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How to clean old clocks

Updated November 21, 2016

Old clocks lend charm and sophistication to your home, providing a unique antique decorating accessory to your home. Caring for an old clock requires consideration for both the age of the piece and past care of the clock. Many people simply never open the case of a clock and assume the mechanism stays clean forever. When cleaning an old clock, you'll need to address the outside as well as the inside of the clock.

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  1. Open the clock case and examine the condition of the inside workings of the clock. If you're apprehensive, stop immediately and take the clock to a reputable clock repair shop for restoration.

  2. Wear cotton gloves to prevent transferring any skin oils to the brass pieces of the clock. Skin oils tarnish brass very quickly. Don't remove any pieces of the clock mechanism. Instead, evaluate whether the dust and dried clock oil seem to be inhibiting the clock's proper time function. If it won't keep accurate time, free the clock mechanism so it can move properly. Use the can of compressed air to remove loose dirt and dust.

  3. Apply a small amount of clock cleaning solution to a soft lint-free cloth and gently wipe the clock mechanism. Use cotton swabs to reach tight areas. It's best to not force the mechanism into movement to clean hard-to-reach areas. Clean visible areas well but remember that you won't be able to remove every speck of grime. Just clean enough to allow for free movement of the timekeeping mechanisms.

  4. Apply lubricant to the working parts of the clock using the lint-free cloths and cotton swabs. Don't soak the metal working parts in lubricant. Small amounts of lubricant will allow proper movement of the mechanism and will help limit future dirt accumulation.

  5. Use a small amount of lemon oil to a soft cloth to clean to the outside case of the cloth. Most antique clocks are made of wood. If it remains in good condition it might simply need a good cleaning and polish. Work small amounts of oil into the wood to remove dirt and clean the wood. Buff the clock with a soft, clean cloth to bring out the natural colour of the wood.

  6. Tip

    Disassembling a clock requires skill and knowledge of the mechanical workings of an antique clock. Contact a local clock repair facility before attempting to repair a non-working clock.

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Things You'll Need

  • Compressed air computer dust remover
  • Soft, lint-free cloths
  • Soft cotton gloves
  • Cotton swabs
  • Clock cleaning solution
  • Graphite clock lubricant
  • Lemon oil furniture polish

About the Author

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