How To Clean Old Typewriter Keys To Use In Rustic Projects

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Have you ever bought old typewriter keys to use for jewelry or another craft project?  I did that!  When I was searching for typewriter keys to buy, I looked for the oldest and most rustic keys I could find.  I wasn’t planning on using them for sparkling, brand new looking jewelry.  The few jewelry ideas that I had in mind were on the rustic side and I wanted my keys to still look old and worn.

What I wasn’t expecting, was how dirty they would be when I got them.  I guess the older the keys are the more gunk and grime they are going to have on them.  I didn’t want them to look quite that rustic……. plus I am a clean freak………I began the agonizing task of cleaning and shining those little gems up.

Yikes!  Talk about time consuming!

Here is what they looked like before:

You can see that they are pretty dull from the layers of grime.  So, I first gave them a bath in a mixture of half white vinegar and half warm water:

And, I let them soak for a while…..while I enjoyed a piece of pie.  Then, I took them out of the solution and wiped them dry with a rag and some q-tips for the edges.  I could not believe how dirty my rag became!  But, I still wasn’t happy with them, so……

I got out the Turtle Wax and started buffing those babies!  When I wiped them down, I was still getting residue on my new rag.  I kept buffing until there was no more residue.  In case you were wondering, this gets a bit monotonous after the first two…..I had about twenty-six.  Anyway, I did finish and I was happy with the results.  I should mention though that when you soak the keys, you may get some discoloration under the glass, depending on the type of key you have.   Some of mine faded completely back to normal when they dried and some left the discoloration.  For me, I was totally fine with the darker color.  It just gave them more of an aged look yet.  If you don’t want to risk discoloration, you can try cleaning them with a cloth that was just dampened with the vinegar mixture and then of course do lots of the buffing.

Here are the before and after pictures side by side:

The faces are still drying here but you can see how much shinier they are after the cleaning.

Here are a couple of examples  of the projects I use these keys in:

Happy Cleaning!

I'm addicted to crafting and decorating my downtown urban loft and up north rustic cabin. Read more about me.
  1. How did you get in my head? I came here today to give you a task. I didn’t search your blog so you might have already done it.

    I just got a vintage Remington Typewriter for FREE. Way cool. The keys are much like these.
    Your task, if you choose to accept it:) What can I repurpose the whole typewriter into? My biz partner wants a floral ?vase? but I know your mind is more rustic.

    1. Lucky you! I would love to display a whole typewriter. If it were mine, I would either leave it as is, and display, or fill the top with silk hydrangeas in cream (I’m picturing the typewriter to be a dark metal?)

      Good luck and have fun with it 🙂

  2. You’re prolly right, just leave as is. We’re using it as a prop for our booth and future shows. My crafty-change-it side of the brain needs to shut up, lol.

    Found a vintage ad that looks like what I got.

    Thanks girl.

    1. I love it! I would love to have one like that displayed in my office!

  3. I’m a first-time visitor to this site. I, too, have a vintage typewriter. I just cleaned mine up good, and — because I’m a Snoopy fan — put a piece of paper in it that has these words typed on it in large print in Courier typeface: Chapter One It was a dark and stormy night….

    I have it sitting on a bookcase near three pictures — one of an antique typewriter, an old phone, and three ink pins.

    1. I love that! Very cool idea 🙂

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