Cleaning a 1930's metal switch plate cover

K. Roth
by K. Roth
I'm not sure the metal type and there is some built up residue in one corner. I would like to gently clean it up, it is very detailed. And suggestions?
This is the plate cover, the residue is in the lower right corner.
  12 answers
  • Sheri Hepworth Sheri Hepworth on May 19, 2015
    Make a paste of baking soda and water. Rub it into the grate with a soft cloth. I'll bet that will gently rub off the grime and oxidized metal.
    • K. Roth K. Roth on May 19, 2015
      Thanks so much for the tip! I appreciate the time and great idea, will try it. K. R.
  • Lynda Dexter Lynda Dexter on May 19, 2015
    you could also try vinegar and baking soda. the bubbling should clean down into the groves
  • Jhunt10 Jhunt10 on May 19, 2015
    Try some silver polish first ! Silver polish is gentle and will not hurt the finish on anything . BTW very beautiful switch plate.
  • Janice Gordon Janice Gordon on May 19, 2015
    H2O is a company that sells chemical free products. These may help.
  • B. Enne B. Enne on May 19, 2015
    Not the most environment friendly option, but works on different metals, so it shouldn't damage the cover no matter what it is: It sasys safe and non-oisonous on the site...
  • Barbara Barbara on May 19, 2015
    If you have an old cooking pot that you don't use you can try putting a quart of water and boiling the water. Turn off the heat source and put the switch plate in. Let it soak in the hot water for an hour, remove with tongs, rinse off and polish with Barkeepers Friend. If it's paint, the hot water should bubble up the paint, for oily residues at a tablespoon of dish soap as the water begins to boil before turning off the heat. I'd use a soft toothbrush for the nooks and crannies. It's a lovely switchplate with what looks like tarnish so it could be brass or silverplate.
  • Capernius Capernius on May 19, 2015
    I use straight vinegar for cleaning everything.... for the stubborn, hard to remove spots, let it soak in vinegar for a wee bit.... if needs be, a toothbrush may help.
  • Carole Carole on May 20, 2015
    Depends on the metal: if it is a mix of copper and something else (much used then) you would be amazed at the gentle no-rubbing needed action of a certain brown, well-known soda. Firts soak a piece of cloth and try on the back: if the ssoda cleans the plate, then simply pour the soda in some kind of dish enabling to put the plate and have it covered bby soda. Within minutes the plate is clean. If you want to try something that works on silver-coated /silver items try fresh lemon and rub with a tooth brush into the details. Or a pot a boiling water, previously coate with luminium foil and add some spoonfuls of salt. The oxydationthen goes to the foil (which gets brown) and the silver coating is again shining. However if the oxydation has been gnawing at the metal coating (=destroying the coating), no cleaning will really solve the problem, and to give it good looks again you might have to consider having it coated, ask a jewellery shop, it can be done for a reasonable price. NB: too much rbbing (and silver apste) over the years removes the silver coating also, beware of rubbing and of silver paste. Your plate looks like it is silver-coated and like there are rests of paste on the bottom right corner. Sea climate (salty breezes) are corrosive to silver-plated and all other plated/plain metals too and may lead to premature corrosion of the coating also. Therefore, if no cleaning helps, consider showing the plate to someone with metal knowedge (like a jeweller/silversmith/someone making antique repairs) and have their advice and whether renewing the coating is the only option... or keep it as is and use some vernish to prevent further corrosion....
  • K. Roth K. Roth on May 20, 2015
    Any other advice/tips?. Thanks for your time, baking soda helped a bit. Have not been able to get the other comments to display, soo,,,,Any ideas would be appreciated as I'd hate to harm the design. Also, a few other pieces turned up. Pictures here.
    comment photo
    comment photo
  • Moxie Moxie on May 20, 2015
    Put them in a crock pot with water and vinegar : )
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on May 20, 2015
    Good tips. Sorry they haven't been so successful. You could warm the plate, and then use Peek (cleans up most metals), and a cloth and toothbrush. Finish may have been damaged by fire, etc.
  • K. Roth K. Roth on May 20, 2015
    Thank you so much, many routes to try. Maybe I can do an after shot as I'm sure all the great tips will help. (My photo skills need work, the dark area is in shadow, but does look like smoke residue when you think of it!) great, very nice of you ALL!