How to Clean Metal Antique Toys

By Kristie Brown
Depending on their condition, antique metal toys may be worth thousands of dollars.

In 2010, a vintage tin Santa and sleigh pulled by two goats fetched an unprecedented auction bid of $161,000, making it the most valuable tin toy sold in more than 15 years. Antique collectors are always on the hunt for a great deal or a valuable acquisition, and antique toys are on that list of prized items. If you’re lucky enough to own or inherit an antique metal toy, take special steps to clean the toy and preserve its value.

Toys Without Movable Parts

Spread out old newspapers or towels on your work surface.

Dust your toy with a soft paintbrush, taking care to reach the hidden parts of the toy.

Spray rusted parts of the toy with a light-oil spray, concentrating the spray to just the rust. Allow the oil to sit for a minute or two and then use a soft cloth to gently wipe away the rust. Apply gentle pressure, but don’t press too hard or you could lift paint or decoration with the oiled cloth. Whenever you use light-oil spray, test a few drops of oil on an inconspicuous area to ensure the metal does not react adversely to the oil.

Add a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid to a small plastic bowl and fill with warm water. Avoid using dishwasher or washing machine detergent, as they are too harsh for your toy.

Dip a soft cloth into the soapy water. Wash away dirt and grime from your toy, being careful not to wipe too hard or vigorously. Dip a cotton swab in the water and use it to clean hard-to-reach places.

Dry your toy immediately and thoroughly with a dry, lint-free cloth. Do not allow your toy to air dry or the metal could rust. Use a dry cotton swab to absorb moisture in hidden or hard-to-reach places.

Dust your toy occasionally with the soft paintbrush.

Toys With Movable Parts

Dust your toy with a soft paintbrush, taking care to reach the hidden parts of the toy.

Apply a thin coat of light-oil spray to the toy and then apply gentle pressure with a lint-free cloth to clean the toy. Take care not to press too hard or you could lift paint or decoration with the oiled cloth. Whenever you use light-oil spray, test a few drops of oil on an inconspicuous area to ensure the metal does not react adversely to the oil.

Wipe away the excess oil with a soft cloth, using gentle pressure and ensuring you don’t wipe away any decoration.

Things Needed

  • Old newspapers or towels
  • Soft paintbrush
  • Light-oil spray
  • Soft lint-free cloths
  • Small plastic bowl
  • Mild liquid dishwashing soap
  • Cotton swabs

Tip

Don’t display or store your toy in direct sunlight, as the rays will fade paint and cause damage over time. Display your toy out of reach of children’s little hands or curious guests. Continued handling increases the possibility for damage and the oil from hands transfers to the toy.

Warning

Do not use light-oil spray on wooden or plush toys or toy parts.

About the Author

Kristie Brown is a publisher, writer and editor. She has contributed to magazines, textbooks and online publications. Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.