Want to know how to properly care for your gilded objects? Do you know how to clean gilt objects? If not, why not? Are you looking to do your antique frame a disservice?

All this and more coming right up today as we explore the ins and outs of what it takes to properly care for gilded objects.

Table of Contents

Beginners Guide to Gilding

Heat & Humidity

One of the major things to remember when learning how to clean gilt objects is that environmental factors can have a huge impact on their welfare. Yes, a gilded surface like a picture frame coated in gold leaf or gold-colored paint can be gravely impacted by the heat and humidity of the space in which it resides.

Cracks in gilded frames are nothing new and are, in fact, quite typical symptoms of age. If, though, the gold and lower layer are both lifting, then it might indicate that the gilding layers are delaminating from the substrate. These are some of the most important gilding terms so get studying. For more info, why not visit this resource?

Pests & Mould

A gilded frame – or other gilded surfaces – can also fall prey to household pests and mold too. The common furniture beetle is a known suspect in cases of this kind. Their impact will be evident by the presence of holes that are 1 to 3mm in diameter, holes that will not remove themselves even after applying a soft cloth or a soft-bristled brush.

Woodworms have also been known to get themselves involved where they are not otherwise wanted, messing with picture frames and other wooden objects, especially when they know there to be excess moisture.

Wear & Tear

Of course, as will all objects, those that are gilded are also subject to the kind of wear and tear that all corporeal things are. This is one of the most common issues that frame conservators come up against each day.

This often comes in the form of small scratches and dents, where, for instance, a piece of fabric might lightly dust the oil gilding. Whether gold leaf or silver leaf, a soft brush like this can have a severe impact over time, even if extremely delicate.


Owing to the delicate nature of the objects involved, it would be best to leave transporting them to a minimum so that future generations might be able to bear witness to their majesty.

Of course, there comes a time for almost all things when moving is utterly necessary. In such instances, it would be best to wear vinyl or latex gloves that protect the object from any oil or moisture on the surface of your hands.

Also, try to avoid placing too much pressure on any one of the joints of the object. This mainly applies to frames which are usually kept together in four pieces.


Moving these objects should also be kept to a minimum. Sage’s advice to follow would be to only dust gilded objects with a dry cloth once a year for this action can very easily wear away the gilding (live silver gilt) and other paint.

Dust can even be collected with a vacuum cleaner set to minimum suction, lifting the dust with a contact-free nozzle so that no loose pieces of ornament are lost. The utmost care and attention to detail are vital at this stage of the process to avoid mishaps and heartbreaks.

Storage & Display

The utmost care also ought to be taken in the storage and/or display of gilded objects, lest they wear away sooner than they otherwise might.

Thus, storing and/or displaying them away from direct heat sources like radiators or fires is vital to ensure a longer life for them. Also to avoid is their placement against a wall or surface that might be at risk from dampness or leaks.

You would be best advised to store gilded objects away from anywhere with a great thoroughfare. Not only can they be more prone to knocks and other points of injury and contact but the changes in the environment presented by human traffic can prove fatal in the long term.

Final Words

So, there you have it! Hopefully, this study has been of use to you and has allowed you to do your own investigating into how to clean gilt objects, provided now with the tools to take proper care of them throughout their life and yours.

FAQs How to Clean Gilt Objects

What is the best way to clean gilt?

The best way to clean gilt is to do so as rarely as possible. Most advice on the subject will tell you to dust gilded objects once a year at most for the act of dusting can very easily cause damage to the object over time and with repetition. If you really must, though, use a dry microfiber cloth and do so as softly as you can muster.

How do you clean tarnished gilts?

If tarnished, a gilt can be cleaned using a mixture of ammonia and washing-up liquid. Cleaners that are any more abrasive than that can do some serious damage to the object over time, gradually removing the layer of gold or silver until the object no longer bears any resemblance to that which it once was. Likewise, instead of using a harsh scourer or sponge, you would do best to use a soft microfiber cloth that is little more than damp with the aforementioned solution.

How do you clean a dirty gilt frame?

If you deem it entirely necessary to clean a gilt frame that has become dirty, then you would do your best to use a specific solution. If for whatever reason you cannot find a dedicated cleaning solution for the purpose, then you can make your own with a mixture of washing-up liquid and ammonia. Anything stronger will likely cause damage to the object over time, especially if it is made of a precious metal like gold or silver. Likewise, you will want to use a soft microfiber cloth that is not much more than damp with the aforementioned solution, working it into the various crevices and crenellations of the frame.

How do you clean antique gilt metal?

The safest method for cleaning antique gilt metal is to use white cotton cloth, cotton balls, or q-tips (cotton buds) alongside a small amount of clean and cool water. Very little else will be necessary to properly remove the dirt from the metal, though if you deem it so then you can always purchase a dedicated cleaning solution or make your own with washing-up liquid and ammonia. Anything stronger is strongly advised against.

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