Mike Huxley

Cleaning Silver Thread

32 posts in this topic

Hi all,

I have a uniform for a 1913 Imperial Marine in the Torpedo Division. The rank insignia on the cuffs is in silver thread, but is dirty. Is there a safe way of cleaning it to bring it back to bright condition. Or is it best to leave alone? Here's a pic of the Jacket.

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Mike,

Is one side darker than the other or is that just the way the photo was taken? If both sides look like the right sleeve, leave it alone. This tresse naturally tarnishes over a period of time and is best left alone. If it is actually dirt on it, you might be able to clean it using a very soft brush or cloth and some soap and water. Just easy does it, you dont want to damage the metal threads. Taking it to a trusted dry cleaner would also work and would not be abrasive. I have one nearby that for a little extra will personally process it with more care than something just dropped off. Some dry cleaners ship things off to be cleaned elsewhere, try and find one that does it in-house.

Dan Murphy

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The best thing I know for cleaning silver (it also exists for copper, brass, bronze and other metals) is a product called Duraglit. At least for pieces in solid metal silver, I have no idea how it works in a silver thread!

Anyway, this Duraglit thing comes in metal boxes, and it's a kind of soft cotton sheets, so if done very carefully without touching the cloth (otherwise it would soil the cloth and then you'd have to have it cleaned!) I guess it would clean your silver threads.

Personally I prefer most pieces to remain as they are (in 99% of the cases), if they are just normally worn, but in some very rare cases, especially if some pieces are simply dirty rather than worn, it happens that I clean them using this stuff.

It cleans the dirt and makes them shine, a kind of rejuvenescence cure :P Anyway, with time the silver or other metal will get that old look again.

Just my two cents,

Dolf

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I have had (don't ask, I'll never tell :speechless1::rolleyes::speechless: ) CATASTROPHIC results from using polish on woven bullion thread. Any form of METAL polish that I know of will STRIP the surface right down to the underlying metallic base (usually copper or some such wire) and you do NOT want to go there.

Don't use ANYTHING unless you can see a Before and LONG After shot of something that definutely WORKS

otherwise you end up destroying the piece.

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Dan,

The right hand sleeve is nearer to the actual colour and it's only the way that the picture was taken that makes the other sleeve look bright and clean. As you said, I was thinking of using just a gentle wash with a toothbrush with warm soapy water. It just seems such a shame to leave silver thread in a dirty condition while the buttons and the rest of the jacket look so good.

Dolf, thanks for your thoughts, but to be honest, as Rick says, using any kind of abrasive cleaner on the thread would I am sure do serious damage. I even quiver at the thought of using such cleaners on solid metal items, and would NEVER do such a thing to any medals.

Rick, No I won't ask what you treated in such a poor way ..... SHAME on YOU ... the EVIL ONE must be grinning widely over such a thing :speechless:

Thanks to you all.

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............................................................................................................................................................

Dolf, thanks for your thoughts, but to be honest, as Rick says, using any kind of abrasive cleaner on the thread would I am sure do serious damage. I even quiver at the thought of using such cleaners on solid metal items, and would NEVER do such a thing to any medals.

............................................................................................................................................................

Thanks to you all.

Hi Mike,

Well, it's not said in the box that this thing is not abrasive, but it's not said either that it is abrasive. Honestely I don't think it's abrasive. This is one of those pretty old products that have been used for generations by many house women to clean silver pieces and I never heard of any damage provoked by using it regularly.

In fact, as said in the box the purpose of this thing is to "clean, make to shine and protect silver pieces".

Anyway, I checked the box and this is called an anti-oxidizing active cotton.

Composition: < 30% hydrocarbons and < 5% soap

"By Appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; Manufacturers of Antiseptics, Air Freshners, Polishes, Cleaners and Laundry Products; Reckitt Benckiser pic, Slough"

Dolf

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Well, it's not said in the box that this thing is not abrasive, but it's not said either that it is abrasive. Honestely I don't think it's abrasive.

Perhaps not, but what happens when those little pink cotton threads get hung up in the bullion threads. :( Like I said, if it is only tarnish leave it alone. This is natural, 100 year old bullion should NOT be bright and shiny. It should age gracefully and be allowed to do so. If it is dirty or cruddy, clean it very carefully with a soft brush (not a toothbrush) and mild soap and water ONLY(or have it professionally cleaned). Do not try to remove the patina. If it is not broke, DO NOT TRY TO FIX IT! Here is a detail shot from one of my uniforms, there is nothing wrong here, it looks as it should after 90 years.

IPB Image

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ID: 8   Posted (edited)

Daniel,

Thanks for posting this great pic, it really helps me to fully realize what Mike was considering to clean.

