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Oiling Your Helmets & Other Helmet Preservation Misconceptions


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#1 Bugme

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 02:07 PM

On a recent thread I saw that some collectors were encouraging others to use petroleum based products to enhance and protect their old helmets. I too thought that this was a good idea at one time. However, the school of experience teaches some hard lessons. So, I thought it might be needful to start a different thread devoted to the subject since many may not have read that particular thread. Below is my answer to using oil based products on your valuable helmets.

WARNING: Use of WD40 and other similar petroleum based products. Please be advised that any petroleum based product will, with time and repeated applications, eventually soften the paint and is not recommended to be put on your painted helmets. The petroleum based product will also soak into, soften and speed the deterioration process of the exposed sawdust finish on the M-1917 and will do the same to the cork finish on the M1917A1 and the M-1. Plus, most insignia's were hand painted with air dry lead based paint which is not baked like the original olive drab on the rest of the helmet. Air dry paint is porous and will also absorb the oil based product. Use of oil based products on painted surfaces got wide spread use among Third Reich helmet collectors in the 1960's and 70's. These same collectors have now got a lot of regrets as they see the pitting in the paint and the deterioration of their precious double decals, Luftwaffe and SS insignia. Most everyone in the helmet collecting community now agree that this process does more damage to a helmet than what it does as a protecting agent. It will do us well to learn from the mistakes of early collectors.



#2 IVY

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 02:30 PM

ok but , what put on it to protect ???

#3 Bugme

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 02:42 PM

ok but , what put on it to protect ???

Do Nothing. I know that this answer sounds lame but, your helmet has lasted just fine for 65 to 80 years without oil, so why do it now? Keep it lightly dusted & wear cotton gloves to keep skin oil from transferring when you are handling your helmet. This is the recommended archival way of handling them.

In VERY RARE circumstances you can spray a light coat of clear satin(non-glossy) varnish on a helmet. This will slow the progress of "heavy" rust. I did this with a relic WWII SS helmet and it worked fairly well. Let me remind you, this was a relic and was in such a heavy state of deterioration that the integrity of the helmet was breaking down. This procedure is NOT recommended for any helmet with normal patina and should only be used as a last resort.



#4 Nicodouille

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 02:43 PM

Vegetable oil, sunflower, olives.

It works!



#5 Bugme

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 02:46 PM

Vegetable oil, sunflower, olives.

It works!

No, it does not work. You will get the same results with time. It's still an oil and NOT recommended. I should have clarified that this applies to all oils and not just petroleum.



#6 37thguy

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 02:46 PM

I keep most of mine in plastic grocery bags, but if I want to display them I just leave 'em out. When they become dusty I use my air compressor and a paint brush to loosen then blow off the dust. This works great and like Bugme has already stated, they've been just fine now for almost 100 years, they will continue to do better now that we are their keeper.



#7 37thguy

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 02:48 PM

Vegetable oil, sunflower, olives.

It works!


These type of oils will go rancid in a short period and will cause even more problems, possibly attracting vermin!

LEAVE 'EM ALONE!!!!

#8 Bugme

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 02:55 PM

I keep most of mine in plastic grocery bags, but if I want to display them I just leave 'em out. When they become dusty I use my air compressor and a paint brush to loosen then blow off the dust. This works great and like Bugme has already stated, they've been just fine now for almost 100 years, they will continue to do better now that we are their keepers. :thumbsup:

Canned air like what you can get for blowing off your computer keyboard works well also. I have a helmet in my collection that was saved from an outdoor scrap yard where it had been sitting for over 30 years exposed to the elements. There was barely enough rust to make it even worth mentioning. Now it sits in my climate controlled home gathering little dust flecks which have to be blown off every couple months. Hardly an environment that will increase the progression of rust. ;)

#9 37thguy

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 02:59 PM

Canned air like what you can get for blowing off your computer keyboard works well also. I have a helmet in my collection that was saved from an outdoor scrap yard where it had been sitting for over 30 years exposed to the elements. There was barely enough rust to make it even worth mentioning. Now it sits in my climate controlled home gathering little dust flecks which have to be blown off every couple months. Hardly an environment that will increase the progression of rust. ;)


AMEN! We are taking better care of them in our collections than they have ever had before. They will be just fine, if left alone.

#10 55rab

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 03:17 PM

Do nothing - and please, no laquer ! ! :blink:

#11 BOLO

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 04:17 PM

**DO NOT USE ANY TYPE OF OIL**

I wrap mine in plasic bags when not on display and store them inside a cardboard box

the only cleaning I do is a light dusting with a feather duster



#12 Jeff

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 05:01 PM

How about the fact that plastic bags are oil based. Im sure this type of storage would take many moons to show any effects. Just a thought! I am going to look into archival storage boxes. I have some for my flat storage ( uniforms and photos). Here are some, a bit pricey. www.lightimpressionsdirect.com/item.action?itemGroupId=85

#13 Bugme

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 06:23 PM

How about the fact that plastic bags are oil based. Im sure this type of storage would take many moons to show any effects. Just a thought! I am going to look into archival storage boxes. I have some for my flat storage ( uniforms and photos). Here are some, a bit pricey. www.lightimpressionsdirect.com/item.action?itemGroupId=85

I would think that a plastic bag would be relatively harmless for short term storage. Personally, I want every one of my helmets on display so, boxes and bags are out of the question for me.

