Ceremonial Sword Cleaning / Maintenance

Hello All,

The squadron has been donated an old RAF sword & scabbard which we are using purely as part of a squadron trophy (not parades before we go down that rabbit hole).

However being old it could do with a bit of cleaning up.

Any advise on the best way to clean and maintain both the sword and the scabbard?

Reading online its very clear that you should not use brasso on the sword itself as this will affect the gilt. However nothing is mention about the scabbard rings or the chape which looks to be more brass than gilt. It is suggested that the black leather of the scabbard can be cleaned with ordinary shoe polish so I assume this basically the same as bulling it.

I assume there is an official RAF Manual somewhere on sword maintenance but no idea where I would find this. The sword has Kings crown so quite old so whilst I am wanting it to look nice I don’t want to permanently damage it.

Cheers for all your help

I’d ask some experts for advice - & here.


The general guidance is that the sword should be handled with cotton gloves - this will prevent skin oils from leaving marks. Cleaning then should require no more than a wipe with a soft cloth dampened with mild soapy water - and then only really necessary if it is visibly grimy (which shouldn’t be a regular occurence). Be sure to dry the sword thoroughly before returning it to the scabbard.

The metal work on the scabbard is also gold plated, as the sword hilt is. Using brasso or any other abrasive will remove it pretty rapidly. Treat it the same as the sword hilt.
As it’s an old sword, and unless it’s been kept very carefully and barely used in it’s life, you’ll probably find that the gold plate is rubbing off the detailed areas already.

As for the leather of the scabbard, I’d personally be more inclined to lightly oil it now and then rather than shoe polish (though, the shoe polish won’t hurt).

If you end up with rust on the blade you could use a mild abrasive like silvo, but preferably, with proper preventative care (gloves and keeping it dry) you should avoid having to do anything more than the same mild soapy cloth wipe as for the rest.

Aluminium foil can be good for getting rid of rust - wet a ball and rub the metal with it. Sounds odd - and I’ve not tried it on a sword - but it cleared up the chrome bits of my engine pretty well.

I shall give that a whirl elsewhere…

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As a collector. I clean mine with a good selvyt cloth with nothing on it. Afterwards I use Renaissance Wax, available on eBay/amazon a small amount is required and will dry hard with no residue or smearing. This is sufficient to keep the swords clean and protected. The wax is designed by the British Museum to help with restoration and strorage etc.


That’s a good tip, thanks. We have two swords, one ‘Sword of Honour’ for awards, one historic sword from a former cadet who served in WW2 - both live in cases but the wax will help, especially as the former is taken out and awarded every year so does get handled (straight back in the case afterwards!)