Setting a table with china or enjoying a family heirloom can feel so, well, civilized. But, of course, having nice things means knowing how to care for them properly, so here are some tips on caring for your precious pieces.

China

How’s this for an oxymoron: the number one enemy of china is … food! Wait, what? Aren’t we supposed to eat off of china? Yep, but the key is to use your china to eat, and then as soon as the last bite is gone, hustle to clear that table. (No one likes to look at dirty plates while they sit around chatting anyway!) Bundle them off to the kitchen, carefully scrape them, and then give them a quick rinse so food doesn’t settle.

Once your guests have left and you’re ready for a thorough cleanup, it’s ideal to wash china by hand. Sorry, the dishwasher really is too harsh.

To store your china, try a thin cushion between the plates — a paper towel or even a coffee filter works well. And guess what? Experts say that you probably need to wash your china at least once a year anyway, so you might as well use it. (Surely you can think of something to celebrate!

Grandfather clocks

The tick tock of a grandfather clock, also known as a floor clock, can seem so reassuring. And few things can look so stately anchoring a foyer or living room. But a grandfather clock is as fragile as it is beautiful.

To care for one, dust the wood and clean the glass with the appropriate cleaner as you would other similar surfaces. It’s best to spray the cleaner on the cloth, rather than the clock’s surface, just to make sure that you don’t inadvertently overspray, which could harm the pieces.

If it’s truly an “old-fashioned” grandfather clock (versus a battery-powered replica), heed the winding instructions. Be careful not to overwind or the spring could break. You’ll know when it’s sufficiently wound because it’ll start feeling tight as you turn the key.

Moving and storing your clock can be precarious. You’ll want to remove the weights and pendulum and store them and the chains in plastic bags. Once the removable pieces are out, you can lay the clock on its back. Be sure to refer to your manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you’re doing it safely.

The most challenging part of maintenance will be keeping it oiled, ideally every 2 years. While you can do it yourself, it’s best to hire a clock technician to ensure that this valuable heirloom is carefully tended to.

Antique furniture

Well, this is good news! Believe it or not, less is more when cleaning antiques — as in the less you clean them, the better since overzealous cleaning can harm the surface. And, less cleaner is best too: you’ll want to dust the piece thoroughly with a soft rag (no spray cleaner!). For wood, use furniture wax in a thin, even coat to help preserve its rich patina.

Antiques are best stored in a climate-controlled environment to prevent wood from expanding and contracting or developing mold or mildew.

Want to protect your heirlooms even further? Adding an insurance rider to your homeowners policy may be the answer. Find out if it’s right for you!

DIY hacks | Safe and smart

about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.