Dear Lee,

Our new ovens are microwave and convection, computers and printers have replaced typewriters, and experts can learn the age of the canvas and paint of a 17th century painting. But information posted online years ago is still out there, even if it is now updated or wrong. So, here is a list of obsolete advice you should NOT use when caring for your antique and vintage possessions.

Do not use a silicon spray polish on old furniture that was waxed. It will remove some of the wax and can leave a gray finish.

Never use boiled linseed oil on wooden furniture. It crystallizes into a hard surface that is almost impossible to remove.

New glue will not stick on old glue, so clean off the old glue with hot water when repairing an antique Windsor chair.

Don’t use an old lock to lock your antique furniture drawers or doors without carefully testing it first. Handmade keys were made for handmade locks, and a replacement key often won’t fit.

Thirty years ago, we said you should wax furniture once a year. Don’t let it “dry out.” We even said, “Feed your furniture with oily polish.” Furniture is made of dead wood, so you can’t “feed” it; the polish stays on top to collect dust.

Never use metal polish to clean gilded metal. Clean with ammonia.

Don’t leave a plastic cover on wooden furniture, especially over tabletops, for more than a month. It may melt and stick to the furniture, ruining the finish.

Ignore the old suggestion to remove a white ring from the dining room tabletop – with cigarette ashes and toothpaste. It won’t work on newer pieces. And where would we find cigarette ashes these days? Most rings will just dry up in a few days and disappear.

Don’t use instant silver polish. It removes any dark patina that enhanced the decoration.

Don’t put hollow-handled silver knives in a new dishwasher. The old ones were okay, but the new ones sometimes get so hot the filler holding the blade melts.

Don’t put 1960s gold-trimmed bar glasses in a microwave or new dishwasher. The decoration will fade away. Or, if the decoration is silver, it will form a dark powder that is poisonous.

And my favorite story of antiques and modern kitchens – a friend put the silver-plated turkey platter in the oven to warm it, and the handles fell off because the lead solder melted.

Terry Kovel



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