I see what you mean by "...but what happens when those little pink cotton threads get hung up in the bullion threads..."

Now I know that in his case I wouldn't touch it!

I belive this product is definetely more appropriate for solid metal items, and only when it's absolutely necessary to remove dirt.

Even thought I'm not a uniform guy and have not the slightest idea what this is (German Imperial?!), very nice looking uniform btw ;)

Dolf

Edited by Dolf

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Try rubbing it gently with a bit of flannel cloth dampened with deionized water. Do a small, inconspicuous spot first.

-the fabric dude.

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Still trying to figure out what possible reason there could be for cleaning something like this. My advice Mike would be a soft bristle artist's brush to flick away any dirt.... then try a soft bristle toothbrush for anything ground into the wires. It will clean away the crud, dirt amd dust without damaging the bullion, the cloth or removing the patina..

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Still trying to figure out what possible reason there could be for cleaning something like this. My advice Mike would be a soft bristle artist's brush to flick away any dirt.... then try a soft bristle toothbrush for anything ground into the wires. It will clean away the crud, dirt amd dust without damaging the bullion, the cloth or removing the patina..

Rick.

It's not a case of trying to get the uniform back to top class .. more a case of just keeping it clean. Dirty things just bug me and I'm sure that if the original owner of this uniform still had it in his possesion .. then he would keep it in top condition.

My question is towards what would a Marine that was still wearing this uniform do to keep in a clean condition and looking as it should. After all these things were supposed to be bright and shinny when the soldier was on parade.

OK, we can just leave things alone, but from experience of my own Great Uncle ..if awards or uniforms were worn until now, then they would have been kept in good condition.

Just my opinion ... or do we just leave things to decay and rot through not taking care of them?

I know that my Uncle took great care of his awards and other uniform items that he owned and he would not let them decay through lack of care.

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ID: 12   Posted (edited)

(duplicate post)

Edited by Ralph A

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Yes. Take care of fabrics or they will ROT. And stop fondling them.

Consult a local museum and Google "vintage garment care" for some do's and don'ts.

For future reference:

Deionized water will remove dirt, salts and oils without disturbing the silver sulphide used to "coat" the silver threads.

Oil and dirt will "eat" cellulose over time. It's vegetable matter. Think of how leather will dry and crack, if not cared for properly.

For things like really nasty, greasy, dirty ribbons (or anywhere you might after careful consideration justify cleaning something) you can buy through ebay vintage soaps from just about any period to match your fabric. That way, no synthetics to make stuff glow.

- the big 'ol fabric dude, with 25 years experience in the textile and garment industry. ;)

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Yes. Take care of fabrics or they will ROT. And stop fondling them.

"Get thee -clean- disposable cotton gloves, for handling all matters military." The Book of Ralph, chapter 1, verse 1.

Ralph makes many good points, but try not to handle cloth, and if you must, use gloves. Also, try to keep it out of places where it will allow dust, mold, mildew, and related problems affect the material.

The "silver thread" can be made either by using all metallic thread (brittle and prone to breakage especially after it's been oxidized), or metallic thread wrapped around a textile core. Usually, it's the latter method. With "wrapped" threads, the silver or metallic thread is prone to breakage, and and center core of cotton (or whatever) increasingly begins to show.

Anything -rubbed- into the braid is going to be forced into the fabric of the underlying threads and cloth.

Do as little as possible. If it's a matter of removing dirt, a light sponging with a slightly water only moistened cloth (use the dab method, not the scrubbing side to side, etc methods) is about as far as anyone should try to do at home. The body of the garment is best kept as dry as possible, and a -very- light brushing will remove some of the major dirt.

Then put it away, handle it as little as possible, keep it out of direct sunlight, and if you must handle it....use clean cotton gloves.

Les

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It seems one man's "dirt" is another man's "patina" :P I definitely fall into the category of just leaving it be, besides the odd light rubbing with a cotton cloth or light dusting. To me the patina adds to the charm of items, and really gives it the feeling of being "antique", and I would never think of using any modern chemical on these very aged items. The main reason for this is just for the sake if keeping it 100% pure original. But, like I said beauty is in the eye of the beholder :cool: , and some people like their medals shiny and their cloth clean, and others like me enjoy a little silver tarnish and 100 year old dust!

