Adventures in cleaning typewriter crinkle paint

The Before. The old girl looks sort of yellowish and grimy...

Kind of looks like the previous owner liked to lean on the machine a lot.

Can't really tell if this is skin grime or smoke grime, but it doesn't smell like a smoker's machine.

First try, the Toothpaste treatment.

Toothpaste worked pretty well, but let's try the industrial hand cleaner!

Aww, yeah. that oily grime immediately starts to come off the minute you rub in a little cleaner & water.

You can see the cleaning power right there...

Now that's more like it!

You could eat off that machine!

Oh, look. The Iron Lady is actually white, not yellow! :D

I had to go out to way south Queen Creek this weekend, and on the way back, I hit a few Goodwills that were on the trail. I found one manual machine, a beat-up Royal 440, and stacks of wedges and other electrics. Left ’em all behind…

This is probably the most typewriters I've ever seen in a single Goodwill - this stack, plus a few straggler wedges and the Royal 440, all in one store.

Left Behind.

an interesting ultraportable wedge. Probably an inkjet head, based on the admonition on the cover to take out the printhead and store it in an airtight container if not using the machine for a week or more. Good luck getting it working after 2 decades of dry storage...

Updated: March 7, 2012 — 10:59 am


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  1. Amazing results! I’ll definitely try the toothpaste. Thanks!

  2. That’s awesome! The Iron Lady (love the name, it just made me think of Thatcher using one of these) just looks like new!
    Guess I’ll give it a try with the toothpaste. What kind of hand cleaner compound did you use?

    1. It’s called “Crystal Blue”, but I’ve seen dozens of different brands that are basically all the same. It’s made for cleaning printing inks off of skin, and the ones you should look for are all water-based (not oil). When new, the compound is kind of like a grainy paste, but my sample is a decade old, so it’s dried to a sort of powder almost. It is grainy, so you shouldn’t use it on smooth or shiny paint surfaces, but it doesn’t seem to harm crinkle paint finishes.

  3. Nice job cleaning! Scrubbing Bubbles also work well on this surface.

    I don’t think I’ve run into a Royal 440 on my thrifting expeditions before.

  4. Oh, great, I’ve been searching for a cleaner for crinkled paint. I’ve tried dishwashing detergent with some success but hand cleaner is it!

  5. Very nice cleaning results! Wish my Royal would have turned out that good, plain water ruined that paint. Next time I clean wrinkle finish paint I have to try hand cleaner; if water does not damage it.

  6. Can you help me find this cleaner? I purchased an old Smith Corona with this same kind of finish and ruined part of it with “Bar Keeper’s Friend” scrub. It was too abrasive and it literally scraped off all the texture. I can’t seem to find this Spink’s Ink – Crystal Blue cleaner anywhere online. Would Home Depot carry it? I’m in Portland, Oregon. Thanks in advance for your response! I’m trying to get this typewriter cleaned up before my wedding in 2 weeks, we’re using it as a guest book! :)

    1. This cleaner isn’t made anymore, probably. I got it over a decade ago back when I was running presses in a print shop.

      I suggest going to Home Depot or a Checker auto parts and looking at the hand cleaners they offer. Look for one that’s a slightly moist powder – avoid the ones that are oily.

      If you’re really in a rush, try toothpaste or dishwashing liquid – they work well too, just not as fast & easy.

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