How to Clean Antique Storage Trunks

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Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum

  • Clean cloths

  • Bucket

  • Water

  • Saddle soap

  • White vinegar

  • Spray bottle

  • Lemon oil

  • Baking soda

An old steamer trunk was used to transport luggage in the 1800s.

Antique storage trunks add a decorative touch to any home and can serve as extra storage where needed. If you've found an antique trunk at a garage sale or antique store it may be dirty and not in ready-to-use condition. Antique trunks needn't be merely decorative and can be made functional with some careful cleaning. With the use of simple supplies from home and the store, you can add functional history to your decor.

Step 1

Vacuum the inside and outside of your antique trunk. Use a brush attachment to gently vacuum along the inner walls and corners of the trunk. Vacuum the exterior to remove excess dust, hair, and loose dirt.

Step 2

Wash wooden antique trunks and leather handles or decorations with a mixture of warm water and three capfuls of saddle soap in a bucket. If the interior of the trunk is lined with paper or has any paper decorations, avoid cleaning those areas with the saddle soap solution. Wipe down the wood areas on the outside and inside and change the soapy solution if it gets dirty.

Step 3

Clean metal antique trunks with a mixture of one part white vinegar and one part water in a spray bottle. Gently clean paper lined trunk interiors by spraying the vinegar solution on your cleaning cloth and carefully wiping down the interior.

Step 4

Prop the trunk open and allow it to air dry completely. Combat musty odors by placing a bowl or box of baking soda in the trunk, once it's dry, and closing the lid. Allow the baking soda to sit inside the antique trunk overnight.

Step 5

Oil wooden parts of the antique trunk with lemon oil.


Oil extremely dry wooden antique trunks with linseed oil. Dry wood will look dull and is not good for the longevity of the trunk.


Use caution when cleaning paper-lined trunks. The paper becomes fragile and brittle over time and should be cleaned or wiped down once per season or less, if possible.

Mary Ylisela

Mary Ylisela is a former teacher with a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and mathematics. She has been a writer since 1996, specializing in business, fitness and education. Prior to teaching, Ylisela worked as a certified fitness instructor and a small-business owner.