Cheers and thanks for this useful thread,

Pat

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Its an oldish thread.... but i swear I was up in hysterics and both laughed and cried for well over 5 minutes upon seeing the photo of the duraglit can and cotton especially after members voiced their shocked comments and dissed the idea! But HM recommondation realy took the biscuit! Its the just the way the thread weaved itself and I am sure lines crossed in the process!! ;)

Like many others I ventured into cleaning the odd piece or two in my 'younger' days when shiny was good! Yes yes.....I used Duraglit as well inspite of my hysterics....and it gave a darn good shine...as well as the need for constant cleaning thereafter once I messed with the natural order of things! :speechless: ! But today I am almost 15 years wiser and am now a 'dirty' guy.....in that I am a firm believer in patina. The less cleaning the less wear and tear and abrasion and the better the definition of the piece. Also the applied protection of the piece stays put and reduces corrosion.

And when a piece has some durt....I wonder from which battlefield this may have come...not necessarily a battlefield if the previous owner was a careless dirty bugger.....but who knows!

Jim

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Dear Sir,

I wonder if you've read all posts (at least mine) correctly.

Quoting part of my 1st post on this thread:

Personally I prefer most pieces to remain as they are (in 99% of the cases), if they are just normally worn, but in some very rare cases, especially if some pieces are simply dirty rather than worn, it happens that I clean them using this stuff.

It cleans the dirt and makes them shine, a kind of rejuvenescence cure. Anyway, with time the silver or other metal will get that old look again.

I'll add that with those very, very rare pieces I cleaned, I only did it once when I got them, because they were simply too dirty (I believe I know the difference between patina and s--t dirt!) and never again felt the need to clean them again! Opposed to you ("...am now a 'dirty' guy..." : your words) I HATE dirt, either in me, or in the house (I've seen rich people houses infested with millions of flees, cms of dust everywhere, dog s--t on the floor, etc, etc, etc... that would never happen in my place, and even so that didn't make me "hysterically laugh"!), or whatever. I admit I'm probably maniac about dirt, but hey, to each one of us his own mania! Nothing wrong with that, except that I don't "hysterically laugh" about other people's manias! I use this Duraglit at home for cleaning some metal or silver pieces from time to time ans tested it a couple of times in a couple of DIRTY pieces among the hundreds of Orders and Medals I have in my collection. Obviously I wouldn't (as I didn't do it before) recommend it to be used systematically and only suggested it to MH because he asked for help and was trying to find the best way to clean those silver things. It was only a suggestion, an attempt to help.

Again I quote part of another Post in this same thread once I realized what MH was talking about:

Thanks for posting this great pic, it really helps me to fully realize what Mike was considering to clean.

I see what you mean by "...but what happens when those little pink cotton threads get hung up in the bullion threads..."

Now I know that in his case I wouldn't touch it!

I belive this product is definetely more appropriate for solid metal items, and only when it's absolutely necessary to remove dirt.

What might me ROTFL is that someone may believe that a 30, or 40, or 50, or 60 years old piece still has the battlefield patina!...

And when a piece has some durt....I wonder from which battlefield this may have come...not necessarily a battlefield if the previous owner was a careless dirty bugger.....but who knows!

I'd rather believe that the pieces we get coming from some poor Mongolian farmer or some poor Russian (living in conditions some of us can hardly imagine, abandonned for years in conditions and places we can only imagine...) who had to sell their pieces either to pay his bills or pay his booze or whatever, carry in most cases 90% more dirt than any battlefield patina!

Bottom line:

When I see pictures of old vets, from whatever Army in the World, proudly wearing their awards in meetings or war commemorations (people that care about their awards and have always treated them carefully) one thing I notice is that in most cases those people do whatever they can to make their awards shine and look as nice as if they were new! So where is the so-called battlefield patina here?!

Even here, among some of our Military/former Military members, some have already admited in other threads, that each time they used their awards in some cerimony, they would previously clean their awards to make them shine and look as beautiful as possible.

So I believe that probably in most cases what we call patina is in a large scale simply dirt, or "patina" for being abandonned during many years, but most probably not real patina from the battlefield!

Even so, in 99,99% of the cases, I still let the pieces in my collection exactly as they came. The few pieces I cleaned, I KNOW exactly why I did it.

Hope this helps to clarify what I previously said,

Dolf

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Relax Dolf!

My comment was in good faith and you really did not need to take offence as none was intended. So apologies in case u need them :P - Like I said its the pic of the duraglit can and the cotton that made me laugh hysterically after other members voiced their shock at the mention of such a product! And I honestly thought you'd also come to see the humour of it all! Of course I laugh at Monty Python sketches - Not everyone does!!! :D And don't we all have our own pet hates....me included!!

If u read my comments well u would see my (and alas very sad) admission that I really did fudge a couple of pieces many years back when I was a teenager. Guilty as charged for having polished and cleaned brass fittings and medals as well as silver ones....I cry when i think of my old British WW2 stars and medals. I really believed at the time that each item should look like its parade day in 10 minutes time. I was young and very foolish!

