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How to Clean an Antique Tin

Updated March 23, 2017

Antique tin is very popular among collectors, but can be difficult to clean. Many people who don't collect antiques love old tins because of the beautiful designs and colours, as well as the ability for tin to last generations. If well maintained, an antique tin can be passed down from one generation to another for decades without losing its lustre. Incorrect cleaning might be the biggest factor in antique tin becoming damaged and losing its lustre.

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  1. Dust the antique tin gently with a feather duster. While this will only remove the loose dust and grime, it is a gentle way to begin cleaning an antique tin. Take a look at the tin after dusting and try to make a judgment on if it only needs light cleaning, or if there is major repair work that needs to be done.

  2. Pat the dirty antique tin with the soft rags, seeing if any more dust or grime will come out without using water. Use the soft paint brush to remove additional dust and dirt, and then continue to wipe away with the soft rags.

  3. If there are grease stains or bits of grease on the antique tin, clean this by using the WD-40. Gently pat dry the area, and never scrub-hard scrubbing can result in damage to the tin.

  4. If after all these steps the antique tin is still dirty, use a mild soap and water to wash the tin. Tin can rust, so you only want to do this as an absolute last resort. Use soft cloth to wash, never scrub pads or steel wool.

  5. Pat dry using the rags. You will want to be gentle with the antique tin, and pat the tin dry, don't wipe it. This can damage any design or paint on the tin. Make sure the antique tin is completely dry before putting it away or rust will destroy it.

  6. Wait 15 minutes, then pat dry one more time.

  7. Tip

    Keep the antique tin out of direct sunlight, as this tends to wear the metal and cause any colours or designs to fade.


    Never soak in water. Tin has a tendency to rust, and while in some extreme cases you might need to dip it in water, you never want to soak an antique tin in water.

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Things You'll Need

  • Feather duster
  • Soft cloth rags
  • Soft paint brush
  • WD-40
  • Mild soap

About the Author

Monty Dayton is a professional freelance writer who has worked for the ACLU, Touchstone Publishing LLC, the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and many other employers. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Alaska and loves writing about travel, the outdoors and health topics.

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