That clock hanging on your wall or sitting on your mantle is working very hard to keep time for you. Whether it has a pendulum or balance wheel, it’s making thousands of movements per hour. In order to keep it working hard, you’ve got to give it some love by cleaning and oiling it regularly. In this article, we’ll share some basic tips for clock maintenance.
When NOT to Clean Your Clock
Before you get to work, be mindful that there are certain clocks that you should not clean by yourself, despite the potential satisfaction of DIY maintenance.
Hold off on cleaning your clock if it is….
- A new clock still under warranty. Attempting to open and clean clocks still under warranty could well void your warranty.
- A cuckoo clock. In addition to the timekeeping movement, cuckoo clocks have complicated mechanisms that open and close the doors, let the bird in and out, and make the sounds. All of these elements are inexorably linked to the clockwork mechanism as well. The probability is pretty high that taking your cuckoo clock apart will render it inoperable—permanently.
- Clocks with restricted access to the movement. Provided that you have the tools and basic know-how, clocks that don’t fit into the categories listed above, and that have relatively easy access to the movement, might well be fair game for a self-cleaning project. However, any clock with a movement that is difficult to access directly via an access door or panel should probably be avoided. Even if you successfully remove the movement and lubricate it, getting it back in—the right way—might prove exceedingly difficult.
If there’s any doubt about how your clock will respond to a self-cleaning, play it safe and visit a skilled clock repair shop. If you’re confident in your skills and want to accept the risks involved with DIY cleaning, keep reading.
How to Clean Your Clock
- Get a clock cleaning kit. Don’t try to do this with stuff you have laying around the house. You can buy a basic clock cleaning kit for under $25 on Amazon, for example.
- Set up a workspace with plenty of light. Cleaning a clock—particularly an expensive one—is a significant undertaking. It’s not something you do at the kitchen table when you have a few minutes to spare. You should have sufficient room to lay everything out, and plenty of focused light to see the details of the clock movement you’re working on.
- Clean then oil. Spot cleaning your clock—removing the dirt from the pivot points—is the first step in an overall clock cleaning. This must be done BEFORE you apply oil to anything. First, use a soft cloth to wipe down the area around the pivot points. Then use a sharply pointed wooden instrument to remove any debris from around the pivot point itself. A nylon toothbrush can also be used for this step. When cleaning the pivot points, make absolutely certain that the cleaning debris does not infiltrate the gears or inner workings of the movement. This step must be completed for all pivot points before any oil is applied.
- Use the right kind of oil. You should always use a synthetic oil, specifically made for clocks. Do not use WD40 under any circumstances—it will gum up the works and render the movement useless. It’s also not a good idea to use general purpose oils you might have laying around, like 3in1 or even sewing machine oil. Amazon sells several different and affordable brands—just make sure what you are buying is specifically intended for clocks.
- Use the right amount of oil. You want to fill each oil sink to the proper level—not too much and not too little. Overfilling the sink will create a drip down the plate of the movement, which will, in turn, wick the remaining oil. Too little oil and the sink will run dry very quickly. In either event, the clock will not have been oiled properly and the gears in the movement will tend to wear much more quickly.
- Consider having a pro oil the gears. There are differing opinions about this, but most experts agree that if clock movement gears are going to be oiled, it will require a lot of precision. As a result, it’s a task that should probably be left to the experts. Improperly oiled gears will simply lead to more problems down the road and could eventually result in a total breakdown of the clock movement.
The Bottom Line
Clocks are complex, precisely engineered, finely crafted pieces of machinery. If you like to tinker and are very mechanically inclined, or if you just really love working with the movement of a clock, cleaning your clock might be something you enjoy. But if there’s any hesitation, contact Times Ticking specializing in the repair of watches and clocks of every kind. Our Swiss-trained technicians have the expertise to keep your clock ticking away for years to come.