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How to Restore Vintage Bathroom Accessories

The craftsmanship exemplified by vintage bathroom accessories such as soap dishes, drinking glass holders, towel bars, faucets and dispensers is admired by many aficionados of gems from the past. Homemakers, collectors and resellers seek out these items at flea markets, antique fairs, residential salvage yards and similar sources, then restore them as much as possible to their original appearance.

Antique Bath Accessories

Antique Bath Accessories
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Exercise Care in Restoring Vintage Bathroom Fixtures

Die cast and stamped antique metal bathroom fixtures and accessories are often nickel plated. But regardless of the metal and finish care must be exercised to remove dirt and corrosion products that have accumulated over years of use or neglect. Scouring powders, chemicals and abrasives such as steel wool can damage what finish remains. The better solution to restoring vintage bathroom accessories is by cavitation action in an ultrasonic cleaner tank filled with a biodegradable cleaning solution.

An ultrasonic cleaner ideal for the job is the 45 kHz, 1.5 gallon capacity Crest EH150CR equipped with a lid, heater, timer and sweep frequency. Sweep is an important feature because it provides a uniform distribution of cavitation cleaning throughout the bath to avoid “hot spots” and “dead spots.” The separately ordered 11.5 x 5.25 x 5 in. deep stainless mesh basket is used to support the fixtures in the cleaning solution. Ultrasonic cleaner models are available to hold larger components.

A recommended cleaning solution concentrate is elma tec clean A4 universal cleaner for metals, plastics, ceramics, glass, quartz and rubber. It is available in 2.5, 10 and 25-liter containers and dilutes to 1 to 5% with water, making it extremely economical.

The ABCs of Ultrasonic Cleaning Vintage Bathroom Accessories

Experience is the best guide as you refine your process. Start by adding water to the tank until it is half full; add the correct amount of cleaning solution concentrate for a full tank, then fill the tank. Put on the lid and activate the ultrasound to mix the solution and drive off trapped air in a process called degassing. Allow approximately 10 minutes to fully prepare the solution. Note that mixing and degassing must be performed each time you prepare a fresh bath.

When you are ready to clean:

  1. Adjust the thermostat to 50?C and activate the ultrasound. While the solution heats carefully place the parts in the mesh basket.
  2. Lower the basket into the solution, replace the lid to reduce noise and evaporation, and set the timer for 5 minutes. Actual time will depend on the condition of the parts. Ultrasonic waves produced by the unit’s transducers create millions of minute cavitation bubbles that implode on contact with the parts to safely loosen and carry away contaminants.
  3. At the end of the cycle remove the basket and inspect the parts. Repeat the cleaning cycle if necessary; otherwise rinse the parts with fresh water.

Over time the cleaning solution will lose its effectiveness and should be replaced. Although the formula is biodegradable you should check with local authorities on proper disposal. Then rinse the tank with fresh water and prepare a new batch.

Contact the iUltrasonic cleaning experts for help in selecting the correct ultrasonic cleaner model and cleaning solution concentrate to meet your requirements.


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