acquire helmets that are valuable but have come directly out of poor
storage conditions or show extensive amounts of rust and
deterioration. In such cases it seems acceptable to consider
something that might make the helmet more presentable while at a
minimum prevent any further damage to what has already been done.
For example, an original
veteran acquired M1935 helmet that has active surface rust, a rotting
and dried out liner, and cobwebs and insect infestation under the
liner band is worth cleaning to some degree to stabilize its overall
state and to prevent further deterioration. However, that is not to
say that this helmet should have paint or decals touched up or
replaced, liner bands or split rivets changed out, or anything else
done to it that will significantly alter it from its original 'as
Replacing or adding
chinstraps seems to be a common practice and does not detract from a
helmet's value as long as the chinstrap itself is original and from
the period without postwar alteration of any kind. Replacing liner
bands and split rivets is a little more controversial and many
collectors consider this an unacceptable practice. In this particular
case, it is appropriate to remove active insect infestation and clean
off surface dirt to prevent contamination or damage to other helmets.
In addition, minor treatment of surface rust can be accomplished
without damaging the paint surface.
Some general rules
If in doubt about how to clean a helmet
then do nothing to it and leave the helmet as found. Never attempt
anything that you are uncertain of. Most attempts at cleaning or
restoring original helmets fail and only cause more damage. Proceed
with restoration attempts only if you are certain you know what you
Always store your helmets in a neutral
climate without extremes in moisture or heat levels. Helmets stored
in basements or damp areas will rust quickly. Rust is permanent and
it destroys the historical and monetary value of your helmet. Never
store a helmet in a hot dry, or hot humid environment. Heat causes
leather to dry out and most leather can not be restored back to its
original condition once the natural oils have been dried out.
Generally speaking the helmet should be stored in a climate
controlled environment that has 50% humidity at a temperature of
Never attempt to do "preventive care" to
a helmet that needs no treatment. Attempting to add a preventive
treatment of some kind will only cause damage to a helmet that is
already in good condition.
As noted earlier, any preventive
treatment will bring the helmet under suspicion by at least half the
knowledgeable collectors in this field. Be certain you know what
you are doing.