I have come across some cigar boxes in a shed that I am trying to figure out how to clean them up. They are pretty dirty but structurally sound and have some cool graphics on them. They are dirty and faded a little from the dirt.

Any advice on cleaning them up or websites that talk about the ability to clean them up?

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I have one that came from my mom's uncle that was stored in a house that had a leaking stove pipe. The thing was definitely charcoal covered. I had to use a magic eraser to clean it up.

Now it looks better but not new.

But granted there were no fancy graphics on this one, just wood.

I would just use a dry cloth and get the dust off but leave and use the boxes as they are with all those years of patina some pics would be great I bet there will have some nice inside of lid graphics Nick . 

Hi, I would search for restoration techniques, maybe relating to books or paintings/prints.

Taff

You may want to avoid the urge to "over restore" or "over renew" your boxes.

There is likely a lot of hard earned character in the boxes. Most of us work hard to make our shiny, new looking boxes look more road-worn and gritty.

A cheap throw away paint brush is a good tool for removing surface dust and dirt without cutting into the box materials. You may want to start there and see what you have to work with.

Remember, a lot of highly regarded CBG designs (Swamp Witch coming to mind) work hard for a rough, primitive look.

Pictures would be good. here......

start with the 'dusting brush' head on your vacuum to get all the loose dust/dirt

Removing the loose stuff with a brush is a good idea.

I also had success cleaning a bunch of stuff with some Windex and paper towels. It doesn't do too much damage to paper if you don't put too much (I clean the outside of used books with the stuff).

Depending on how cruddy the boxes are, there will be different approaches to take.

I do tend to try and age the hardware and wood when I build stuff, so you might have half that job done already ;-)

 I had success using those eye glass cleaning wipes that come in the little foil packaging.

The ones I have, have so little Alcohol in them it didn't damage the paper.

I was actually able to remove some Hide Glue  that stuck to the top with no problem.

I sit and stare at my dirty, vintage boxes before I do anything to them, then I approach them with the least invasive technique that I think might work and go from there until I'm happy.

I have a couple of vintage solid wood Muriel Babies boxes that were used to store dirty, greasy, automotive nuts and bolts. The person handling them of course, also had greasy hands. There was probably 1/32" 0f black grease on them. After much internal debate, I gently used soap and water, and ended up being pretty happy with them, although they still had some grease on them. I let them sit and stared at them some more, and eventually used lighter fluid to clean them to my further satisfaction. I was afraid that they might look "cleaned", and they did look that way somewhat after the soap and water, but wiping them with lighter fluid kind of blended things all around and now they have a clean, but patinaed look to them. Those were my worst case scenarios.

Usually, with old boxes, I just use a DAMP sponge and be as quick as possible between wetting the box and getting it dry, especially with paper-covered boxes. I haven't yet "over-cleaned" any boxes to my eye. When I show before and after pics to other people, I usually get, "Wow, that looks great!" responses.

Everyone has their own opinion on what constitutes patina, and what constitutes dirt. I do my work to satisfy myself, and my dividing line between dirt and patina varies with each box.

Good luck and please yourself!

       

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