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Wed Oct 3 2012 15:44:39

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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I was talking with a savvy friend of mine a while back when she surprised me with something she said about her experience on eBay. She's a lawyer by day, and eBay wheeler-dealer by night. She's bought a lot of collectible art glass, and she's sold quite a bit as well. She was complaining that a glass object she came arrived..caked in dust!

"Is it too much to expect that they clean the dust off the darn thing?" she asked, rhetorically.

Actually, dirty and dusty items have been inspiring problems between sellers and buyers on eBay and other sites since time immemorial, or at least since 1996. And while no buyer likes to unwrap a dirty item, sellers do fret over how - and sometimes, as in the case of a fragile antique - whether to clean an object.

A discussion about this broke out on one of my Facebook hangouts. A seller was asking how best to clean some antique linens and baby clothes, and she got a myriad of suggestions including:

- OxiClean: "I use a large bucket and hot water and I let the stuff sit in it overnight, stirring it every so often before I go to bed, then washing everything on the gentle cycle the next day."

- Woolite. "Gentle cycle, stop half way through, let it sit for a bit, finish cycle and AIR dry. Done."

- Vodka and water. This, from a theater person, "to spray and take the smell out of garments that would otherwise need expensive dry cleaning! It works and the alcohol evaporates!"

- Clorox Bleach Pen. (This was for "ring around the collar," which I haven't thought about since those TV ads in the 70s).

My best tip for cleaning fabric or clothing? Tide to Go. This stuff once worked wonders on a winter white St. John skirt. You would never have known the stain was there. (I am not getting paid to say this; really!).

For solid objects, and removing residue or price tags, some swear by Goo Gone or Goof Off. But, in some cases, people don't want to touch an item for fear they will either harm the "patina" or otherwise damage the item. I think when you're looking at a visible coating of dust on your item, however, it calls for at least some very gentle daubing with a soft cloth.

What are your best cleaning tips for vintage (or even newer, pre-owned) items? And have you ever received something from another seller that was badly soiled, just plain dirty, or otherwise sullied? Post a comment here!




Comments (19) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

by: HarmonyGroveAntiques This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Oct 3 16:02:15 2012

We use Goof Off (the Liquid - NOT the spray aerosol!) to remove stickers and sticker residue. It is Great for those extra sticky Auction tags. It also is Great at removing paint from antique furniture without harming the finish (we check in a conspicuous spot to make sure before we use). Seems the English never move furniture when they paint a room - or so it seems.

We buy it at Lowes for about $20 for a Gallon. Yes, we use it That Much!

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww
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Wed Oct 3 16:05:19 2012

HarmoonyGrove...wow..that's interesting about the Goof Off taking paint off antique furniture w/o harming the finish..I'll remember that for my next furniture find. :)

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Wed Oct 3 17:33:07 2012

For smells including cigarette, perfume & fabric softener scent -
I've had success with detergent & spray that is manufactured for hunters & available at sporting goods stores.

Apparently, Bambi can smell you coming if you are an avid deer hunter. Douse yourself in this stuff & you apparently go stealth. I don't hunt, so I cannot attest to using it for hunting, but it does seem to work on fabric!

Blue DAWN detergent is wonderful for grease spots.

Some of the Carbona line works well, I have not used them all.    

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Wed Oct 3 19:17:04 2012

Many many many (many) moons ago, I had good luck in selling my husband's Ralph Lauren oxford shirts. Precisely measured and photographed... they were a HOT seller. Even the ones with a little bit of fraying at the sleeve's edge, or a cracked button would sell quickly.

Eventually I started scouring the thrift stores for RL shirts... oxfords and polo-style.

Even though they were ''clean'' from the thrift store, they still had a ''thrift-store'' odor to them... kind of stale and musty. (I don't know if it was from the previous owner's closet, or from the store itself... but it bothered ME, so I knew it would likely bother my buyers.)

So, I dropped off EVERY oxford shirt at the laundry to have them washed and pressed. I asked for light starch to make it easier for me to fold them.

