How to clean your displays effectively and without damage.

Cleaning and restoring your jewelry displays.   

There is no argument that displays are an investment in success. Treated carefully, display components can last a relatively long time and generate sales for years.  Conversely, displays subjected to frequent use without regular maintenance will soon look tired and do little for your merchandise.

 The environment inside a showcase or window is very hostile. The heat generated by lighting in a showcase can elevate the interior temperatures to over 100 degrees. Window displays in direct sunlight can top 120 degrees.  Remember that display elements are commonly made from wooden or plastic bases wrapped with fabric. Manufacturers use a lot of chipboard and other relatively inexpensive, lightweight components that may not have the strength to withstand hard use without extra care.

Common sense and some readily available cleaning products can lengthen the life of any display.

  1. Cleaning

Displays have always become soiled in daily use, but the popularity of white leatherette in displays has made the regular cleaning of elements even more critical. Like any white product, normal day to day soiling is much more evident on white leatherette. Luckily, most quality display fabrics are engineered to take the harsh conditions and still be cleanable.

Common sources of soiling inside a showcase include the following substances:

Perspiration                   Dirt

Cosmetics                      Insects

Jewelers rouge             Printer’s Ink

Ballpoint pen ink          Dust  


Given that virtually all of these soiling sources can be found in the home, it is not a surprise to learn that the best cleaning agents are commonly home maintenance items as well.

As with any generalized instruction, a cautionary statement is justified. Some cleaning agents can destroy your displays.  Test any cleaning product on an out of the way sample area before beginning. The back of many displays has a small area of material that will allow you be certain the particular cleaning technique you are about to use will not destroy the display. Test it first before you proceed.

Another general statement worthy of note is that virtually all soiling of displays is easier to remove if steps are taken promptly. If the stain is allowed to “set-in” for a few hours, it is more difficult to remove. Overnight stains take even more work with even less success.

Suedes- The manufacturer of the most popular suede fabrics used for displays makes the following suggestions for cleaning suedes such as Charisma.

         Mix ½ capful of a cleaning detergent in cold water. Be certain to use a cleaning detergent that does not contain bleach or a bluing/whitening agent). Gently rub the soiled area with a cotton cloth. Use a small circular motion. Continue until the spot is removed. Use another bowl of clean, cold water to rinse the area. Let the material air-dry. When dry, use a soft bristled brush and gently “rub-up” the material to restore the suede look.

Leatherettes- The manufacturer of America’s most popular leatherettes suggests essentially the same procedure listed above for simulated leather. Mix a small amount of liquid soap in water and rub it on with a cotton cloth. Rinse with cold, clean water and allow to air dry.

Alternatives- Another common product that has a proven record of success is a degreaser called “Simple Green”. This bio-degradeable spray on cleaner is an excellent product that has normally proven safe for all fabrics. Simple Green is available at many grocery stores or auto parts stores. Many use it at 100% strength, right from the bottle.

Some leatherettes can be cleaned by using an art eraser. This is not the eraser on the end of a pencil. Use the type of gum eraser used in art school applications.

Some jewelers have had success with a light application of rubbing, (de-natured) alcohol. Dilute by at least ½ with water and use caution.  Other jewelers have used “hair spray” as a cleaning agent.  Experts believe the alcohol in the hairspray is the cleaning agent responsible for any success this unconventional idea might have.

A more aggressive cleaner is non-acetone based nail polish remover. Be very careful using this liquid as it will “melt” the surface of some leatherettes when it removes a stain. It is effective on ballpoint pen ink, but it will easily ruin the fabric in the process. Test before use!

  • Refurbishment

Questions are frequently asked about recovering displays. Although there are firms advertising this service in trade publications, it is only justifiable in certain circumstances. Most common displays are made of components that do not lend themselves to recovering. Removal of the old material will surely destroy most of the more expensive parts of the display. The base wooden core piece will normally survive and provide the beginning of a recovering job, but in most circumstances, this base piece is less than10-15% of the overall value of the finished piece. The display company will have to reconstruct all the missing/destroyed pieces and the expense will be relatively significant.

Consider recovering only those displays that have some unique property that prohibits total replacement. Remember the labor of wrapping any display element is frequently over ½ the cost and the re-coverer will need to unwrap the old unit, before he can even begin to remake it.

Common displays that do warrant recovering include: Some types of watch displays that use a unique collar or stand. Some bridal diamond or band displays that are matched to your store’s unique product mix (such as a Good, Better, Best type unit with specific carat weights) are worth recovering.

Keep in mind that any display unit being recovered must be shipped to the display company, and back and will likely be missing from your showcase for 3-6 weeks.

Discuss the purpose of your special display element with your reputable display company and see if they have a suggestion of a new display that accomplishes the same objective.


                  Tools of the visual merchandising trade

                           It is a great idea to have a toolbox available to handle all the maintenance your displays may require. The following list is a good beginning. A special toolbox just for displays is advised since there is less chance of the tools being soiled from other “messier” uses that might then transfer to your displays.

Pliers (both regular and needle nosed)

Small tack hammer

Assorted tacks

Regular claw hammer

Assorted nails and brads

Assorted sizes of wire

Wire cutters

Set of both flat and Phillips head screwdrivers in multiple sizes


Double stick tape

Regular tape

Tape Measure

Hot glue gun with sticks

Tape measure


Utility knife and blades

Monofilament fishing line

3M Spray adhesive

Staple gun with extra staples in long and short lengths

Extension cord (grounded)



Cleaning products

Latex gloves

Dry paintbrush

Hand vacuum

Hand whiskbroom

Pencil and gummy eraser

Marker pens

As always, do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance in any way to make your store more successful.