Christmas is just around the corner, which means it’s time for some nice lights, Christmas trees, cheerful carols, crackers and good food. Even though it’s in the middle of summer here in Australia, many of us are still fans of classic decorations and ornaments. Some don’t give much value to such trinkets, but for others, the holiday decorations turn into family heirlooms, which keep great memories over time.
But they can also get incredibly filthy by staying in storage for 11 months at a time. This is why proper cleaning, maintenance and storage of your Christmas decorations is crucial to keeping them in good condition, so they can look good through the years. Here are a few valuable maintenance tips.
How to Clean Different Types of Christmas Ornaments
When it comes to decorating for the holidays, the Christmas tree is usually the piece that steals most of the attention. Everyone has a different style of decorating the tree, some people prefer garlands and some toys, others put on lights, and some cultures even put popcorn on a thread and place it as a garland on the tree.
The different ornaments we use are the soul of the Christmas tree, but keeping them clean is a tricky task because they are made of all kinds of different materials, most of which are very delicate. But this doesn’t mean that keeping them clean is impossible.
How to Clean Glass Ornaments Glass
Christmas ornaments are very fragile, and they come in all colours and sizes. They are pricey, but their elegant outlook is totally worth the price. Cleaning glass ornaments is easy, you just need a window or glass cleaner, some water and a soft cloth.
If you’re using a mild detergent, you don’t need to dilute it, but the general window cleaners are strong, so you’ll need to mix it with some water. Then dip the cloth in the mixture, but make sure it’s just a little damp and not soaking, and then use it to polish the surface of the ornament. This should remove all the dust and stains, leaving a glowing finish.
Pro tip: If the ornament is glittered or is painted with easily washable paints, avoid using any liquids to clean it and just try to polish it with a dry cloth.
If you notice any stains or dust on the inside of the glass ornament, then things get a little more difficult. Here is what you have to do:
- Gently remove the cap without damaging it;
- Then mix a little dishwasher detergent with some warm water in a big bowl;
- place the ornaments in it and submerge them;
- Leave them for a few hours, then take them out and shake the excess water off;
- Finally, leave them on a clean towel to dry with the openings down.
Another way to clean inside the glass Christmas ornament is to use an old restaurant trick they use to clean coffee pots – crush some ice into snow, place it inside the ornament and add some salt to it. Swish it around for a while, the salt will melt the ice and take care of any stains and dirt on the way. Rinse with water after that and leave to dry.
How to Clean Glittered Ornaments
Glittered ornaments are the favourite type for kids because they are so pretty and shiny. But they are a nightmare to clean, and sometimes it’s even impossible to do it.
Before you start anything, you should test if the glitter is firmly attached to the surface. Just press your finger gently to the glitter and then check how much glitter is left on your finger – if it’s covered in the stuff, then it’s best to just leave those pieces alone and forget about the dirt on it.
If it’s safe to proceed, the easiest way to remove dust and lose soot from glittered Christmas ornaments is to just use your lungs –pick each piece and blow on it. If that doesn’t work and you can still see dirt, you can get a soft brush or a feather duster, and gently dust the item.
In case that method also fails, then you can consider soaking it briefly in cold water and then dab the dirt away with a paper towel. Don’t wipe, because you will get the glitter off too.
Pro tip: You can easily preserve your glittered Christmas ornaments by spraying them a little with an acrylic coating aerosol spray. Just place each piece on an old newspaper and apply a thin coat of spray evenly on all sides. It will keep the glitter in place and cleaning will be easier.
How to Clean Painted Ornaments
Painted ornaments are perfect for lovers of the vintage, but the paints are often washable, which makes cleaning these Christmas decorations a little complicated. Of course, applying a sealant like with glittered ornaments would make things easier, but not everyone has the time for such things.
To clean painted ornaments without damaging them, you need to handle them one by one, hold them by the hanger and with care. Don’t touch the painted parts with your hands, because the oils on your skin can damage the paint. If you need to touch them, use latex gloves. Use a feather duster to gently brush off any dust and avoid all kinds of liquids.
How to Clean Wooden Ornaments
The best thing you can do for your wooden Christmas ornaments is to make sure they are covered with varnish when you buy them or apply varnish on them as soon as you get them.
Cleaning these ornaments is similar to cleaning glass ones.
- Use a feather duster for the loose dust and wipe the surface with a soft lint-free cotton cloth.
- If you notice any stains, dilute a small amount of glass cleaner in some water and blot the stains away, then leave to dry.
- To remove years’ worth of dust and grime, you can use a paste wax and a soft cloth.
- Apply small amounts of the paste onto the cloth and carefully buff the surface until it shines.
- You can use cotton swabs to reach into small crevices and folds.
How to Clean Styrofoam Ornaments
Styrofoam is a very fragile material, it crumbles easily and since its most common colour is white, every imperfection is clearly visible. Cleaning styrofoam ornaments may seem like an impossible task, but it’s necessary because they attract a lot of dust and mould can develop on them over time.
Using all-purpose cleaners and chemicals on any kind of styrofoam is not a good idea, because they will eat through the material, so the strongest solution you can use here is lukewarm water mixed with some dish soap. Dust the ornament with a small brush, then dip a sponge in the cleaning solution and gently wipe the surface. Then leave it to dry in a ventilated area, to prevent the formation of mould.
How to Clean Dough Ornaments
Christmas ornaments made from dough are usually more than just ornaments – they have sentimental value because they are the result of our children’s craftsmanship. Storing dough ornaments properly is the key to keeping them in a good condition through the years. They should be kept in airtight containers, with some moisture absorbing packs because they are very prone to mould and the paint can fade in time when exposed to oxygen.
