Basic Helmet Cleaning

Think Before You Act!
This section will cover how to perform a basic cleaning on an antique helmet that has been neglected. Antique cleaning and restoration is a very "grey" area that contains as much bad advice as good. It is ultimately up to individuals, to do the research, do not take the word of any "expert" (myself included) as gospel, and make a decision based on that research.

In some collecting areas, especially with medals and decorations, the paradigm is to "leave the item as it is" as as patination (patina) has been formed which is the coloration due to time.
With antique leather helmets, however, the item was expected to be regularly cleaned to maintain its appearance as per regulations; it is very common to find period photographs of soldiers cleaning their helmets.

Careful cleaning of a Pickelhaube to remove dirt and dust etc. does not devalue a helmet on the Imperial German militaria market. However, it is easy to go too far. Personally, I would advise to not polish the aged fittings on helmets, and leave the patina as it is. The goal should be to clean it, not take it down to raw metal and buff it.
It is important to note that there is a significant difference between cleaning and restoration. Cleaning for the purpose of this article, is to remove the dirt and grime from years of neglect, while restoration is to perform repairs such as replacement of parts, re-stitching, and other significant structural repairs. As such, restoration is out of the scope of this article and is best left to an individual with experience in this area. It is critical that before attempting to clean a helmet, individuals must carefully weigh the benefits of cleaning to the possible damage that it may cause. All cleaning carries some risk of damage. If an individual is not comfortable cleaning an item, then they should consult a professional, or leave it as it is.

For professional cleaning or repair, I highly recommend Mr. Brian Loree of Pickelhaubes.com. Brian's site can be found on the "Links" page of Kaiser's Bunker.