Tuesday, November 13, 2012

5 Short-cuts and Tools for Cleaning Thrift Store and Flea Market Scores


The main pitfall that comes with thrifting for vintage finds is the grime, dirt, dust, and stains you have to clean up. I hunt primarily in Florida flea markets where a good vintage find is usually caked in filth and grime!  Here's are tools and tips I've learned over the years for cleaning your scores:

1. Test the Stain: Bring a magic eraser, cleaning cloth, and other portable cleaning supplies with you when you thrift and test an item to see if the stain or mark can be removed. If it won't budge, leave it.

2. Let Goo Gone Sit: Goo Gone is a god send for removing the gooey residue stickers and tape leave behind. It works best when you pour an ample amount on the offending goo and let it sit for a few minutes before you wipe it off.

3. Magic Eraser Damage: A Magic Eraser, whether off brand or name brand, is an amazing tool for getting a vintage item to shine like new. The friction can remove stubborn tape residue goo gone won't, but be careful! It can remove the paint from porous surfaces, so test it gently before you scrub away.

4. Give Them a Bath: Many items are so filthy they'll need a few long soaks before you start scrubbing to get them really clean. Don't use too much soap and soak them several times, replacing the dirty water each time before you get into the grooves to tackle the rest of the filth.

5. Leave it Behind: We tend to want to bring home every "project" piece when it's free or next to it. I've learned to leave almost every project piece behind. They're time consuming and often end up cluttering the house for weeks before I get to painting or deep-cleaning them. If you bring one home, get to work on it as soon as you bring it into the house. If you can't dedicate time to it, leave it for the next person.

Favorite Cleaning Tools: I love magic erasers, goo gone, and any brand of cleansing wipes. I feel bad using the wipes but they're convenient when you're dead tired but want to clean your finds fast. They're portable for cleaning finds on-the-go, too.

Final Tip: I get all of my supplies from the dollar store and they last me for months. I don't spend more than four bucks at a time. You don't have to spend a lot to clean your scores, you can even get creative with what you have around the house. All you truly need is a rag and warm water. Retro items are typically scrubbed clean but leave some patina on those antiques, it's what tells the story and draws people to the item!

How do you clean your thrift finds? I'd love to know your techniques! 
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39 comments:

  1. good suggestions. i do pretty much the same. although, i need to learn to leave projects at the thrift stores and not bring them home!

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    1. I learned the hard way when purging myself of stuff I'd never find time to work on. I shall not waste the money again!

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  2. Good tips, I also use the magic erasers to get off price stickers. They're good at getting the goo off too and aren't greasy. Man, I love me some magic erasers. They are totally... MAGIC! I had to stop bringing home every wounded bird piece too. I started having this huge to-do list of cleaning and fixing stuff up. Finally I was like, ENOUGH! lol. :)

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    1. They're good for all your cleaning needs, but I do like to have some goo gone for the extra stubborn sticker mess. It is frustrating how they crumble and fall apart so easily, though!

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  3. Great tips! the magic eraser is really magic!
    Cheers ~ Lara

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    1. It is! Love it for cleaning up the bathroom and counters too for extra shine.

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  4. I was wondering when someone would post about how to clean the goodies. After a good thrift trip, the whole afternoon usually goes to cleaning and making them presentable. I am still trying to figure out how to clean out some old Seltzer bottles, any advice on these would be appreciated.
    I can't get any of the things you mentioned in Germany, so I drag out liquid cleanser and a scrub brush. After that if I find a mark, discoloring, or odor I break out the Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. A little baking soda, water and rub a few seconds will remove almost anything. Many of the metal boxes I buy have stood in someone's kitchen for decades and are tacky with nicotine or cooking grease. Baking soda dissolves the goo and removes any unwanted odors. A test patch is always a good idea but I have not had problems on painted metal tea tins. Cheap and easy-peasy.

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    1. You reminded me of the baking soda tip, that's what I used to do at first and I'd forgotten about it. I love to make a paste of baking soda and water to clean greasy messes. Mixing some olive oil, and baking soda or salt with dish soap is my favorite way to get paint or glue off my skin. Love that stuff.

      Old bottles are a pain to clean, I use the soak method and bought baby bottle brushes (very cheap for a pack) to get deep inside to clean them.

