Time for a new series! I am all about shopping used. We have expensive taste and tiny pockets, so I often hunt for overlooked items that can be saved with some elbow grease. I find deals at thrift stores, online consignment, garage sales (real ones and Facebook pages) and craig’s list. So this spring, I’m planning to share some of my favorite tricks to make used/vintage items look like new for less.
I had some good conversation come up in my post last week about vintage Pyrex. You can, of course, buy shiny, ready to display pieces from Etsy or EBay, but if you are looking for the best prices you need to find them “in the wild” (aka thrift stores, estate sales, garage sales, etc.). Often times this means luck and willingness to drive to sales and dig in cupboards. A lot of the time antiquers will snag them all in the first hour, so be prepared to go home disappointed. BUT if you are lucky enough to find retro glassware, it usually needs some love before it’s ready to use.
Here is a prime example. I found a nice stack of these adorable Anchor Hocking ‘Athena’ dessert cups recently. They are from the 1970’s and were part of a full opal glass place setting that came in 2 patterns. They were shoved all the way to the back of the shelf and look just awful. Most people would think “omg gross”, but I saw potential.
Here is my line up, starting on the left and moving right…
- I always start with the most mild products first. A nice long soak in some hot water with simple dish soap will sometimes do the trick. Fill the sink and let them sit. Then come back and give them a good scrub.
- If that doesn’t work I start bringing out the bigger guns. Next I try a very mild abrasive cleanser, like Affresh Cooktop Cleanser. It’s made for cleaning ceramic and glass cooktops and comes with a little blue brillo-like pad. Some people swear by Liquid Barkeepers Friend, but with any of these types of cleansers you have to be REALLY careful. Do not use them on any gold leaf and use them very gently. If your piece is nice and shiny, you can dull the finish over time with these mild abrasives.
- Next on my list, if the above doesn’t work, is powdered Barkeepers Friend. This is an abrasive. You have to be super gentle. I usually make it into a paste and try it somewhere unnoticeable first. If it’s something with a lot of decoration or is a solid painted finish I sometimes skip this step all together. This is great for the inside of the white glass pieces to get rid of the silver utensil marks.
- The last thing I try is this heavy duty oven cleaner. It comes in an aerosol can and smells awful. Try and use this on a day when you can crack a window, because it will give you a headache. The upside is this cuts through just about everything. Like with other products I have listed, you need to be cautious. I’ve seen some blogs say to spray it on and let it sit up to 15 minutes. I stick with 5 minutes. After 5 minutes everything wipes away. I’ve heard through the grapevine that this can strip paint. I haven’t experienced that personally, but better safe than sorry.
These bowls went from dish soap to Affresh, and straight to oven cleaner. I need to get a toothpick to clean out in between some of the little spaces in the lettering, but by the time I am done with them, they should look almost new. I probably won’t be keeping them, since I have more than enough bowls in my cabinet, but I know someone out there is looking for them to complete their set.
Next on Vintage Rehab: I will be sharing my favorite tool to take those annoying pills off of vintage sweaters, ties, upholstery, etc. This thing is seriously life changing.