The machine-washable items were washed at home (checking carefully for stains or grease spots) tumble dried, then neatly folded. ~ No fabric softener or dryer sheets... the only aroma was from whatever remained from the detergent.

One other thing I always did... for the laundered shirts, I made certain to leave ON the little tag that the cleaners attached to the bottom buttonhole. --- I wanted to make SURE my buyer realized that the shirt had been freshly laundered and ironed.

Some people even commented about it in their feedback. Phrases like: ''Ready to wear right out of the box'' were often used in their feedback comments.

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Wed Oct 3 20:21:49 2012

I'm fortunate to have one of the 1960's whirlygig solar clothes dryers in the back yard.

My eBay items are laundered & hung out to dry when it is not raining. Little anole lizards climb up the pole & nod their approval at me when I'm hanging clothes.

It helps that we don't have a homes association in this neighborhood. In my old neighborhood, hanging clothes out to dry would have been punishable by death according to homes association by-laws.  

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

This user has validated their user name. by: East Coast Toy Soldier Show
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Wed Oct 3 20:39:32 2012

For 'hard' items like old plastic toys, Lionel Trains, etc, I use warm soapy water then, hand dry with a soft rag, then polish with old fashioned Pledge.  What ever you use, go slow and try a small 'test' area before a thorough cleaning.

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Wed Oct 3 21:36:54 2012

I used the entire line of Twin Pines of Maine products for removing spots and cleaning fabric items.  

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Wed Oct 3 22:32:11 2012

For jewelry, a squirt of Dawn in a little warm water for 20 minutes. Then if needed I use a soft toothbrush.

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

by: Harriet This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 4 00:16:02 2012

I clean just about everything that goes out. I use paint brushes to get into crevices. Vintage pottery figurines which have cold painting on them are very hard to clean without taking some of that paint off, so I do go very easy on those.

For items that have cigarette smoke smell, and are able to be wet cleaned, I've found that Oxyclean takes away the smell. It is also wonderful for cleaning wood that has that "old wood" smell" as long as you dry it immediately so it doesn't lift the wood grain. I've even used it to clean musty or moldy smelling things that could stand wet cleaning.

I use Goo Gone for labels and several other things.

It is very important to clean glass and crystal things, especially cut crystal. It vastly improves the sparkle and photos.

Taking a good look during cleaning can bring to light flaws that you couldn't see when it was dusty like flea bites, hairline cracks and chips.

One of the worst items I received was a vintage doll made of older plastic. The plastic had degraded and it was really smelly. I think they call older dolls like that "little stinkers". There is nothing you can do easily to get rid of that deperiorated plastic smell. You have to take the doll apart and refinished the whole thing inside and out. I was going to use it as a model for some doll clothes. I had to ditch it. Nothing the seller could have done to make it better. But that should have been mentioned in the listing.

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

by: Theresa This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 4 07:41:22 2012

Some things I use not referenced above, depending of course on the specific piece, are:

febreeze fabric refresher  (my profit margin is usually not enough on clothes to take the time to wash and/or dry clean items, so this is a quick fix for must odor problems - use it on old dolls and their clothing too)

computer dust can does great on dust crevices on pieces that are not too fragile

I keep microfiber towels on hand for non-chemical dusting and cleaning

Mr Clean Eraser (certain dolls, toys, bisque pieces - be careful - test and use sparingly)

for dusty glass I usually just rinse in water or sometimes soak in Dawn if the piece is strong enough - for small fingerprints spots, windex

goo gone "pen" with scotty scrapper is my go to tool for stickers

I sold some antique bisque figurines awhile back that had the delicate porcelain "lace" - I wouldn't dare attempt to clean that so I stated in the listing it was dusty/dirty but I would leave it to the experts.  In other words, I never send anything out obviously dirty without providing an explantion to a potential buyer/bidder.

