How to Clean a Clock: Mastering Clock Care

Are you intrigued by the gentle tick-tock of your clock but overwhelmed at the thought of keeping it clean and functional? You’re not alone. Many clock enthusiasts, perhaps like yourself, treasure their timepieces but feel daunted by the upkeep.

Fear not! In this article, we’re about to unravel the mystery of clock cleaning in a way that’s both easy and effective. From antique heirlooms to modern mechanical marvels, you’ll learn how to breathe new life into your clocks, ensuring they continue to mark time beautifully and accurately. So, stay with us, and let’s turn this chore into a fulfilling part of your clock-loving journey.

Choosing the Right Cleaning Fluids

When it comes to maintaining clock movements, picking the right cleaning solution is as crucial as finding those seriously cool wall clocks for your space. The longevity and efficiency of your clock, be it an intricate antique clock or a mechanical clock movement, hinges on using the appropriate cleaning fluids.

Antique Clocks: A Delicate Matter

For antique clocks, which often come with a rich history and delicate mechanics, the selection of a cleaning solution requires special attention. You need a gentle yet effective fluid that can tackle the nuances of older clock mechanisms without causing damage. Seek out speciality cleaners designed specifically for antiques – these are often milder but remarkably effective.

Mechanical Marvels: Precision Cleaning

In mechanical clock movements, precision is key. Just like you would when cleaning old coins, use a cleaning solution that removes grime and old clock oil without leaving residue. This ensures the smooth functioning of gears and spring barrels. Often, solutions made for mechanical movements focus on preserving the intricate workings while providing a thorough cleaning.

Clock Repair and Maintenance

Whether it’s a routine clock cleaning or part of a more extensive clock repair, the right solution can make all the difference. Professionals, such as clock repairers, often use specific brands and types of solutions. Don’t hesitate to consult one if you’re unsure – after all, a well-maintained clock is a lasting treasure.

Mixing it Right: The Role of a Suitable Container

Never underestimate the importance of a suitable container when mixing or using your cleaning solution. Ensure it’s clean, resistant to the chemicals in the solution, and large enough to accommodate parts like the clock case or entire movement, if necessary.

The Cleaning Process

Maintaining the intricate workings of a clock requires a meticulous and careful approach. Whether you are a seasoned clock repairer or a devoted enthusiast, understanding the nuances of cleaning various clock parts is essential. This comprehensive guide covers all aspects of the cleaning process, ensuring your clocks continue to operate with precision and grace.

Preparing for Cleaning

Before diving into the cleaning process, ensure you have all the necessary cleaning products and tools at hand. This includes gentle cleaning solutions, priory polishes for brass and copper components, soft cloths, and fine brushes for reach areas. Safety is paramount, so remember to avoid inhaling harmful fumes and avoid contact with skin by wearing gloves and working in a well-ventilated area.

Disassembling the Clock

The first step in the cleaning process is to carefully disassemble the clock. This can be a complex task, especially for antique clocks with delicate moving parts. Take note of each part as you disassemble, particularly the clock mechanism and smaller components like clock hands and pivot holes. This step is crucial for accessing all areas that need cleaning.

Cleaning the Clock Mechanism

The heart of any clock is its mechanism, and keeping it clean is vital. Start by dusting off any loose dirt and debris. For tougher grime, use a specialized cleaning solution. Apply the solution with a soft brush, ensuring you reach all moving parts. For parts like the pivot holes or gears, use a cotton swab or a fine brush.

Special Care for Brass and Copper

Many clocks, especially antiques, feature brass or copper components. Use a non-abrasive priory polish to clean these metals. This not only removes grease and tarnish but also helps preserve their natural luster.

Handling Delicate Parts

Some parts of the clock, like the clock’s hands and decorative elements, require extra care. Clean these parts separately using a gentle cleaner and a soft cloth. For intricately designed hands or figures, a fine brush can be used to avoid putting unnecessary pressure that could cause damage.