#14 Ken_Carroll

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 07:36 PM

All of mine are on display, either on an open shelf or inside a display case. I would agree with Bug that you should never oil any of them. I do make sure that they are not exposed to sunlight so as not to speed the fading of the paint.

Regards,

Ken

#15 Jerry

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 11:57 PM

I've been collecting German helmets off and on for 36 yrs. It's a cardinal sin to put any type of oil or preservative on your helmet. Just simply leave them alone. Dust the helmet once in awhile, Jerry.

#16 aef1917

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 06:23 AM

I once oiled helmet, a semi-relic German M16 camo. I used linseed oil, reasoning that it was likely used in the original camo paint. It brightened up the paint without giving it a noticeable sheen. I sold it a few years back, so I can't comment on long-term effects.

I don't recommend oiling helmets, as I don't think they need it. But if you're dead set on doing it, don't use WD40 or a food oil.

Years from now, collectors will wonder why US helmet collectors didn't learn more from TR collectors as far as removing rust and oiling finishes goes.



#17 SDC

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Posted 20 June 2009 - 05:35 PM

If you've already wiped it down (once) with a light coat of WD 40, should anything be done now?

#18 Bugme

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 04:56 AM

If you've already wiped it down (once) with a light coat of WD 40, should anything be done now?

I would wipe it down with a clean cotton cloth making sure to get any residue that may have accumulated around the area where the rim is crimped on. Fortunately, there is a lower volume of oil in WD40 than in most other petroleum based products. So, the amount of real oil is very minuscule right now. Wipe it clean and keep it that way. Don't add anymore WD40 or any other type of oils. You've probably done little damage to your helmet if you've only done this one time.

#19 'Flage Guy

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 07:03 AM

The best way I've found for good storage/preservation is adept climate control, and using a vacuum fitted with a round-end nozzle with long, soft whisk brushes around the end. This is a zero-damage cleaning method for any type of antique headgear, though I always go cautiously with fur items. WD-40 being a penetrant, I wouldn't even think of applying it to an old helmet. Like Bugme said, sitting on a shelf in the house is hardly conducive to your pots rusting away 



#20 hawkdriver

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 07:38 AM

I have a WWI helmet that someone took to oiling with something that now resembles cosmoline. It will not come off on your hands, but now the helmet is tacky feeling. Poor thing resembles more a sticky mouse glue pad than a combat helmet. I'm at a loss at what to do to recover it.
I'm on the "don't oil it" side.

#21 Chris_B

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 07:45 AM

I have a WWI helmet that someone took to oiling with something that now resembles cosmoline. It will not come off on your hands, but now the helmet is tacky feeling. Poor thing resembles more a sticky mouse glue pad than a combat helmet. I'm at a loss at what to do to recover it.
I'm on the "don't oil it" side.



Have you considered a little warm water with a few drops of liquid hand soap in it? Try a large artists' paint brush to apply it, and do a little at a time.

#22 Bugme

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Posted 21 June 2009 - 02:04 PM

I have a WWI helmet that someone took to oiling with something that now resembles cosmoline. It will not come off on your hands, but now the helmet is tacky feeling. Poor thing resembles more a sticky mouse glue pad than a combat helmet. I'm at a loss at what to do to recover it. I'm on the "don't oil it" side.

If the warm water and soap thing does not work as Chris_B suggested, your next step would be to try goo-gone(citrus cleaner) this is the mildest form of cleaner after the hand soap. Next, If that doesn't work, try a paint pre-cleaner similar to those used in automotive finishing(Dupont: Prep-Sol -or- PPG's: DX330 Wax & Grease Remover). These are basically tar, wax & grease removers. This shouldn't harm the finish since it is intended to clean automotive paint finishes without damaging them. However, try a small area first just to be sure so that I don't end up on your most hated list. ;)

#23 Sgt. Boghots

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 12:33 AM

I personally think that you're better off spending your energy re-roofing your house. That will do more to protect your helmets than oils, gloves, etc.

Everything gets old. Even collectors. - Follow the advice of 'Flage in periodic dusting from time to time; keep the temperature and LACK of moisture consistent, and they will be just fine. Simply a damp terrycloth towel and a little elbow grease will do all the serious cleaning you'll need to do. - And not many of them need that !! - Remember, some of that dirt was hard-earned. So it's a part of the finish, just like the paint.

Sometimes "less is more", if you get my drift.

Best regards,
Paul

#24 Model603

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 03:41 PM

I have a question about sort of "preserving" liners.  I just got my hands on a 1980s production helmet liner.  It's one of the very late models with the snap in suspension.  The bottom edge of the liner has started to get "fuzzy" as if it might be starting to sort of delaminate.

 

Is there a good way to halt this process?



#25 Uncle BS

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Posted 12 February 2014 - 06:42 PM

Not without altering it even if only to repair it.  Though it isn't really worth much as a collectible right now, who knows what the future may hold? And, if you came to me twenty years from now and wanted to sell a now very valuable 1980s liner I would look at it and say that it is a shame that it isn't original because some one had repaired it.Then I would either say I wasn't interested or I would offer you a very low price. Trying to repair them isn't worth the effort.




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