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Caring for Antique Marble
by Bob Brooke

 

The Victorians loved marble. They though it gave a look of elegance to their high-styled furniture, especially Renaissance and Rococo Revival and Eastlake pieces. However, as beautiful as it is, itís also a vulnerable natural stone surface. Itís soft stone is susceptible to stains and damage. So how can you keep your beautiful investment clean and protected without accidentally causing further damage?

Everyday Maintenance
Before your marble gets damaged through neglect, start a regular maintenance procedure. To clean it, use warm water, then dry it immediately with a soft cloth. If your marble has gotten extremely dirty, you can add a little dishwashing liquid to the water.

Use a soft brush, rinse thoroughlyótraces of soap that remain in the marble will yellow. Be sure to wipe away any sudsy residue from the marble surface. If you have streaks and a dull finish, it may be because thereís still soap residue on the surface. Rinse the sponge or cloth again with hot water and wring it out thoroughly to remove most of the excess water. Wipe over the surface again to remove any residue. Dry immediately and polish with a chamois.

Some museum decorative arts curators recommend using distilled water for the cleaning process. You can also purchase commercial cleaning products made specifically for marble surfaces. Itís important to work quickly to avoid letting solutions soak into the marble more than necessary.

Washing a marble bust of any kind is more difficult because the marks of dirty water dripping down may be impossible to remove. The best advice is to start at the top, using solution or water sparingly, then mop dry as you go. For routine dusting of marble, use a soft brush or a feather duster. A cloth tends to rub dirt into the stone.

Get in the habit of using coasters under drinking glasses and mugs to protect your marble top from staining and etching. Avoid placing sharp- or rough-bottomed objects directly on the marble top to avoid scratching. Finally, apply a commercial marble sealer to prevent stains and make the marble easy to clean.

Also, avoid letting citrus or alcohol products sit on the marble surface as it can etch and dull it. Keep hot items off of marble. Always use a trivet or hot pad for protection. And use a glass or plastic tray to hold cosmetics on marble vanity surfaces. Make sure they have felt pieces underneath to keep from scratching the marble.

Some experts recommend using a microcystalline wax on marble tops after theyíve been cleaned and sealed. Others believe wax isnít necessary.

Protection from Stains
A major concern is the protection of marble from stains, since it is, like other natural stones, quite absorbent. Oils in particular are destructive; an oily stain will strike into the marble, yellowing it and ruining its appearance. A great deal of damage has been done by people who were oiling the wood of a piece of furniture (which they probably shouldn't have been doing anyway), and either spilled the oil or set the bottle down on a marble top. Any oil accidentally spilled onto marble must be removed immediately, and an absorbent material like plaster of Paris or talcum powder liberally applied. Later the plaster or talc can simply be dusted off.

Since marble is a very porous stone, time is of the essence when it comes to removing stains. Immediately blot all spills, avoid rubbing as it may cause spreading of the stain. The longer a stain sits, the more likely it is to soak in and will be nearly impossible to remove.

Removing Stains
To remove stains from marble, mix some powdered whiting, available at home improvement stores, with water in a small bowl until it forms a thick paste about the consistency of peanut butter.

Apply the paste to the stained area, keeping it only on the stain. The layer of paste should be about one fourth of an inch thick and overlap the stain about a half an inch.
Cover the area with plastic wrap and tape the edges down. Allow this to set on the stain until itís dry. This can take up to two days.

When the paste is completely dry, use a cloth or sponge to wipe away the paste.
Rinse with clean water. Clean the area as normal and allow it to dry.

If the stain is still there, you may need to repeat the above steps several times, each time removing more of the stain.


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How to Recognize and Refinish Antiques for Pleasure and Profit

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