 

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

by: GracefulAntiques This user has validated their user name.
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Thu Oct 4 10:07:09 2012

Part of the fun of collecting and selling antiques and vintage is the restoration. Great satisfaction in breathing life back into old things.
Some important tips I have learned.
1. Never put a drop of water on a composition doll. (I did according to a doll reference book I bought early on and they were wrong.)
2. Go very slow in cleaning anything.
3. Vinegar is great to clean wool by spot treatment. Amazingly so.
4. Woolite is good on most clothing if not silk . Some can take Oxyclean(Not metallic) etc. read the label and test a spot.
5. Never ever soak rhinestone jewelry in liquid of any kind. Some have a backing that will come off and ruin them. Search online for best way. Toothbrush with sparingly damp very carefully,
It is such fun to trial and error on the cheaper things. One time I bought a trench coat that looked like it was run over by a car in the rain on a bad day. I washed it in the washing machine on gentle with Oxyclean. It came out buttery beautiful yellow. I was hooked.  

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

by: AngelaTC This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 4 10:17:27 2012

I tried Goo Gone and was not happy because it left a residue.  To remove stickers I use lighter fluid.

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Thu Oct 4 10:23:22 2012

For dusty/lightly soiled paper items and light pencil marks, a soft plastic eraser or a draftsman's eraser out of gum rubber (do they still make them?) will freshen up the paper. The caveat is to make sure you don't "push" the paper and create a wrinkle.
I've handled many pieces of soiled printed cardstock paper (railroad passes or tickets) successfully. The ink is not effected by the process, and the paper will not become abraded if you are gentle.

Coated paper is another issue since the coating may be dulled down so be careful.

Afterwards, you just need a brush & scoop to pick up the little bits of dirty eraser on your work surface.

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

by: Harriet This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 4 11:53:53 2012

Never use water to clean vintage or antique glass Christmas ornaments. The paint is water soluble and will come right off. Just soft dusting for those.

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Thu Oct 4 12:52:05 2012

A good alternative to Goo Gone is unscented clear lamp oil. NOT kerosene... NOT the tinted and decorative oil! Make sure it's the highly refined smokeless lamp oil.

I've seen it at Walmart, Target, *and* ... to my surprise, I even saw lamp oil at my hardware store when I was stocking-up on flashlight-batteries and other hurricane-prep supplies.

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

by: JohnGermaine This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 4 23:50:25 2012

Now and then I choose not to wash something delicate, the dust can be seen in the pictures and it is written in the listing that I did not clean the item. What more can one do?

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

by: blaumann This user has validated their user name.

Fri Oct 5 00:04:04 2012

I describe the soiling and suggest the new owner MAY want to clean it.  

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Fri Oct 5 00:45:10 2012

To remove ink (ballpoint) from fabrics and plastics there are a few tried and true methods:

Shaving cream--the plain old cheap stuff.  Squirt some on and rub in,  let sit and scrape off the top layer and rinse.  Might take a few times but works well.  Some plastics can be cleaned this way---test first.

Hair spray--again nothing fancy just plain old cheap spray.  Spray and sometimes you can just "roll" the ink off.  Or let sit awhile and use a dab of laundry soap and rub and either wash or just rinse the area real well.  This also works for some hard plastics and purse linings.

Rubbing alcohol also removes some ink.

For spots that simply will not come out I have a "Secret Stash" of something called ASTONISH BAR SOAP.  From England.  Can be found on--spoiler alert!-ebay.  Wet,  rub on,  let sit---amazing what this little bar will get out.  If Astonish is not to be had---and it is worth the price!-try FELS NAPTHA avail in bar form from Walmart--check the bottom of the shelf in the laundry soap area.

For most things a NAIL SCRUB BRUSH is your best friend.  Old toothbrush ditto but softer.  Use to get grime off;  get solutions worked into fabrics;  and get tag residue off once softened in areas where a scraper can't go.

For getting that "scum" off of hard items--you know the stuff that forms on the outside of items on a shelf or in the kitchen that makes them dingy and sticky and will NOT wash off?  BON AMI.  Not for items with gold or added paint decoration unless you can use a Q-tip to get inbetween the decoration.  Amazing what this will get off--I have even used it in desperation on blackened Sterling.   If the item has so much of a coating on it silver polish cannot penetrate to the actual silver and this removes that coating.    Great for glass and any form of ceramics and pottery.  

