How Do You Restore and Care For a Vintage World War II Military Uniform And The Silver Bullion Illustrated Here?
Vintage military uniforms can be as delicate to clean and restore as an ornate wedding gown. This is ironic, isn't it?
Taking our knowledge of wedding gown cleaning and restoration and extending that knowledge to military uniforms is a natural step. Both garments are delicate, most with ornate trimmings and both have memories we all want to preserve. This is why we clean, restore and preserve all types of military uniforms.
I was recently asked about cleaning and restoring a vintage World War II Fighting Tiger uniform (the photo above is not the Fighting Tiger uniform). Thanks to Susan from Charlotte North Carolina, here are her questions and my answers about vintage uniform restoration:
Q: What is the best and safest way to clean the silver bullion on a vintage military uniform?
A: If we had the uniform to clean, we would use a cloth we get through jewelry store suppliers (you might be able to get to buy this at a local jewelry store). It is impregnated with a cleaning chemical. You can wipe down the bullion, maybe more than once over a few days, and restore them close to their original look. This is the safest way to do it. Another way is to use the paste sold in a jar for cleaning silver, but this can be a little awkward because you don’t want to get it on the uniform. You should use a Q-tip to apply, to rub and to rinse the bullion. But be very careful because you can cause irreparable damage to the uniform if the paste…or the rinse…gets on the uniform.
Q: What dry cleaning process would you recommend to clean this type of vintage clothes?
A: Before cleaning a vintage military uniform of any type, we would remove the bullion and any other metal, such as buttons and ribbon bars. We would replace these items after cleaning the uniform. Of course, we would clean the bullion when off the uniform.
Dry cleaning is the only method I would recommend for a vintage military uniform. It should be cleaned with minimum mechanical action…the less mechanical action the better. We would first spot clean any area of the uniform needing special attention and then use the appropriate dry cleaning solvents to clean the entire jacket. This is not something I would recommend you trying yourself. You need an experienced professional and the right cleaning solvents to handle something as delicate and irreplaceable as this uniform.
After you clean it, it is important to store it properly, keeping it away from heat and humidity...and allowing the uniform to breathe. Handle it carefully and as little as possible. If you follow these suggestions, your uniform could last for generations.
I wish I had my Dad’s WWII Marine uniform.
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