Sometimes you find the perfect item at a thrift store – a wooden table, the shelf you have been needing, or the plate set that completes your kitchen. The item may be in less than brand-new condition, however. That doesn’t mean you should pass it up! As Victoria from Second Wind Cabin demonstrates, with just a little cleaning and elbow grease, those gently used items will look brand new in no time!
Tips, Tricks & Tools for Fixing up Thrift Store Finds
Decorating your home with thrift store finds is economical and fun. But not everything you buy will be bright and shiny or in great shape. Sometimes the items you find need a little or maybe a lot of love to fix them up.
Gathering some basic products and learning a few tricks will help you get that thrift store find in tip-top shape and ready for its place of honor in your home. Listed here are some handy products and tools with tips on using them to spruce up your thrift store treasures.
For more details on using all of the products listed, please read the package instructions before using. If you need more specific information, conduct an online search; there are dozens of detailed websites with tips for cleaning just about everything imaginable.
General Purpose Cleaners
Most hard surface items such as glass, plastic, vinyl and rubber can be cleaned easily. Some all-purpose favorites that most folks have around the house will be helpful for general cleaning and disinfecting hard surfaces.
• Windex or any type of glass cleaner
• All-purpose spray cleaner, de-greaser
• Dish soap
• White distilled vinegar – works well to remove lime or mineral build up on glass and chrome
• Armor All – surface cleaner protector helps make surfaces shine, great for plastic and vinyl
• GooGone – removes gummy residue left over from tape or labels
• Mr. Clean Magic Eraser – works well to remove dirt and smudges on textured surfaces like luggage
Metal, brass, stainless steel, ceramic or porcelain surfaces
Metal surfaces can be polished and cleaned but it depends on the type of metal (silver, chrome, plated metal, copper, cast iron) and the amount of rust, dirt and damage. Some metal such as copper may be fine with the aged patina left intact and even considered more valuable. Cast iron is not a metal you want to clean with a lot of soap and water.
• Brasso – Metal polish for a variety of metal surfaces
• Silver polish or use hot water, aluminum foil and baking soda in a bucket – make sure the silver item touches the aluminum foil, will be clean in a few seconds.
• Bar Keepers Friend – slightly abrasive but works wonders on rusted metal, pots & pans and scratched, stained porcelain and ceramic surfaces
• WD-40 lubricant – works well to loosen metal parts such as screws, bolts and hinges
• Salt and cooking oil – clean cast iron with very little water, then use salt to scrub away any rust. Rub the surface with a small amount of oil and dry on the stove for a few minutes.
Fabric, leather or soft porous surfaces
Upholstery can be tough to clean so you need to know a little about the type of fabric you are dealing with and how dirty or damaged the item is before starting. Some furniture will be beyond cleaning and will require new fabric, stuffing or foam and webbing to make it livable. Other items can be fixed up by using a little carpet and upholstery spray on cleaner. Some soft surface items like purses, backpacks, and some shoes may not be able to be laundered or dry cleaned so consider wiping them down with a damp sponge and then spray with Febreeze to freshen up.
Other items such as clothing, drapes and rugs can usually be professionally laundered or dry-cleaned.
• Febreeze – eliminates musty or unpleasant odors; baking soda can also be used for old suitcases. Leave a small dish of baking soda inside the closed suitcase overnight to remove odors.
• Fabric softener sheets – tuck under cushions of furniture and inside purses, luggage and even books to freshen up
• Spray on upholstery and carpet cleaner
• Natural shoe polish – clear shoe polish works to clean and polish leather (don’t use on suede)
• Saddle soap works well on leather
To clean wood surfaces, wood laminate, wicker and rattan, use mild soap such as Murphy’s oil soap and warm water to remove the initial layer of dirt and grime. Wipe dry and then apply either furniture polish or wax to condition and protect the wood. If the wood surface is slightly mildewed or moldy use a mild bleach and water solution (10 parts water to 1 part bleach)
• Murphy’s Oil Soap – good for cleaning wood surfaces
• Furniture polish – Pledge or other brand
• Butcher block and Cutting Board oil – mineral oil is a great wood conditioner- wipe on dry or old wood surfaces after cleaning
• Furniture wax
• Wood Repair Markers – set of 6 magic markers that match most common wood colors – great to repair little knick, scratches or chips in wood surfaces. Test your marker on an unseen area first.
• Sandpaper – variety of grits
• Steel wool – use steel wool to clean some wood surfaces with mild soap and water
• Glue – wood or white glue will help fix small cracks in wood
• Soft clean rags – recycle old cotton t-shirts, cloth baby diapers, towels – cut some up in to small and medium size pieces for easy use.
• Q-tips – perfect non-abrasive tool for cleaning small, detailed or delicate areas
• Toothbrush – don’t throw out your old toothbrush. These are helpful tools for cleaning crevices, cracks and corners and textured surfaces.
• Straight edge razor blade – use to clean paint or goop off of glass
Remember – if you are cleaning a surface you are not sure about always read the instructions on the cleaning product of choice before starting. If possible test on a small or hidden area first.
Hopefully a few of these tips will come in handy for cleaning and fixing your next thrifty treasure!