Cleaning vintage can be a real pain in the ass. Let’s just get that right up front. And while the internet seems to hold the answer for every other question, it can be difficult sometimes to find out how to clean vintage.
Vintage/antique metal objects are usually pretty easy to clean, provided they are in good condition, and not falling apart from rust. We’ll use my coffeepot as Exhibit A.
It was looking sad. You can see the water spots and general dullness. This pot is made of aluminum. Don’t be put off buying something because it’s not made of stainless steel – there is nothing wrong with aluminum, and it’s quite easy to clean. It took me about 20 minutes to clean this coffeepot.
All you need is the correct type of cleaner – in this case, aluminum polish.
Just follow the instructions on the can. I washed the top of the pot in hot soapy water, and applied the powder. Polish away! If there are brush marks (like how there’s grain in wood), you must follow them. If not, go in whatever direction blows your hair back.
Woo-hoo! Nice and shiny, and it only took about 10 minutes.
But here was the bad part. Coffee stains. For this, I needed a steel wool pad. Any bad stains and discolorations on metal can usually be taken care of with steel wool, but be aware that steel wool can leave scratches behind.
If there is a stain on the outside of an item, (in an area that’s highly visible, in other words) always try to remove the stain with soap and/or scouring powder first. Use steel wool as a last resort.
In this case, it was the inside of a coffeepot. Not a big deal if there are scratches.
Much better. Not perfect, but some of those stains have been in there longer than I’ve been alive. They’re pretty much entrenched.
I also had to clean a brass item. It’s the same method, but using a polish made for brass.
That’s a ’40s fire extinguisher, if you’re wondering.
For this, I made a paste of water and polish. But first, I had to clean the extinguisher.
Then I applied the paste, moving the toothbrush in circles. Wash the paste off with hot water. Be extremely careful around labels and any paint! If you apply too much pressure, labels and paint can wash away.
Ta-da! Okay, fine, it doesn’t look that much different in the photos, but believe me, it made a huge difference.
Just for fun, below is another brass before-and-after.
See? That’s why we polish!
If you have any questions on how to clean anything vintage, shoot me an email or leave a comment below.