How To Clean Old Typewriter Keys For Crafts

For any rustic craft project that you want to spell out words, old typewriter keys are a fantastic choice. When I found some at an antique store, I was excited by the possibilities. What I wasn’t prepared for was how dirty and grimy the old keys were. Although I like old and distressed items to use in craft projects, I prefer that they are at least clean. Plus, I wanted to see the original sparkle of the metal even if the faces were more aged looking. Luckily, I came up with a way to clean old typewriter keys to make them ideal for craft use.

Best Way To Clean Old Typewriter Keys

I’ll show you how to clean old typewriter keys with just a couple of easy steps. These dull and grimy typewriter keys would not be acceptable for decorating before cleaning.

how to clean old typewriter keys

Clean Typewriter Keys With Two Steps

Soak Typewriter Keys In A Water Vinegar Mixture

To start, the keys need a good bath. And, they need more than just water. Combine equal portions of white vinegar and warm water. Toss the typewriter keys in and let them soak for an hour or so. Wipe dry with a clean rag. When I did this, I couldn’t believe how dirty my rag became. I also used a q-tip for getting into the inside rim. The face of the keys got darker from soaking in the water but as they dried, they returned to the original color.

old typewriter keys soaking in water and vinegar
Old typewriter keys soaking in water and vinegar.

Buff The Keys With Turtle Wax

Once the keys were done soaking and drying, they were a lot cleaner. However, the metal rims still didn’t have a nice shine. They were clean enough to work with but if you prefer a little more sparkle, then you need to buff them out.

how to clean typewriter keys with polishing compound
Buff old typewriter keys with polishing compound.

This process is a little time consuming since you need to do each key one by one. Just apply some Turtle Wax polishing compound and buff the keys with a rag. Keep repeating until no dark residue comes off on the rag. I had to repeat this several times.

Use Old Typewriter Keys In Rustic Crafts

Now that my typewriter keys were nice and clean, I used them in some rustic chic craft projects.

rustic birch frame with typewriter keys

The typewriter keys have just enough shine for what I was looking for. They still look old but all of the yucky gunk is gone! See how I also used old typewriter keys to make a small inspirational canvas.

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Creating rustic styling on a budget by giving new life to old things and using the beauty that is already found in nature. Read more about me.
  1. I have a very old typewriter and I am planning to make a lamp. I will use the oval black lampshade (with shiny gold lining) from another lamp I already have.

  2. 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 🙂

  3. 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!

  4. 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 🙂

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