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 objects other than clothing. Figuring out how to clean vintage metal objects often ends up being a trial-and-error process.
The good news is that 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.
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. (Update: Magic Erasers will also remove coffee stains from a stainless steel or aluminum carafe.)
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 Barkeeper’s Friend. I applied the paste with a toothbrush, moving the toothbrush in circles. Then I washed 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.
Here 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.