How to maintain your glass display cabinets
Once you have purchased a suitable display unit, you need to maintain it properly. Depending on the situation, and the environment glass cabinets are housed, cleaning processes will vary. Glass requires careful maintenance, and even toughened glass which our cabinets made from can be damaged if the wrong materials are used to maintain it. You need to acquire a certain amount of knowledge about the properties of glass and follow a few simple guidelines that will make it easier for you to get the best out of them.
If your units are in a busy environment, such as a retail outlet with a high footfall or a museum that attracts many visitors you need to have a rule set in place to carry out regular cleaning. Dust and dirt build up slowly and if you are always in the presence of your own glass display units you may not notice this build-up as acutely as somebody walking in to your premises for the first time. In many instances, daily cleaning will be necessary to remove dust, fingerprints, and other airborne contaminants such as smoke and traffic fumes.
The best type of cloth to use would be a lint free one that enables you to remove smears without any scratches. Removing dirt and dust is the first stage of cleaning and it can sometimes do more harm than good if, for example, sharp microscopic particles are actually ground into the glass rather than removed from it. Over time this will take off the Sheen from the face of the glass display cabinets and cause refractions in light coming out of the cabinets which makes the items inside appear slightly blurred. Using a lint free cloth ensures that the dirt is removed in a safe manner rather than doing damage. Some types of cloth can actually hold and accumulate sharp particles which damage the glass face. It is very important to throw away cloths and use new ones each time you clean to avoid scratching the class with debris collected from previous cleaning sessions.
There are many glass cleaning products on the market but be careful to check the instructions to see if they are suitable for your particular type of glass display unit. Many antiques dealers still swear by vinegar and of all the cleaning products available it is probably the most environmentally friendly. The best thing to do is test small areas of glass with various products to see which works the best for you. Museums frequented by small children will have different types of dirt compared to upmarket jewellery stores. Sticky fingers produce more stubborn, clinging types of dirt and so a more powerful degreasing solution may be required. Bear in mind, however, that the stronger solutions tend to cause some degree of damage to the surface of the glass over time.
Removing the dirt is just the first part of the cleaning process. The second aspect is polishing the glass. Many of the traditional antique dealers who would have got the dirt off with vinegar swear by newspaper for this second stage involving the polishing. A lot depends on the type of newspaper and whether the ink comes off or not. Again, there are various products on the market specially designed for polishing glass. Experiment on small areas to see which works best for your premises.
Along with cleaning and polishing the glass, you also have to maintain the integrity of the frames. There are all sorts of materials used to construct retail display cabinet frames ranging from hardwoods to aluminium. It is very important to choose the correct products for the correct construction materials. Certain metal cleaning products, for example, will destroy and deface wooden frames so be very careful. Of course there are multipurpose cleaners that claim to handle any type of material, but in my experience they are a jack of all trades rather than a master of a particular material.
Obviously, the interiors of glass display cabinets usually require less cleaning than the exterior but the interiors are not to be completely neglected as dust can build up. Once you have cleaned and polished the units, the next thing you should do is check around the different faces at different angles because smears can easily be missed. Look at the cabinets from different heights and you'll be surprised at what you have missed. People come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and they may see things from a slightly different angle to you.
Ultimately, a dirty display case will only tend to lower the perceived value of the items inside it. So it is in your best interest in terms of maximising the impact of your glass display units and prolonging their life to have a good cleaning routine in place using the right products.