How to Care for and Clean Antiques: Dirty Novelty Candles

Hi everyone! I hope you had a great week-end. I performed a pretty major overhaul at my antique booth on Saturday, not before I popped into a couple of estate sales, though. I’ll share some of my vintage finds with you tomorrow. Today’s post deals with a quirky collectible you may be familiar with–novelty candles, particularly those made by Gurley.

How to Clean & Care for Antiques Dirty Novelty Candles at Adirondack Girl @ HeartWhat makes Gurley candles so special? If you were a child in the 50’s or 60’s, then your family likely owned a set, including Santa, a snowman, a reindeer, a soldier, and of course, an angel. If you were a child in the 70’s or 80’s, then you may have noticed them at your grandmother’s or perhaps your parents inherited them, and they graced your Christmas table. Today you often find them with imperfections–melted areas from time spent in the attic, some grime from grubby hands, or a layer of dust from the basement.

vintage candles made by gurleyEasily recognizable by their cherubic faces, each candle would originally have born a cardboard label like this one on their base. If the glue adhering the label to the base dries out, the label frequently falls off, so many Gurley’s have no label.

Dirty Vintage Gurley Angel CandleToday’s post answers the question, “How can you clean a dirty Gurley candle?” This is what my Gurley angel looked like when she was given to me by my sweet friend, Bev. She rescued her from a free box at a garage sale and passed her onto me.

Tools to clean candles with q-tip, water, pany hoseYou will need three items to clean your Gurley’s (or any other candles for that matter): hot water, cotton swabs, and old panty hose (mine is white). The hose acts as a minor abrasive to clean away light dust and/or grime. The swabs help with hard to reach areas.

Dirty Angel Gurley candleYou can see some light grime/dust on her face and just above her shoulder. To clean the wax, I wrapped a bit of hose around my finger, dipped it into the hot water, and lightly rubbed until the grime disappeared. Repeat as necessary.

cleaned area of gurley candleThe process works extremely well–cleaning pretty thoroughly while maintaining the integrity of the wax.

half clean half dirty vintage gurley angel candleHere you see an area before cleaning on the left, and an area after cleaning on the right. Quite a difference, isn’t there? I just love it when there’s an easy fix for a fairly common problem like this.

 [More] How to Clean & Care for Your Antiques:
Dry Wood Rusty Metal Scorch Marks on Linens

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Pin for later 🙂 Learn Tricks for Cleaning Dirty Novelty Candles

How to Clean & Care for Antiques Dirty Novelty Candles, find it at Adirondack Girl @ Heart


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  1. Thank you so much for this post. I have a collection of Gurley candles and some are dirty. I was afraid to try to clean them. I had no idea how to go about it. But thanks to you I’m going to get busy! I also enjoyed your post about cleaning rusty items. Thank you for sharing your information!

  2. Hi Diana,
    Great article. I have a whole box of Novelty Christmas Candles from my Mom and was wondering how to go about cleaning them up. Thank you for information that will help me tackle a job I had no idea how to begin on.
    All the Best,

    1. I recently bought a group of Gurley choir candles. I do use the panty hose method and find it is works great. Thanks for tip.

  3. Great tips! I need to overhaul my booth. My antique mall stayed open last week a couple of hours after closing to the public so the vendors could work in their booth. Unfortunately we already had plans to go to the beach so I missed it. Hopefully they will do it again.

    1. I made a good mess while I was there and definitely blocked the way for a bit, but had no choice–we don’t have after-hours times to overhaul. It’s a great idea though–hope you get a chance to redecorate your space soon, Sharon 🙂

  4. I was always so scared to clean my gurleys! Thanks for the tips about using panty hose! I never thought of that! 🙂

  5. NICE, I have used qua-tips and dish soap…and that has worked, but this is a great fix when you are on the road or not where water is easily accessible. Fun to see…thanks, Sandi

  6. Pingback: How to Clean & Care for Antiques: Cutting Boards
    1. I’ve never had that trouble before, Judi. Just giving them a clean using the process I described in my blog post might do the trick. If not, perhaps a spritz or two of Resolve or some other type of “refresher”? Good luck!

  7. I’ve used rubbing alcohol on a rag to clean candles in my home. I suppose the warm water is quite a bit gentler. I was wondering though … someone above asked about removing the odor of cigarette smoke. I wonder if the alcohol would help with that.

  8. How do you store small Gurley candles? What material do you use to wrap them? Is tissue paper a good choice? Thanks so much for all your tips!
    When I was little we always vacationed in the Adirondacks. I have always thought it to be one of the most beautiful places in the world.

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