If you notice mould on your dough Christmas ornaments, you can try to save them with a mixture of one part white vinegar, one part water.
Get a sponge or a cloth, dip it in the solution and try to scrub off the mould from the affected parts. Then you should dry the ornament, bake it again if necessary, then repaint it and seal it with some varnish.
The regular maintenance of dough decorations includes only mild dusting.
How to Clean and Care for Other Christmas Decorations
Christmas is more than just trees and ornaments, there are many other types of decorations you can place around the house, like garlands, table cloths, Santa figurines, and a lot more. These also need to be cleaned each year, here are a few general tips on how to do it: Christmas Stockings and Tablecloths Christmas stockings and tablecloths come in all kinds of sizes and shapes, and are made from all kinds of fabrics.
Here is how to care for the main types:
- Velvet – it’s best to dry clean those, moisture will make the fabric harsh and lumpy. If there are wrinkles, don’t press the iron to remove them, because it will burn right through the velvet. Use steam to lift the fibres and then a soft brush to smooth things out and leave a silky finish.
- Felt – they should also go through a dry cleaner because felt shrinks easily and the colours fade quickly. If there are any decorations like beads and sequins on the stocking or tablecloth, then any type of cleaning can make small pieces fall out and destroy the design, especially if the elements are glued on and not sewn. To remove dust, you can place the items into a mesh back and tumble them in the dryer on the unheated air cycle for a while.
- Wool – these can be hand washed in lukewarm water without any detergents, but you can add a few drops of fabric softener for a better smell. Air-dry them or flat-dry them by pressing them with a soft cloth.
- Knitted or crocheted items – these stockings and tablecloths are the easiest to clean. You can hand wash them with tepid water and some gentle detergent, just like you would wash your sweater. Rinse well and air dry. Never wring out the water after washing, because the fabric will stretch and tear.
- Quilted – they should be hand washed in cool water to prevent fading and bleeding of the colours. Rinse well and dry flat.
Dust, tangles and burnt lightbulbs are the main problems your Christmas lights face. You can easily avoid the tangles by getting an extension cord reel from the nearest hardware store and coiling the lights on it. You can also come up with some DIY versions, like a PVC pipe and other items similar in shape.
As for cleaning the Christmas lights, it’s a good practice to take them out a week or two before you have to actually hang them and make sure they are working properly. Turn them on and check for burnt lightbulbs, replace them with new ones where necessary. Then pick a soft cloth and a gentle all-purpose cleaner (or white vinegar and water solution), dab a clean cloth into the solution, and wipe the dust away from each lightbulb separately and from the cord. Leave it to dry before plugging in again.
Wreaths and Garlands
Most garlands and wreaths are made from PVC and other artificial materials, which are quite easy to maintain and don’t require any special care. But the spikes and the many small elements are real dust traps, so if you want to keep these Christmas decorations clean, you should make sure that they are well stored 11 months of the year, so dust can’t reach them.
If you need to remove dust from wreaths and garlands, you can use a few methods – shake them, leave them outside and let the wind do your job for you, or vacuum them on a low setting, so the vacuum won’t suck some of the parts in. If you notice any stains or spills, just pick up a sponge dip it in some soapy water and gently wipe away the dirt.
How to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree
The Christmas trees create one of the biggest controversies surrounding Christmas. If you use an artificial tree everything is easy – you just need to dust them each year, fold them, cover them or put them in a bag and store them. But if you have a real Christmas tree, then lots of questions arise once the New Year comes and it’s time to dispose of it.
Here are a few great nature-friendly disposal ideas:
- Recycle it. Many local governments in Australia offer a Christmas tree recycling service, in some cities, it’s for free, in others you have to pay a small fee. In most places, the pickup of the tree happens from your homes, in others, you have to drop it off at a certain location. Check with your local council or waste centre for all the available recycling options.
- Donate it to your local zoo. This has become a popular practice all around the world in the last few years. There are many zoo animals like goats or deers who would love to eat your Christmas tree for you. All you need to do is make a phone call to your local zoo to find out if they provide this option and what are the conditions.
- Turn in to mulch. Do you have a garden or some trees in your backyard that need some extra nutrition? A good way to fix the situation sustainably is to hire a wood chipper for the tree and gain some free mulch, which will help you revive your plants.
How to Store Christmas Decorations Properly
Here are a few general rules, which will help you store your Christmas ornaments properly, so you can avoid damage and enjoy them for longer:
- It’s best to keep the ornaments in their original boxes. If you don’t have them, you can use a large cardboard or rubber box.
- Avoid plastic boxes, because they allow mould development. In hardware stores you can even buy boxes with dividers, they are the perfect choice for storing fragile items.
- Crunch some tissue paper and place it on the bottom of the box. It will provide softness and additional support for your ornaments, and you will avoid scratches.
- Place the more sturdy ornaments on the bottom of the box, then place some more tissue paper, and place the more fragile ornaments on top of them.
- Never place more than two layers in one box, this increases the risk of damage.
- Wrap each ornament in some more paper or bubble wrap, especially if the ornament is valuable. Don’t pack the ornaments tightly, they may break.
- Store your ornament boxes in a dry and cool place, in a place where they can stay safe for 11 months at a time.
Recycling and re-using your Christmas decorations is a great way to keep the holidays eco-friendly and help the environment. There really is no need to spend a lot of money every year buying new ornaments, lights and garlands. The only thing you need to do is just take an extra day from your Christmas cleaning and organisation schedule and take care of your used decoration.