Have you ever looked at your vintage cardboard boxes, only to be met with a disheartening sight of dirt, stains, and damage? The box may be a wonderful old waxed Ironmongers box, a family game box, a presentation box, or even a box you bought at auction to sell on Etsy.
Well, fret not, for we have the solutions you seek! In this blog, we will delve into the art of cleaning and repairing your beloved cardboard presentation boxes. The techniques below have been used on some of the products in our Vintage Toys and Games collection and can also be used on the covers of books.
From the initial removal of debris to the careful assessment of stains and smells, we will walk you through each step with precision and expertise.
But that's not all – we will also reveal tips on optional sanitisation methods. We will cover:
- Removing debris
- Cleaning with natural substances that you have around the house
- Ways to remove or sanitise odours
- The big DON’T!
At Moody Mabel we frequently come across items needing a little love to bring them up to a better standard, and are always happy to pass along our knowledge.
Removing Debris and Evaluating the Condition
To begin the process of cleaning and repairing cardboard presentation boxes, you should first remove any debris and thoroughly evaluate their condition. Start by disposing of any leftover items inside the boxes, such as manuals, receipts, or food products. Get rid of any box fillers used, like bubble wrap, box liners, Polystyrene, or newspaper. Then, take the time to remove any dirt or debris that may be lodged inside the boxes from previous storage.
Next, thoroughly check the boxes inside and out for stains and their depth. Identify any lingering smells and determine their source. Evaluate the condition of the boxes to determine the appropriate cleaning techniques. For light debris, you can wipe the boxes with a clean, dry cloth or brush them. If necessary, use warm water to remove stubborn debris. To eliminate smells, consider spraying a water and vinegar solution on the affected areas, or use baking soda to further remove odours. Optional sanitisation options include spraying the boxes lightly with a disinfectant spray or leaving them in the sun for a few days to prevent the growth of mould and bacteria.
Cleaning is only suitable for boxes with light dirt, stains, or smells, as heavy stains, mould, or deeply embedded dirt may not be worth the effort to remove, or may damage the box during the attempt to clean.
Cleaning Techniques for Cardboard Boxes
Always remember that dry work is best for any cardboard box and soaking with any liquid will likely undermine the integrity of the box, rendering it useless.
You can begin cleaning cardboard boxes by wiping away light debris with a clean, dry cloth or brush.
Next, try light cleaning by dabbing. Fill a bowl with washing-up liquid (dish soap) and tepid water. Whip up the bubbles and gently apply the bubbles only to the surface of the box, dabbing rather than rubbing. Wipe clean with an absorbent cloth. This should remove any light dirt from the surfaces of the box.
If the box remains dirty the next technique is to lightly spray a mild baking soda and white vinegar solution onto the box and blot with an absorbent cloth to pick up any excess. This will help to lift stains that may have sunk into the surface.
A water and vinegar spray will dampen down any smells and can have the effect of killing mould spores.
If the box is laminated and shiny, we have used Orange Oil (small quantities) on a cloth to clean the shiny part of the box. This has the bonus of smelling rather wonderful as well!
The big DON’T is using alcohol based solvents which will eat into the ink on the box and are particularly unpleasant for older waxed boxes.
Optional Sanitisation Methods
Consider incorporating sanitisation steps to ensure the cleanliness and hygiene of the cardboard boxes. Sanitisation benefits include reducing the risk of bacteria and germs and creating a safe environment for storage or presentation.
One effective method is to lightly spray the boxes with a disinfectant spray. This will help kill any remaining bacteria or germs on the surface of the boxes. The natural alternative here is to use diluted white vinegar.
Should your box have a bad odour, whether that be mustiness or other, we recommend placing a small bowl of baking soda inside the box for a few days, this will soak up odours and can then be safely disposed of.
Another method is to expose the boxes to direct sunlight for a few days. Sun exposure can help prevent the growth of mould and bacteria, ensuring the boxes stay clean and free from any potential health hazards. This may sound counter-intuitive as none of us want our boxes to fade, but this at least will ensure that they are dry.
It may seem like a no-brainer to clean up an old cardboard box but it is difficult to do without damaging the box. Take great care to work carefully and methodically, and please don’t rush, your presentation box will be better for it!