Almost everyone has a clock in their house. Some choose digital clocks, while others go for the more tradition clock complete with a face and hands. Clocks sit on the mantel, on a side table, hang on the wall or stand all by themselves. Some clocks mutter hardly a sound, so quiet you have to watch the hands to make sure it is working and some clocks clang, dong or cuckoo with every quarter, half or full hour. Whether cleaning a traditional alarm clock or a regal grandfather clock, there are rules. Clock cleaning rules include what you should do and what you shouldn’t do, both of which are equally important. Clocks need a complete and thorough cleaning every couple of years or your time will not be as precise as it once was. Bits of dirt and dust interrupt the inner workings of the mechanism. The inside and outside of your clock must be cleaned properly in order to keep it beautiful and working smoothly.

If you own a clock that is antique, has sentimental value or expensive, you are better off allowing a professional to take the inner workings apart. F not you can easily end up with clock springs flying all over and tiny pieces getting lost. If you have a clock that you want to practice on or doesn’t mean much, go for it.

Exterior Clock Cleaning

Spray a lint free rag with an appropriate glass or acrylic cleaner and wipe the glass or acrylic surface to remove all dust, dirt, grime and fingerprints. If your clock has a door, open the door and wipe the inside glass or acrylic. Even though the clock is closed, dust still settles inside, which then accumulates on the inner workings slowing them down and wearing out gears. Never spray the glass or acrylic directly because the cleaner may end up ruining the mechanism or landing on springs where it may cause corrosion or rust.

Wood Clocks

Wipe the wood surfaces with a lint free chamois cloth or a lamb’s wool duster to remove dust and dirt. If you want, you can attach the upholstery brush attachment to your vacuum and vacuum the dust from the exterior wood.

Examine the clock for damage. Look for chips, scratches, nicks or gouges on the wood. If you find any, repair them before you continue cleaning. Cover scratches with a liquid scratch cover made for wood furniture. Match the scratch cover color as closely as possible to the color of the clock. Dip the edge of a lint free rag into the scratch cover and lightly paint a coat over the scratch, let it dry and reevaluate the color. If the color is too light, add more scratch cover. Slowly add color to the scratch to avoid a big blob of a color that is too dark. You can also use a color paste furniture wax to the scratches. Wipe the paste wax over the scratch, let it turn white and buff it off with a soft rag. If you have nicks or gouges in the wood, apply a matching colored wood putty to the damaged area and press it firmly in place. Let the wood putty dry for one to two hours. Sand the surface of the wood putty with 320-grit sandpaper until you make it smooth and even with the surrounding wood. If you can’t find a closely matching color wood putty, choose a color that is lighter than the existing wood, after you sand it down and wipe away the dust with a tack rag, apply light coats of liquid scratch cover until the color of the scratch cover matches the color of the wood.

Spray a lint free, well worn cotton cloth or microfiber cloth with oil made for wood furniture. Oil conditions the wood and keeps it from drying out and cracking. Spray dust removers on
ly remove dust they don’t condition the wood. Wipe all of the wood surfaces on the outside of the clock. Keep adding oil until the wood won’t accept more oil. Let the oil sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Buff the wood surfaces with a lint free rag to remove the excess furniture oil. Never spray dust removers, furniture polish or furniture oil directly on the clock, only spray it on the cleaning rag to keep it off the inner workings of the clock.


Stop the pendulum from swinging. If the pendulum is removable, most are, remove the pendulum. Put on a pair of white cotton gloves – these keep the fingerprints off the surface. Grab a chamois cloth and buff away fingerprints, dust and dirt. Rub the pendulum vigorously with the rag until it shines. Rehang the pendulum, but don’t restart the swinging motion until your are finished cleaning.

Inner Clock Workings

Wipe the face and hands of the clock with a soft, lint free rag. Twist the rag to make a point and wipe away the dust and dirt that has accumulated on the inner workings of the clock. Use care dabbing at the built up grime.

Apply clock oil to the mechanisms, drop by drop, do not just slosh the oil on and figure a little is good, more is better. That is not the case. Only use clock oil, it is specially formulated for use on clocks. Do not use lubricants such as WD-40 or machine oil. WD-40 will attract dust and degrade the clock mechanisms. Machine oil will gum up the gears and draw dust. Clock oil lubricates the moving parts and repels dust.  Add clock oil to add moveable parts that you can see. Typically only a drop or two is necessary.

If you see any pieces that appear loose or missing, bring it to a repair shop.

If you decide to take apart the inner workings, make sure you have clamps to keep springs, gears and other moving parts in place. If you don’t use a clamp, you will have a million tiny pieces all over the room. The springs let go with a lot of force and can cut your skin, break your, crack or break your eye glasses and even crack a window in the room.