How Clean Snuff Bottles

Most of us have been in lockdown for a few weeks or months even.  If you are lucky enough to have your snuff bottles with you, you might want to think about organising and making records of your collection.  To start this process, I would begin by cleaning your snuff bottles.

DO NOT WASH INSIDE PAINTED BOTTLES OR ORGANIC BOTTLES OR VERY DELICATE BOTTLES-I WILL TALK ABOUT THEM LATER.  IF YOU ARE UNSURE ABOUT THE MATERIAL OF A BOTTLE YOU HAVE SEND ME AN IMAGE AND I WILL TRY TO HELP IDENTIFY IT.

Bottles benefit from a clean, there are two ways :

Express Clean

Get a damp clean cloth and wipe bottle over, taking care to do it over a soft towel.  Next take a clean dry cloth and rub all over.  Your bottle will begin to shine.

 

Deep Clean

If you haven’t washed your bottles for a while or never washed them, you may have to go for a bowl wash.

Remove the stopper and place on one side

Take a large bowl, put a cloth into the bottom so that if you accidentally drop the bottle it will be ok.  Fill the bowl with warm water and a little washing up liquid . Gently place your bottle in the water and using a soft bristled toothbrush gently brush the surface.  You can also clean the inside of a bottle. This is particularly beneficial for clear glass, agate and crystal snuff bottles.  However if you like to see evidence of old snuff in a bottle then do not wash the inside.  For bottles you choose to wash it will show the pattern of the material much better. Use a thin circular brush (the one here is a brush to wash inside metal straws) and you can also use an ear bud.  Then dry with a dry ear bud, and turn your bottle upside down on the mouth on the clean cloth and leave it to dry for 30 minutes.Put the bottle back in its box with the stopper out.  After 4 hours it is safe to put the stopper back in

Inside painted bottles should only every be cleaned using the express clean method and do not take the stopper off – so you are only ever wiping the outside of the bottle with a damp cloth and drying it with a dry cloth.

Organic materials such as amber, lacquer, mother of pearl, cinnabar lacquer, ivory, gourd  and hornbill should only be cleaned using a dry cloth with a fine weave.  A clean handkerchief is ideal for this- just wipe and rub.

All this cleaning does take time and you may wish to clean 10bottles at a time or else you end up with too many bottles drying upside down and no room on your surfaces.

Next Post I will give advice as to how to put your bottles in order and possible numbering systems.