I sell a LOT of sportswear ie ski coats and similar outdoor items and the sleeve hems and the collars are usually the places I need to "spot clean".  SIMPLE GREEN works wonders---spray,  scrub in with a nail brush if needed,  wash.

With ANY clothing item do NOT toss in the dryer until you KNOW that the stain is GONE.  This means AIR DRY ONLY.  

Febreeze is good but for heavy duty odors on almost anything use something called ODOR MUTE.  Probably have to get it from AMAZON but it will last and it is perfect for smokers clothing or other items;  skunk smell on fabric or pets;  urine;  mold smells;  any odor that is of organic origin.  USE AS DIRECTED and let it AIR DRY.  DO NOT USE THE DRYER!  This is an "enzyme" and it has to soak into the source of the odor and then the enzyme kills the odor as it is drying.  A fan is OK but NOT the heated dryer.  Once you try this you will NEVER be without it for all household odor issues from kids to pets to general mishaps.  And a little makes a LOT of solution. Some pet stores do stock it.  If it can get FRESH skunk directly OFF of the dog it can do anything.  

For sterling that has picked up any strong odor--see Fresh Skunk on Dog above!---a weak solution of acid (check with a jeweler as I can't remember which one now--old brain moment!) will "draw out" the smell.  Wash and polish.  

For perking up old wood--not for museum quality items altho you could---there is a product called OLDE ENGLISH POLISH.  It is actually not a polish but a sort of stain---they sell several different colors and you dab it on a scratch or scuff or  water mark and let soak in and rub it off.  Magic.  

Don't EVER use jewelry "cleaner" on PEARLS or OPALS.   Use a SOFT non-lint non -terry type cloth and gently rub them clean.  For pearls that have dirty stringing you can use a distilled water "bath" with a drop of baby shampoo.  If the string doesn't come clean after soaking and rinsing---again in distilled water so as to not transfer minerals to the pearls---then they need to be restrung. For opals--most opals are not one solid piece of stone but a "sandwich" of several layers usually  a dark or light base of hard agate,  a sliver of opal and a top piece of quartz all held together with clear adhesive.  Opal itself is a FRAGILE stone.  And if shocked with too hot or too cold water or hit it can shatter.  In the "sandwich" it is better protected but each of these stones and the adhesive shrink or expand at different rates and can shatter.  So just rub clean and if you must clean the setting avoid any cleaner from coming in contact with the stone.  Best left to a jeweler.  And NEVER put either of these two in an "Ultrasonic Cleaner" machine.  

For balky zippers use beeswax or a little stick of Zipper Release you get at the notions section or a sewing store.  

For leather---plain old shoe polish!  Remember THAT?  Still made in many colors and clear.  Even Wally World has it!   And for some reason some shoe polishes can work wonders on other surfaces.  Usually the liquid ones for an "antique" look.  I sell a lot of leather and it is amazing how often I find perfectly gorgeous shoes and handbags and even coats and boots with a few minor flaws that are easily corrected with---shoe polish!   From $2 thrift store reject to $150 sale.  Works for me!  

I believe on ONE GOOD THING A DAY BY JILLEE (website) there is a recipe for home made (cheap) Oxyclean.

Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?   Dust Bunnies in the Box: How Do You Clean Your Products?

by: Valencia57 This user has validated their user name.

Sat Oct 6 09:51:54 2012

For china and dinnerware, I've found the BEST product!!  It's Pfaltzgraff Stoneware Cleaner.  I use it on stoneware, porcelain and even the good bone china.  It will totally take of those grayish-silver marks that some flatware leaves on china.  If you're using it on anything but stoneware, you want to be sure not to rub too hard (for those good things, I leave it on without rubbing for about 10 minutes).  To remove the cleaner after use, I use watered down Windex.  This cleaner is superb at getting those gray marks off.  It will even take off the rusty marks which some dinnerware has on the backs - I think possibly from the dishwashers.  Try it - you'll be hooked!



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