Responsible care for antique Civil War swords includes rust removal, polishing and waxing as well as gentle cleaning of leather hilts. The swords also benefit from storage in humidity-controlled environments with stable temperatures. Proper storage is particularly essential for swords and scabbards with fabric or leather components.
The quickest, safest way to remove thin rust deposits on swords is to rub them with a rust-removal oil designed for use on guns and edged weapons, but bear in mind that his type of oil is not safe for gilded weapons and does not remove thick coatings of rust. Kerosene and rubbing alcohol are also effective rust removers. Heavy rust that does not respond to oil, kerosene or alcohol requires removal with an abrasive powder. This is a delicate procedure best left to experienced antique collectors and restoration experts.
Periodic applications of carabellum wax keep swords shiny and prevent new rust accumulation. Petroleum jelly and mineral oil are acceptable substitutes, but they are slightly less effective and require frequent reapplication. Mineral oil gel is another alternative. Baby oil and other products containing fragrances are not appropriate for Civil War sword maintenance.
Proper handling is also crucial in maintaining antique Civil War swords. Skin oils and cosmetic residue cause damage and rusting over time. Wearing clean, soft cotton gloves during handling is an easy and convenient way to avoid this problem.