Preserving Antiques on the Cheap
By Paula Kirwan

When was the last time you went to the dollar store to shop for items to preserve your antiques? If you say never, I’m not surprised.

I recently went to the dollar store to buy candles, and I couldn’t resist walking up and down the aisles to see what other bargains awaited me. As an antiques dealer and avid collector, I frequently think about my treasures (both personal and for my booth). So as I looked around, I soon realized that there are a number of inexpensive items in the dollar store with uses that can be adapted from the original purpose to the world of antiques. Here is a list:

Coffee filters (photo, above right): These are great separators for storing your china. They can be placed between plates, as well as inside cups if you have to stack one inside the other.

Paper plates: The size is right, so these are so easy to use as separators between plates when you store your china.

A toothbrush (photo, left): Keeping your antique furniture clean is imperative, as accumulated dust and overuse of furniture polish can harm the finish. A very soft toothbrush can be used to gently clean the grooves of carved furniture. Be gentle when you rub.

Cat litter: Occasionally, the drawers in an old chest smell musty. Try removing the odor by putting a bowl of cat litter (or charcoal) in the drawer for at least 24 hours.

Fabric softener sheet: Use a fabric softener sheet in a musty drawer to help get out odors or to keep it smelling fresh. The sheets can also be used to freshen old suitcases.

Cotton swabs (photo, right): These are easy to use to apply silver polish to deep designs on silver or silver plate, or to clean or apply polish in the grooves of carved furniture.

Toothpaste: A light coat of toothpaste on a water ring on wood furniture can sometimes get the mark out. Gently rub some non-gel toothpaste on the mark with a soft cloth or your fingertip. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and then wipe it off with a damp cloth. Let the spot dry before applying furniture polish to it. Be sure to try it in an inconspicuous spot first.

Mayonnaise:  As with toothpaste, a light coat of mayonnaise on a water ring can sometimes get the mark out. Use the same method as the toothpaste above. Try it in an inconspicuous spot first.

A bar of soap (photo, left): If you have a drawer that sticks, rub a bar of soap on the inside top edges of the drawer to help make opening it smoother.

A dish towel: When washing fine china and crystal, make a sink liner out of dish towels. This will prevent the pieces from chipping if they hit the sink harder than you intended. If you have a double sink, put a dish towel over the center divider as well.

As you can see, there are a lot of items in the dollar store that will help you care for your treasures. And you can purchase them without breaking the bank!

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