John asked: What is the best way to clean Bakelite and restore its original shine?
Bakelite is a hard, durable plastic used in many vintage or antique pieces such as telephones. It features a very thin, high gloss glaze which will quickly dissolve in the face of harsh cleansers, so great care should be taken when cleaning this otherwise durable material. The following steps will help you clean and polish your bakelite to a beautiful shine.
You Will Need:
- liquid metal cleaning polish (any brand)
- Clean cloths
Steps to Clean the Bakelite:
- First, use a clean cloth to wipe away any loose dirt or debris.
- Apply a small amount of liquid metal polish onto a second clean cloth.
- Wipe the bakelite down, using the cloth to apply the polish with a scrubbing motion. The metal polish will be slightly abrasive, lending a hand in the cleaning process of stuck on residue.
- Allow the polish to sit and dry to a film.
- Buff away the film to remove dirt and residue and reveal the shine.
- Repeat as needed. Bakelite covered in years of dirt and grime may require more than one treatment.
Additional Tips and Advice
- If the finish is dull or destroyed, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to restore. You can go over it with a high speed cloth buffing wheel that’s loaded with a polish designed for the job. Once buffed, apply a liquid metal polish to bring back some of the shine.
- If you find your cloth turning brown or yellow as you buff, don’t worry. It’s a natural part of the cleaning process and will not harm the piece.
- If your bakelite has metal pieces on it, don’t worry about getting the metal polish on these parts. It will clean those spots as well.