Hi everyone! Sometimes I assume that everyone knows what I know about vintage and antiques. I have to stop and remember that it’s has taken me a long time to get where I am (and believe me, I’ve got plenty more to learn). I thought it might be helpful for some, especially those just starting out, to learn a how to prepare the [less than perfect] items you might be buying, whether for sale or for use in your home. So, every now and again I’ll be writing a post about the various techniques I use to clean vintage and antiques, and otherwise prepare them for sale. Today I’ll pass on my easy steps for restoring and protecting rusty metal–going from sad and flaky to revitalized and protected. Let’s take a look at how to clean and care for vintage pieces that are suffering from a little, or a lot, of rust.
Last July I bought a large box of rusty
junk valuables. I think it cost me seven dollars. What was I thinking?
I’ve been slowly cleaning the contents one by one, and have more than tripled my money by selling just three of the items in the box.
The other day I removed this small cigar box from the larger box and decided to tackle its contents.
I gathered my supplies: (1) a wire brush(s), (2) steel wool, (3) an old rag, and (4) a bottle of mineral oil.
I decided to start with this piece, an old ice pick. Because it was extremely rusty and had crusty hunks of the stuff on it, I gave it a good scrubbing with my small wire brush. This technique is obviously not for a delicate, highly valuable antique. You would use other methods on those. No, this is for super cruddy items, like this one, that will have no other purpose or value until you get the rust off.
You can pick up wire brushes like these very cheaply at hardware stores or a Harbor Freight. Sometimes they come in packs of three. As you can tell, I’ve had my smaller one for a long time. The larger wire brush is for larger pieces. I’ll have some affiliate links at the bottom of this post, in case you want to order some online.
Just look at the rust dust that the brushing leaves behind. [Be careful not to inhale this stuff; I’m sure it’s not good for you. You might consider wearing a mask of some sort.]
It looks quite a bit better already, doesn’t it? You can still see some bits of rust, but the next step will take care of that.
Scrub your piece with some steel wool and bit of mineral oil and the last of the rust will pretty much disappear. If the item you’re working on doesn’t have too much rust to begin with, you can jump right to the steel wool/mineral oil. The oil improves the look of the piece and protects it from further rust at the same time. For the last step, rub the piece vigorously with a lint-free rag. When you hold your piece in your hand, you don’t want it to feel greasy, just clean and smooth.
Here’s the progression of the piece. Your steps: (1) wire brush scrub (2) steel wool and mineral oil scrub (3) lint-free cloth rub down.
This door plate came from the rusty crusty box. As you can see, it’s in pretty bad shape.
After experiencing a nice spa treatment, the rust is gone (it looks better in person than in the photograph!).
Much better, right?
These rusty orbs were also in the box.
They’re all relaxing after their spa treatment. I guess we could all benefit from a hard scrub and an oil rub-down now and again, couldn’t we?
Thanks for the feature, Sharon!
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