How to Clean Gold Leaf

How to Clean Gold Leaf. Gold leaf - also known as "gilding" - has been used throughout history to decorate a variety of items, from furniture to books to picture frames. Gold leaf can be quite unstable, so handle with care, especially if you are dealing with an antique.

  1. Check the condition of the item you wish to clean. If the gilded finish is flaking or cracking, do not attempt to clean it. A professional conservator should be consulted. (Look in the Yellow Pages under Antiques--Restoration and Preservation.)

  2. Use a very soft natural brush, a feather duster or soft cloth to gently dust or wipe the item. Do not rub. Since most gold leaf has a sealant over it, this is often all that is needed.

  3. Wash china with gold leaf by hand, using a mild dish detergent.

  4. Clean books with gold leaf by gently dusting with a soft cloth.

  5. Use a chamois cloth lightly moistened with denatured alcohol to clean gilded glass. Wipe carefully and buff dry with a soft, dry cloth.


To keep body oil from staining gold leaf, use gloves when handling the item. Gold leaf does not tarnish.


If you are dealing with an antique, rigorous cleaning or use of commercial cleaning products on gold leaf can negatively affect the value of the item. Speak to a conservator before trying to clean any antique item that is adorned with gold leaf. Keep gold leaf items away from excessive heat and humidity, which can damage the gilding.