When my family decorates our Christmas tree, it’s very methodical. First, we unwrap the vintage glass ornaments my grandmother received as a wedding gift. Then, we take out “baby’s first Christmas” for me and my brother – and yes, the macaroni wreath with a picture of our dog from third grade goes up, too. Then we have the funny ones, the ornate ones, then the glittery ones, and then the plain ones that fill the gaps (if we find any).
All of these ornaments are precious to me, which is why I take good care of them. Cleaning my ornaments as I pack them away for storage keeps them looking shiny and bright for years, even long enough to pass them down.
How to Clean Vintage Christmas Ornaments
Before you begin, it’s a good idea to put on protective gloves. Even the oil from your hands can damage the paint on ornaments.
What you’re trying to accomplish here is a gentle dust removal. To that end, use a dry dust cloth; never a wet rag. For especially delicate ornaments (such as those with glitter) you’ll want the even lighter touch of a feather duster. For detail work, use a small paintbrush or even a makeup brush to get into hard-to-reach places.
Cleaning Glass Christmas Ornaments
For your more ordinary glass bulbs, it’s fine to spray glass cleaner onto a soft cloth and wipe them clean. Be cautious not to apply too much glass cleaner; any paint or glitter adhered to the surface might shift or smudge. Applying the cleaner to a rag or paper towel is the best way to ensure the glass is cleaned without leaving excess product – or streaks.
Making Minor Repairs
While I love to think that my ornaments will never break, I cannot ignore my cats, dogs, or my cousins – all of whom love to play around the tree. In the event an ornament breaks and the cat is blamed – and it’s always the cat – I’ll try to repair the ornament before deciding to throw it away.
Always make sure any shattered glass or pointy shards are cleaned up first. Wear thick gloves to pick up the larger pieces, then a damp cloth to wipe up the shards.
To make minor repairs to your ornaments, I recommend using a toothpick and a clear adhesive for hardware or marine use. I like Beacon’s Multi-Grip. Clean the ornament’s fracture of any debris, then dip the toothpick in the glue and apply a small amount to the affected area. The toothpick gives more control during application and reduces excess. Put the broken pieces together and hold for a minute, then let them dry completely for 24 hours for a long-lasting repair.
How to Store Glass Ornaments and Other Breakables
While it’s tempting to reuse the original packaging year after year after year, it does break down over time, becoming ineffective at keeping your ornaments safe. I recommend investing in a proper Christmas ornament storage box designed specifically for ornaments. These Archival Ornament Storage Boxes are made from acid-free, lignin-free, buffered material, and come in a variety of sizes and volumes to fit your needs.
If you are down with DIY, you can make your own with just a bit of effort (and an office file box and some cardboard). I love HGTV, and they have some great ornament storage hacks that easy to adapt to fit the less-than-standard-sized ornaments.
Here are More Ornament Storage Options
- Use a large cardboard box and place smaller boxes or bags inside it.
- Avoid airtight containers; they seal in moisture.
- Place ornaments that are not fragile in plastic bags.
- Wrap breakable ornaments in acid-free tissue paper.
- Put delicate items in boxes that protect them in your storage container.
- Try using egg cartons for your smaller ornaments.
If you have a big collection, store similar ornaments together in the same container and make sure to label, label, label (especially the Fra-Gi-Le ones). Your future self will thank you for the effort.
Christmas Ornament Storage Solutions and StorageMart
From the twinkling lights to a beautifully decorated tree, Christmas is one of the most festive times of the year. But it’s easy to turn into a Grinch when you find yourself running out of space and it’s time to pack everything up. Good thing there is an easy solution.
At StorageMart, you can rent a storage unit as small as 25 square feet (about twice the area of a bathtub) or up to the size of a garage. We offer affordable self-storage units that can be rented on a month-by-month basis and are always clean and well lit. Climate controlled units are also available—and are a smart choice for delicate vintage ornaments.
Need more info? Visit our website and see how easy it is to rent quality self storage online.