Preserving Your Antique Porcelain SIgn

By Dan Matthews


Collecting porcelain signs is a fun and rewarding hobby. Used from the turn of the century to the 1960s, these signs last a long time. They are made from "fired on" glass are unique.

Over the years, these signs have increased and maintained their value.

However, fake signs and reproductions exist, so it's important to have your signs authenticated by TAC.

Once that's done, you will need to maintain your signs so they can maintain or increase their value over time. 

Preserving your antique porcelain signs can increase and maintain value as long as you don't damage the sign by fading the paint or applying the wrong chemicals. Restoring a sign usually doesn't increase the value enough to cover the cost of restoration. Only restore signs that mean something to you or are rare. 

Preparation for Preservation

Once you have your sign at home, inspect it carefully. Make note of dents, scratches, scrapes, dirt, tar or dullness.  Dents can be hammered out but creases will never come out. You could damage the paint by doing this.

The good news is you don't need to have professionals clean your sign. It's easy to do yourself.

Here are my tips to clean your porcelain sign.

Painted metal vs porcelain signs

Porcelain is easier to clean and maintain than painted metal signs. Porcelain signs can be cleaned by a wide range of cleaners and are more forgiving with different cleaners than painted metal. 

When working with heavy cleaners and abrasive acids, protect your clothes and skin from damage. Wear rubber gloves, use goggles or other protective eyewear. Wear long sleeves and be sure the area you're working in is well ventilated. 


Cleaning and Maintenance Techniques

Clean your sign but take care and be gentle. You don't want to create new damage. First, use a gentle soap and water to clean it and remove wax and tar. like Dawn liquid. If the sign has significant dirt, you can use different cleaners like Bar Keepers' Friend or Comet cleanser or some acids to clean up stubborn stains. You can clean the sign with abrasive materials like scotch pads, 5-O steel wool. You won't scratch the glass. I use 5-ought steel wool.   

Test it on a small section of the sign and if you see any additional damage using an abrasive cleaner, stop immediately. 

Blue porcelain may be affected by certain chemicals. Be aware that certain cleaners can dull the finish or even scratch old porcelain. Two products Iron Out and Zud or oven cleaners like Easy Off may help ermove rust. Mix with water to form a paste. Apply for 2 or 3 minutes, rub off and rinse.

Once clean, use a polishing compound - white, not red. Use a buffer. Buffering with car wax can also make it shine. 


Removing Rust from Porcelain Signs

To remove rust stains from a porcelain sign, use cleaner wax and OOOO steel wool or SOS pads. You can also use any kind of bathroom or oven cleanser. Let the cleanser sit for a just a few minutes and rub off with 0000 stteel wool. If the stains are etched into the porcelain, they will be harder to remove. 

If you have heavy rust staining, you can use a product called “Scouring Stick.” These are like pumice sticks. Note: you must use a lot of water or the product will scratch your signs.

porcelain sign preservation, porcelain sign maintenance, porcelain sign restoration, porcelain sign cleaning, porcelain sign display, preserving porcelain signs.



Maintaining Porcelain Signs      

Once you clean your porcelain signs, you really don’t need to do anything else. Some people wax their sign, but all this does is make them slippery.

If you're displaying your signs outside, you may want to add clear coat on the signs to protect them from sunlight and pollution. The clean coat can easily remove if needed.


Repairing Porcelain Signs

If your sign has chips in the paint, you may want to touch them up. Try to just match the color, but don't try to hide the damage. Just keep the bare metal from rusting, especially if you are displaying the sign in a garage or building with no climate control.



Watch Dan's Quick Tip

Contact Us with Your Questions or to request authentication.