Cleaning the Clock Case

The clock case also needs attention. Dust and clean the exterior with a soft cloth. If your clock has a wooden case, use wood-specific cleaners. For metal cases, appropriate metal polishes should be used. Remember to store your chemicals properly.

Rinsing and Drying

After cleaning, rinse the parts with cold water if appropriate, making sure to avoid putting any water-sensitive components at risk. Dry each part thoroughly. A hairdryer in a cool setting can be used to expedite the drying process, especially for reaching areas where water might collect.

Reassembling and Oiling

Once all parts are clean and dry, carefully reassemble the clock. This is where the notes taken during disassembly come in handy. After reassembling, apply a small amount of clock oil to the moving parts. This ensures smooth operation and reduces wear and tear.

Post-Cleaning Check

After reassembling, give your clock a thorough check to ensure everything is in place and functioning correctly. This is also a good time to post comments or notes for future reference, especially if you encountered any challenges during the cleaning process.

Safety and Maintenance

Remember, always avoid inhaling any fumes from cleaning solutions and avoid contact with skin. Regular maintenance not only keeps your clock in good working condition but also extends its life, making this effort a valuable part of clock care.

After-Cleaning Care

Once your clock has been meticulously cleaned, the journey to ensuring its longevity and pristine condition isn’t quite over yet. Post-cleaning care is just as crucial as the cleaning itself. This phase involves proper drying, reassembling, and applying preventative measures to maintain the clock’s condition.

how to clean your clock

Drying is Key

Immediately after cleaning, it’s essential to ensure that all parts of the clock are thoroughly dry. Any residual moisture can lead to corrosion, especially in the clock mechanism and pivot holes. A hairdryer can be used to gently dry the smaller, intricate parts. Be careful to use it on a low, cool setting to prevent any heat damage, especially if your clock contains delicate brass or copper components. For clock cases, especially wooden ones, air drying is recommended to preserve the material.

Reassembly with Precision

Once all the clock parts are dry, it’s time to reassemble. This should be done with care and precision. If you are not a seasoned clock repairer, it might be wise to refer to any notes or photos you took during the disassembly process. Pay special attention to the clock mechanism, ensuring that all moving parts, like the clock hands and spring barrels, are correctly aligned and securely fitted.

Lubrication for Longevity

After reassembly, the next crucial step is lubrication. Applying high-quality clock oil to the movement and pivot holes helps in reducing friction between moving parts, ensuring smooth operation. This step is vital in preventing wear and tear, especially in mechanical clock movements. Remember, over-lubrication can attract dirt and dust, so use the oil sparingly.

Clock Case Maintenance

The clock case also needs post-cleaning care. If your clock has a wooden case, consider using a wood conditioner or polish to nourish the wood and protect it from environmental factors. For metal cases, a light coat of quality polish can help prevent tarnishing. In the case of antique clocks, consult with antique restorers for the best products to use, as some modern polishes might be too harsh.

Regular Check-Ups

Post-cleaning care also involves setting a schedule for regular maintenance. Checking the clock periodically for signs of wear, dirt accumulation, or the need for re-oiling can save you from future extensive repairs. This is also a good time to ensure that the clock is keeping time accurately.

Safe Environment

Finally, ensure that your clock is placed in an environment that’s conducive to its preservation. Avoid direct sunlight, excessive humidity, or areas with a lot of dust or airborne pollutants. For wall clocks, especially seriously cool wall clocks with intricate designs, ensure they are mounted securely and in a position where they are less likely to accumulate dust.


In conclusion, the art of clock cleaning and after-care is a blend of meticulous technique and attentive maintenance. Whether you’re preserving a cherished antique or a modern timepiece, each step, from selecting the right cleaning solutions to careful reassembling and regular maintenance, plays a crucial role in the clock’s longevity and performance.

Remember, your clock isn’t just a device for telling time; it’s a piece of history, a work of art, and a testament to craftsmanship. By investing time and care in its upkeep, you’re not only maintaining a functional object but also preserving a legacy that can tick proudly through the years. Embrace the process, and let your clock be a timeless treasure in your home or collection.