Gold leaf sure is a beautiful way to decorate our homes, right? But how do we go about restoring? Want to learn how to restore gold leaf?

Then come on in from the cold hard night of negligence as we discuss the tell-tale signs that your gold leaf might need some attention and how to go about it.

Table of Contents

how to restore gold leaf


No matter how much you might try to avoid it, your gold leaf will eventually need a touch-up, in which case it will be useful to learn how to restore gold leaf.

Gilded frames can very easily fall prey to the elements, and the situations below could very well apply to you:

  • An uncoated item that has been manufactured using gold leaf with a traditional water-gilding technique will be more or less impervious to most chemicals and ultraviolet exposure. However, it can very easily be scratched away with a fingernail or wiped away with a wet cloth.
  • A metal substrate manufactured using an oil-gilding technique will be fairly resistant to water exposure, though the same technique will not yield the same results when applied to a gilded surface of the wood.
  • Mordant gilding techniques like those that involve bronze leaf and bronze-pigmented paints can quickly oxidize and tarnish from gold to dull brown and lurid green.
  • Gold leaf that has been water-gilded will often be averse to paint stripper, though the same can’t be said for a gilded object that has been oil-gilded.
  • Gilt coatings – and the gilded objects they dress – will almost always be damaged over time by wear and friction. This is due to their relative thinness. No matter whether these art objects are made using water-gilding or oil-gilding, the materials historically are unable to bear the pressure. This site will tell you much the same.

Does gold leaf tarnish? Indeed it does!

Cleaning Guidelines

So, now we know what to look out for when scouting out the kinds of gold leaf that need restoration, let us move on to some key tips for cleaning and restoring gold leaf:

  • Determining the right treatment for valuable items – picture frames, for instance – can require a whole lifetime of experience. If you are going to attempt to restore gold leaf yourself then you should be as careful as possible, using the bare minimum of moisture and ensuring that you do not use any commercial cleaning solutions, unless of course they are specifically designed for the purpose.
  • If it is utterly necessary to use a commercial cleaning solution then ensure you test it on the least prominent part of an object first.
  • In general, you would do best to use a white cotton cloth, cotton balls, or q-tips (cotton buds) alongside the barest amount of clean and cool water. Various methods there may be, but all ought to be approached from such a beginning, such is the way of this old-world craft.
  • Wet the cleaning material with water and dab it on something dry before cleaning to avoid introducing any excess moisture.
  • If the object you are cleaning is a mirror then take a look at the coating of the paint near the mirror. It will almost always have been worn away by the glass or window cleaner used to clean the mirror itself. To avoid this, try using a thin piece of card held against the gilded part of the mirror so that the cleaning cloth is only rubbing on the glass.

Final Words

So, there you have it! Hopefully, this resource has been of some use to you in restoring your own gold leaf items. Godspeed!

FAQs How to Restore Gold Leaf

Can you repair gold leaf?

Indeed you can. You will need a small amount of gold foil (preferably the kind that was initially used to gild the object in question). If you bought the object second-hand and, thus, do not know what kind of gold leaf was used to gild the object then you can always go to an arts and/or crafts store. Gold leaf is simply gold that is pressed into extremely thin sheets that weigh as much or less than a feather. Finding the right type should not be too difficult, though it should be obvious why it is so expensive.

How do you clean tarnished gold leaves?

Salt and baking soda have been shown to be effective in the fight against the tarnishing of gold leaf, especially when they work in tandem. When combined, they create a reliable chemical reaction that can help to break down the tarnishing that can plague gold leaf. Try using equal parts of each – perhaps one tablespoon of salt combined with one tablespoon of baking soda. If the tarnishing is particularly bad, you can always use a drop or two of dish soap or washing-up liquid, though do make sure that it is little more than this for the chemicals within these solutions are incredibly strong.

Can gold leaf be polished?

Indeed it can, though it is best to do so once you have properly cleaned the gold leaf first. So, once the excess water drains off and the surface properly dries, the gold leaf will become bright and beautiful as it must have been in a previous life. Once the excess gold leaf has been removed, you can use an agate burnisher to polish the gold leaf to perfection.

Get 10% OFF on your first order

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% discount on your first order. Check your inbox for the discount code and use it at checkout!

*Terms and conditions apply

You have Successfully Subscribed!