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Leah Ashley’s Favorite Tried and True Tricks for Cleaning Vintage Finds

Living with Leah: Spring Cleaning

Living With Leah:
Spring in Your Step

Spring is upon us. Which means it’s the perfect time of year to hit the open road and do some picking, collecting, junking and antiquing. No matter what you call it, hunting for dusty old treasures is a great way to spend these perfectly mild spring days. But spring also brings to mind another kind of activity … cleaning.

Have you ever been in the middle of hauling those funky finds home and stopped to wonder, “Where has this been?” I have and the thought that follows is always “Eeew!” Shamelessly, I’ll admit that I’ve walked away from some really great pre-loved pieces just because I couldn’t see past the ick factor. Determined never to let that happen again, I’ve put together some of my favorite tried and true tricks for cleaning all of those finds.


I have a thing for brass. I can’t stop collecting it, tarnished or not. And with this easy, homemade trick I was able to bring all of my brass back to life. All you need is a lemon and some salt. Start by rinsing off the brass piece with warm water. Next, add a good amount of fresh lemon juice and salt to a sponge. Start scrubbing and watch as years of tarnish disappears.


I love a good vintage rug, but let’s be honest –who knows where those rugs have been in their lifetime. Here’s what you need to get that baby so fresh and so clean. Start by vacuuming the heck out of it on both sides. This will get rid of any dirt or dust that you can see. Next, take your rug outside and lay it on the patio or even a large table. I take Woolite, a garden hose anda broom and go to town. Scrub baby, scrub. Let your rug dry in the sun, either on a fence or in the grass. Just remember to flip it over every few hours.


I was recently gifted a collection of my great grandmother’s silver. While intricately beautiful, it was also quite tarnished. To be honest, I think my grandmother gave it to me because she was tired of trying to polish it! But to clean silver, all you really need is to make a paste consisting of baking soda and water. Wet a soft cloth and rub the paste into all of the cracks and crevices. To finish, rinse with warm water.


Who doesn’t love all those fancy, delicate linens that remind you of Granny? The problem is that they can be difficult to clean, especially if they are stained. The most important thing to remember is not to throw them into the washing machine. LIKE NEVER EVER. To get my vintage linens shiny bright, I swear by the power of OxiClean. I let my linens soak in a warm bath of water and OxiClean for about an hour, maybe longer depending on how soiled they are. Then I rinse them well with water and let them air dry.

Hardwood Furniture

Out of all the cleaning questions I get, how to clean wood furniture has got to be the most asked. The first thing I do with old furniture is vacuum it all over. This gets rid of any cobwebs and dust that might be hiding deep in crevices. The next step is to take a simple solution of gentle dish soap and wipe it down. This removes any of the dirt and grime your vacuum missed. Lastly, pick up some wood soap and wipe that baby down using a clean cloth. I prefer Murphy’s Oil Soap. This will not only clean, but also provide your wood piece some much-needed hydration.


This next tip comes straight from one of my fanciest friends whose collection of jewelry is quite enviable. Mix up a few cups of Windex and a couple drops of dish soap. Heat the solution in the microwave for one minute. Drop your jewelry in the hot solution and let it sit for 15 minutes. When you pull it, out scrub with a soft toothbrush and then rinse with warm water. Even your jewelers won’t be able to get your bling this clean.


Have you ever found an awesome vintage jacket that is super-chic but smells like moth balls and old thrift store? Usually this type of fancy find can’t just be thrown in the wash or even dry cleaned. But luckily, you don’t have to live with that smell. Just take a spray bottle filled mostly with water. Add three tablespoons of unscented witch hazel, six drops of orange essential oil and 10 drops of purification oil. Lightly spritz your clothes and the stinky smell will disappear.

Happy treasure hunting and spring cleaning!