Gold leaf application, also called "gilding," has been used for centuries to add luster to picture frames, furnishings, and even the edges of book pages. Over time, it can pick up dust and grit and begin to look tarnished. Use great care and a delicate touch when cleaning gold leaf, as outlined below.
1. Check the Integrity of the Gold Leaf Before Cleaning
If the gold leaf surface is split, cracked or peeling, do not touch it, brush it or try to clean it in any way. Find a professional or specialist in cleaning and preserving antiques to do the work.
2. Clean Gold Leaf on Wood
Brush over the surface with a feather duster, a natural bristle brush (like those used to apply powder makeup) or an old, soft lint-free cloth in a natural fiber like linen to remove dust and dirt. Press gently and make tiny sweeps of the brush, not long forceful movements. Most gilded objects are coated with a sealant, so brushing should suffice to clean them.
3. Gold Leaf on Books
Use a long-bristled makeup brush to sweep over the page edges and reach between them for a short distance to separate them gently.
4. Gold Leaf on Porcelain
Wash these items by hand in warm water with a mild detergent.