The experiences learnt many years back when I was into collecting something so much bigger than me has at least given me the experience to properly deal with my my soviet medal collecting. I can sort of handle and live with a dirty ribbon especially if these are old 50 or 60 year old ribbons on pieces that had, say an original rectangular suspension. I can live with a bravery or combat merits medal that has tarnished and devoloped a patina. In my mind cleaning will always minimally damage a piece....even if microscopically as the very act of cleaning means at least a minimal amount of friction between surfaces or application of chemical substance and I will not make the same mistakes I made in the past! When it comes down to my medals I will say again that I am a 'dirty' guy and that 'dirty' is good!

And yes I did read your comments where u back stepped and said "I belive this product is definetely more appropriate for solid metal items, and only when it's absolutely necessary to remove dirt" My opinion is that is NEVER really necessary to use it!

As for your last comments on veterans cleaning and polishing their medals - Sure.. polish and mount them for show....but if I have the choice between an old uncleaned piece that has lay in a drawer as to one that has been polished and shined over the last 50 years.....I go for the first one...anyplace....anytime.

Regards,

Jim

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ID: 19   Posted (edited)

Relax Dolf!

I am perfectly relaxed!

My comment was in good faith and you really did not need to take offence as none was intended.

No offense taken, I simply didn't appreciate your comment about laughing hysterically after I admited myself above that once I understood what MH was talking about I stepped back on my initial attempt to help!

...after other members voiced their shock at the mention of such a product!

Where or who, before my 1st Post on this thread, mentionning this product for the 1st time, any member "voiced their shock at the mention of such a product" ?!

After my 1st Post yes, but not before the 1st one. And I only posted the pic of the Duraglit can later (on my 2nd Post) to show others that might not be familiar with that stuff what I was talking about.

I never cleaned one single Soviet piece from my collection, and also love "dirty" old ribbons, btw.

From the very few pieces I cleaned (and as I said before I know exactly why I did it) I don't regret it for a second, except for one Mongolian silver piece I posted somewhere else on the Forum, and I mentionned my regrets on that same Post immediately after I cleaned it.

But then again life is a non ending learning process :rolleyes:

Just as a side note:

Of course I laugh at Monty Python sketches...

Personnaly I prefer by far the kind of Seinfeld humor. Not that I wouldn't have a good laugh with some MP sketches.

Dolf

Edited by Dolf

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I never cleaned one single Soviet piece from my collection, and also love "dirty" old ribbons, btw.

Now we're talking the same language!! :jumping:

Personnaly I prefer by far the kind of Seinfeld humor. Not that I wouldn't have a good laugh with some MP sketches.

mmm....I would not completely diss Seinfeld either although yes, a different genre. Pity he does not show on the Swiss telly now that u reminded me of him! :P

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And WOW for that uniform Mike! Not my period or line.....but WOW!! :love: Guess its one of those uniforms of which there could never be many around.....1913 Imperial Marine in torpedo division....!!!!

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And WOW for that uniform Mike! Not my period or line.....but WOW!! :love: Guess its one of those uniforms of which there could never be many around.....1913 Imperial Marine in torpedo division....!!!!

Well I never thought my original question would cause such a storm :blush: . But after all the comments and advice I've received, I'm going to leave it well alone.

Jim thanks for your comments on the uniform. It is in, to be honest very good condition for its age and now all I need to finish it off for display are the remaining parts. So if anyone has a shirt, neck tie ( don't know the correct name for it) and the mutze then I'd love to here from them.

Thanks everyone for your help.

Mike

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Well I never thought my original question would cause such a storm :blush: . But after all the comments and advice I've received, I'm going to leave it well alone.

............................................................................................................................................................

Thanks everyone for your help.

Mike

Mike,

Sorry :blush: , anyway, nothing that a couple of exchanged PMs couldn't resolve ;)

Wise decision to leave it as it is I guess.

Cheers,

Dolf

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I know how to successfully clean most types of bullion thread, whether on a badge or on a uniform. If any of you who posted comments on this topic 11 years ago are still alive or still interested, let me know. 

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1 hour ago, derekcccp@gmail.com said:

I know how to successfully clean most types of bullion thread, whether on a badge or on a uniform. If any of you who posted comments on this topic 11 years ago are still alive or still interested, let me know. 

Unless the uniform is being worn by an active service soldier and your drill sergeant is yelling at you for your dirty kit, it is generally a bad idea to clean the antique uniform of honest tarnish and wear. 

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