Cleaning and Maintaining Your Duck Decoy Collection
A lot of newcomers to the hobby of duck decoy collecting overlook the importance of keeping their decoys cleaned and properly maintained. While some decoys will last for years without any special attention, others will begin to fade, crack and naturally damage. When this occurs, the value of that specific decoy is lowered and there may or may not be a way to repair it. Thankfully, however, knowing how to clean and maintain the duck decoys in your collection will ensure they are protected from natural wear and decay; here's how you do it:
First and foremost, it's important to understand that you should never use any chemicals on your duck decoys. Cleaners with bleach or other harsh chemicals may cause the color on your decoys to fade, or even strip the paint off of them. Using chemicals once or twice on it may not cause any noticeable damage, but it can and will damage your decoys. To be on the safe side, just avoid cleaning chemicals all together.
So, you're probably wondering how you're supposed to clean your duck decoys if you can't use traditional cleaning agents. Well, if you have decoys with dirt and grime built up on them, you'll need to put in a little bit of elbow grease. Take a hand cloth, run it under lukewarm water and add a small amount of gentle dish soap to it. Squeeze out any excess water and start wiping down your decoy. Continue doing this until all the dirt and grime is completely removed. Once you're done, take a dry towel and wipe down any excess moisture that's left over.
Most collectors won't have to go to the extent of cleaning their duck decoys with soap and water. As long as you keep them stored away in an area where nothing will spill on them, your decoys should only require the occasional dusting to stay clean. Depending on how you store them and how clean the air is around them, you may need to dust them as little as once every couple months or as much as once a week. Just keep an eye on your decoys and check them once in a while to see if they're gathering dust. If they are, then you should go ahead and dust them.
As stated above, the worst thing you can do for duck decoys is to use harsh chemicals on them, including furniture polish. Most experienced collectors will agree that the safest and most effective method to remove dust from your decoys is to use a dusting feather on them. You can pick these up for about $5-$10 bucks from Wal-Mart and most general stores with household products. Just take your decoys out, lay them on a flat surface and wipe the feather duster over them to remove any dust. Make sure to get the underside and neck, as these areas usually accumulate the most dust. When you're done, place your decoys back in their storage container and put them back where they belong.
When storing your duck decoys, make sure to keep them out of direct sunlight. I know this goes against the grain of what they were designed for, but the sunlight will fade and damage their natural appearance. It may take several years, but decoys exposed to sunlight will have faded and damaged paint, which is something no collector wants to see happen. For this reason, it's recommended that you keep your decoys stored in a dark, cool area where there's no open windows nearby. If you decide to store your decoys on a shelf to display them off, be sure to keep the window curtains closed in that specific room.
Sunlight isn't the only element that can cause damage to duck decoys, humidity can as well. If you have decoys made of cork, wood or any other porous material, moisture from the air can seep into it, causing it to warp or crack over time. This process generally occurs in regions with higher humidity, but no region is completely safe. The best way to keep your decoys protected against humidity is to store them in air-tight containers where moisture can't penetrate through. For an added level of protection, you can purchase a dehumidifier to help regulate the humidity levels in your home.