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Cleaning Crates for Preservation or Restoration- What To Do with Old Crates

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Old or new, crates are built to be robust and stand the test of time. Many people seek crates for various reasons ranging from moving equipment, storage of materials, or artistic restorations. Depending on your intended purpose, there are several ways to handle the crates. With preservation and restorations, however, some key notes should be taken when cleaning in order to ensure your crates maintain the qualities you want. Here is a look at some of the recommended cleaning procedures when your intentions are either of the two.


Many people would much rather preserve that antique shipping crate from their grandfather's time in "the war", rather than destroy or change it. The uniqueness of the markings, construction, color, even the weathered nature of the crates all combine to give them the antique status. For people planning to auction such crates particularly, preservation is key.

When cleaning crates for preservation, you should try as much as possible to use soft brushes and dry material to clean the surfaces. While washing may be ideal in some cases, some soaps may remove the unique markings, change their colors, or even harshly interact with the wood changing its nature. If using water, perhaps a simple hosing without much chemical additions would be recommended. It is equally important not to scrub or sand such antiques for cleaning. Sanding obviously clears the antique color and feel of the crates and this may interfere with your auction prices.


A very common use of crates is restoration. Many people find it much more creative or artistic to restore old crates into usable components that maintain an antique feel to them. When undertaking a cleaning exercise for a restoration, you may find that maintaining some of the "dirty look and feel" actually complements your project. You may, therefore, remove old pencil marks, some writings and blemishes by a soft shallow sanding, but leave a majority of the scratches and marks on the box. After shallow sanding, you can wash the crates with soapy rags but don't necessarily scrub them. To maintain  their original antique hue, it may be better to use wax instead of turpentine or polyurethane for sealing. While polyurethane and the likes make the crates appear darker and glossy, wax achieves a natural seal result complete with colors that lack the shiny new feel.

Also, use a rug to apply the wax as opposed to brushes. Rub the wax following the patterns of the wood grain. Brushes tend to leave visible strokes that may make your work appear less original. For more information, contact companies like 1/2 Price Pallets.