock, using the low heat to dry the clock movements. Once the clock movements are completely dry, turn the hairdryer off.

Apply a thin layer of clock oil to all movements inside the clock, including the pivots. The only areas that don't require oiling are the gears and pinions. Place a small drop of oil on the movements; the clock will spread that around during regular movement.


If the oil gears or pinions receive oil, it causes the areas to attract dust, which will keep the gears from working properly.

Tips and warnings

  • If the oil gears or pinions receive oil, it causes the areas to attract dust, which will keep the gears from working properly.

Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • 12mm brush
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Un-winder
  • Warm water
  • Hairdryer
  • Clock oil

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