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Cleaning Medals

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Hey all, I'd like to clean some of the dirt and grime on some medals and get rid of that green crude also.


Would a warm water and soapy (dish soap ) mixture be acceptable.


Your thoughts please.


Thanks so much!




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For me , water will never come close to the medals or collectables I have.


I only use silver-cloth or for the dirt-off rubbing, a cloth dipped or if necessary soaked in gun-oil.




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On 26/01/2022 at 18:01, gjw said:

I'd like to clean some of the dirt and grime on some medals and get rid of that green crud also.


The word "CLEANED" is the kiss-of-death in this hobby!  If a medal, order, decoration, or badge is identified by the experts as "CLEANED" its value and collector-desirablity nosedive into the sewer.  


Moreover, terms like "DIRT" and "GRIME" and "GREEN CRUD" are used by auto mechanics talking about a carbureter.  The community of seasoned collectors use terms to describe what is really going on with a specimen...  terms like silver oxide, ferrous oxide, cupric oxide, zinc oxide, patina, toning, tarnish, and foreign surface-contamination, just to name a few.


The surfaces of medals are to be left alone UNLESS one of two conservation-related  tasks needs to be undertaken:


1.) Retarding or preventing further deterioration of the metal (only if the possibility of further deterioration is a likely factor) and


2.) Removal of foreign surface-contaminents such as soil or scale (ground-dug or underwater-recovered items) and oil of any kind, which attracts and holds dirt and which is the cause of things like fingerprints and uneven, anomalous surface discoloration.  (It should be noted that the degradation due to age and oxidation of applied oils such as gun oil will eventually turn into a sticky, varnish-like, thin layer of sludge.)


The best approach is to post pictures of the items you're talking about for analysis.    

Edited by Simius Rex
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As discussed earlier on, by me mentioning that I generally distrust "shiny" - "perfect-surface" collectables, I was told that some just like shiny collectables whilst others (like me) prefer the original patina or surface deterioration that automatically comes along with objects having a 100-300 years of  natural wear on them.


Judging from the main three sources by sellers of collectables - the following observation comes in;

Evilbay and alike - in majority unpolished, therefore non-shiny (mostly due to selling fakes and impersonating age)

Collector to collector - in majority natural timeline surfaces and material structures showing wear and tear

Auction-houses - generally perfect and super shiny (and they are by far the most expensive sellers)


As such I do not see or observe, that polishing and surface restorations would have a negative effect on the value - quite in contra actually in regards to the price controllers of collectables - auction-companies.


For medals/orders I luckily do only have two awards that due to surface imperfections are prone to rust-oxidation and therefore are cleaned/wiped once a year with gun oil - which naturally has to be entirely wiped of after the process. during the process it is important not to apply pressure. 

As for my Ulan Tschapkas and extensive sword collection - again gun-oil is the perfect cleaning medium. All hunters like me clean with gun-oil any leather or metal object- and it is absolutely perfect for the job. 


Again it is essential to wipe of the gun-oil as best as possible, it will (that's the purpose) leave a certain minimal protective film on the surface which is totally harmless and in contra helps to protect the surface from oxidation - external corrosion and pitting corrosion. I do not posses a single object-collectable that beholds a "sticky" surface.  


An uncle of mine and a renowned German Militaria collector introduced me to this method some 45 years ago and it was independently confirmed by my hunter associates about 30 years ago.


Below you can see on of these two EK's with imperfections and thus being treated once a year - again with no pressure applied, as one can observe via the non outright silver frame. Also see the Damascus blade and natural surface after gun-oil treatment with no sticky surface. Including the treatment for the wooden sheath.


One always needs to reconsider the geographical location regarding maintenance of objects, e.g. in Indonesia Kris are cleaned with coconut water and coconut oil - perfect for the place due to its humidity - a very bad idea to apply these mediums in e.g. Europe.


Finally please let me add, that rust or oxidation is not cleaned or removed with gun-oil - the latter is a conservation method - rust/oxidation or rostfrass is removed with (sorry I do not know the english term) Feinst Stahlwolle. fine wire wool?








Edited by v.Perlet
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