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    2. For bottles, you can also clean them with denture tablets and water..just let it soak for awhile.

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    3. I'll have to try that trick!

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  5. Good tips! I never thought to use a magic eraser on price tag "stickum." One thrift store I frequent writes prices on bottoms with markers! Ugh! Nothing like finding a great piece to have it ruined with "50 cents" written on the bottom!

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    1. Yes, I hate that! A lot of the thrift stores here use permanent marker and permanently damage a piece!

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  6. I'm a huge fan of Biz powder detergent for cleaning deeply stained vintage clothes. I didn't believe it would work after I read about it in a vintage-clothes-reseller-book, and then I tried it on some stored in the attic vintage clothes, and the spots came out, like magic! Probably wouldn't work on everything, but as a "I can't possibly live without buying this and it's worth a shot" option, it's really amazing.

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    1. Gotta try this trick, too. Thanks for sharing Lisa!

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  7. How do you clean tape off old boxes? I found some pretty cool old Christmas stuff but somebody used masking tape to keep them closed.

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    1. What material are the boxes? For tin and glass goo gone, magic eraser, or a paste of baking soda and water works really well. Always spot test first to prevent damage to the surface.

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    2. They are cardboard. This scares me

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    3. That's a tricky one. I stopped buying anything cardboard that needs cleaning because I'm not sure you can remove residue, mildew, etc. without getting the box wet and ruining it. Anyone else have tips?

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  8. I use Oxi-Clean and glass cleaner a lot.

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    1. Glass cleaner works really well! My mom has Oxi-Clean, I may have to give that one a try again.

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  9. I use Magic Erasers, but like Van said you do need to be careful with them. I once removed a gold stripe off of a pitcher before I realized it. I use Oxi-Clean to soak linens all the time and it works great. I heard you could soak dishes in Oxi-Clean too. I had some plates that were brown and crazed all over. You really couldn't eat off of them the way they looked. I figured I'd try soaking them. This is the weird thing, parts of the plate came out bright white, but there were still brown patches over a lot of the dish. I soaked them several times and left them for days and still no change, not even after adding bleach to the water. I would love to know a way to save these dishes they have such a great retro pattern.

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    1. I'll need to read more on that, too. I've had the same problem before. It's hard to get some stains out without damaging the integrity of the item- or destroying it completely!

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  10. Your cleaning kit looks very much like mine, only i have a old toothbrush and you have super cute brushes. I guess cute brushes work better. At least they will make cleaning a happier task.

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    1. The old toothbrush probably reaches into the nooks better, I'll need to incorporate one into the kit and see how it does :)

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  11. For stickers and tape on paper or cardboard try using a hairdryer, the heat softens up the gummy part so that it can be easily removed. If the sticker or tape has been there a long time it may not remove it entirely, sometimes you are left with a stain or discoloration where the sticker or tape was. Also, I have used rust out on vintage clothing to remove rust stains, but you have to be careful of the fabric type. And, I use lemon juice and sunshine for linen stains if Oxi-clean doesn't get it totally out.

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    1. Thanks for the helpful tips! These are all really good ones.

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  12. For vinyl (like suitcases), my favorite is Tuff Stuff. It's a spray that you can get in auto supply stores.

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    1. Thanks for the tip! I've never head of this product before.

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  13. Great tips. I could sure use some of that goo gone!

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    1. It's awesome! Smells amazing and a little bit goes a long way.

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  14. Had success with the magic erase-- take a look: http://lydiaspost.blogspot.com/2012/11/its-magic.html

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    1. Glad it worked! Thanks for the follow-up!

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  15. Hmm-- what's up with that spacing??? Didn't type it like that!

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  16. Looks like Blogger uses the "justify" alignment on comments and the link through the spacing off whack. Haha :) Might look into something that makes commenting easier.

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  17. Baby wipes clean *everything.* We go through tubs of them! They are just wet enough to remove paper stickers if you hold them on for a minute or so. They work on a lot of materials, including fabrics, and if they're safe for a baby's bum they're safe for most other things too!

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  18. I find that baking soda with a little warm water works wonders and is non damaging. And some elbow grease and patience help too!
    :)
    C

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    1. I love baking soda for most cleaning needs!

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