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We would appreciate any tips you may have to clean and restore your tins.

Cleaning Tins

by Mike Reilly

I went through all of the back issues and found the messages that contained replies from readers on the subject of cleaning and maintaining your tin collection.

I don't advocate one cleaning or preservation method over another. It's a matter of trial & error in some cases, and some personal preferences - ChipTin.


From: JMcDGwin

I use the same thing on my tins that I use on my car: TR-3 RESIN GLAZE,

an automobile cleaner and polish manufactured in the USA by TR-3 Products, a subsidiary of Blue Coral, Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio 44105 and Los Angeles, California 90001, or so it says on the can. Follow the instructions on the can.

From: Tinlover

About the cleaning of tins and all ,I have found that just plain Endust-no lemon scent-works wonders for removing the gummy,sticky mess from tape from pricetags,etc.Lighter Fluid will also work if you aren't afraid to use it but I wouldn't on an older tin.

From: BFD 2174

In regards to cleaning them--I use Turtle wax both as a cleaner and protection for the tins.. I have not had any problem with using this wax but always try it on a small area on the back of a tin first just to be sure. Water can create a problem if the tin is not allowed to dry on the inside before closing the lid.

Also as far as sunlight and UV rays. There is a film type material that you can have applied to windows or to display cases that protects the tins from the sunlight. A glass company may have this or companies that specialize in that line of business can be worth a visit. It is not all that expensive and it can save your investment. The cleaning and care of the tins is kind of subjective anyway. There are people who say not to use petroleum based wax etc. so it kind of depends on the individual.


When cleaning tins I have found that a good auto wax is the best. I use Mothers California Gold Carnuba Cleaner and Wax, this can be found in most auto supply stores. If the tin is flaking or has heavy crazing I would suggest not cleaning it at all since it could do more harm than good.

The follow question came from a reader:

How does one preserve tins from deterioration? I live in a hot, humid, and muggy area.

A reply from: Cycletruck

I recommend that she keep a piece of fabric or a cotton ball dampened with camphorated oil inside each of her tins...this is what tool collectors have done for years & it works for me.

From: [email protected]

I saw where someone was looking for ideas on how to take care of their tins. I saw on FX, how a man who is a collector of lunch boxes, used car wax--not polish--to keep his tins looking nice and shiny. I tried it on one with a duller finish and I was pleased with the results. I have also removed a few minor dints or dings by first warming the tin up in a sink of hot water. This works well if the dint isn't too deep. Gently rubbing the inside with a large wooden spoon may help, too. Be sure to pad the outside with a towel or like item. One final tip. Don't clean tins with 409 or Fantastic--or if you do, don't let it stay on long. I've got several tins on my kitchen counter top (they hold dog treats) and over the years they have gotten sprayed by household cleaners. These cleaners, I've found, fade and discolor if allowed to remain on the tin for any length of time. Hope these ideas might help some fellow collectors. Marsha

(Editor's Note - I would recommend not using hot/warm water on older tins, pre-1980's? In some instances the "paint" finish will actually "lift" or dissolve. It would be best to use cold water to clean a tin,especially the outside. Also watch how much "elbow grease" you apply. That graphic or lettering could quickly disappear. I've used a liquid car wax on some of my tins and then gently polished them. I've also applied some to the inside. Be sure that the wax is completely dry, inside or out. I don't know if a liquid or paste is better, a non-abrasive type the best (less water content in a paste to deal with?). And speaking of discoloration, don't let your tins sit in a window or in direct sunlight, fading will occur quite fast.)

Rust Removal

by Mike Reilly

     Rust and corrosion are a tin's enemies. As a tin collector, it's your responsibility to preserve the tin for future collectors. Not all people are willing or able to remove rust or stop the advance of corrosion, but you can take some precautions with your collection.

     If you're game, first tackle any rust spots in the tin's interior, then it's lid and bottom. This is to be done only on UNFINISHED surfaces. Take very fine sandpaper, emery cloth, or steel wool moistened with water and start working in an area that's not very noticeable. Work a small rust spot or area, using a LIGHT circular rubbing motion, being careful not to scratch any unrusted or finished surfaces. Use a dampened soft cloth to wipe away the rust particles or lightly rinse the area with COOL water (never warm or hot). Then continue working, taking your time; rushing can cause accidents (to the tin and to you).

     For tough rust, using a coarser grade of abrasive may speed things up initially, but you need to go back and finish off the job with the finer grade until you have a smooth surface. Of course you don't want to rub so hard that you wear the metal thin or create holes.

     For lids that are unfinished (not decorated) you may wish to soak them (if easily removable) in a solution of oxalic acid or spread Naval Jelly on it. It's recommended to use about a 12% oxalic acid solution. According to what I've read, oxalic acid shouldn't affect finished surfaces, only attack rust, but I would be very careful. Read any directions on these or other products carefully and always test it's performance in a small area.

     Any time you're working on a tin, be sure to protect the finished surfaces as much as possible. Wear gloves, cloth or rubber, and eye protection, especially around chemicals. Warning: some chemicals may cause skin, nose or eye irritation. Be sure your work area is ventilated. Some people mask off the finished surfaces with adhesive tape or like materials. If you do this, be sure it won't leave a tough sticky residue to clean off; worse yet, that it pulls off ink or paint when you remove it. Avoid touching the decorative finish with your bare skin (leaves dirt and oils) or bumping it against something else (you may want to work on a rubber mat or similar material).

     When you're done with your tin or just running out of time, make sure there's time to adequately dry the tin. Use a hair dryer on low heat or cool setting to thoroughly dry the inside and seam areas. Sitting the tin on an oven rack, rack extended out of oven, with the oven on very low heat, will also work. Just watch what you're doing and the affect the heat/drying process is having on the tin's surfaces. NEVER let a tin "drip dry."

     After the tin is dry, you may wish to apply a clear (non-yellowing) polish or wax to the new shiny (?) surface. The less water in the product the better; remember you have to make sure the tin is dry after polishing. We're still talking about those unfinished areas. This will retard the growth of rust, but limit your handling because it will mean additional applications much sooner. Try to apply the polish or wax as soon as possible, to reduce the amount of oxidation developing on the newly cleaned surface.

     Cleaning rust from the decorated finish of your tins require you to know something about how it was applied and what it consists of. You don't have to be a chemist, just use some common sense in your cleaning approach.

     Before lithography was used on metal tins, the color was often more of an ink than a paint. Today many of these colors easily come off with the slightest rubbing or moisture applied. If you're not sure of the consequences, don't do anything. At least experiment first on a small area that won't be very noticeable if the finish lifts off or smears. Use a plain soft white cloth to gently wipe the surface. If the tin's finish doesn't change and no color is present on the cloth, then you can try a little water. Always check your progress. You may be able to use a gentle liquid paste/wax to help clean light rust off later; first you want to see what happens to the actual finish.

     Most lithographed tins can be easily cleaned of light rust, stains and other marks using a damp soft cloth with cool water. Again, never apply warm or hot water and NEVER soak your tin for any period of time. Follow the same precautions above remembering that too much rubbing pressure can begin removing paint as well.

     For small rust spots or pitting through the finish you might try an ordinary ruby stick eraser or one found on a pencil for better control. The eraser on an ink pen is more abrasive, but it may work on tougher areas. Pitting may never clean up well and if you remove too much (along with the finish), now what do you do?

     If you're somewhat good with an artist's paint brush, along with a selection of bottled auto touch-up paint, you may be able to hide some of those ugly spots with a dab. The other thing to do is to leave it as it is and apply a coat of wax or polish to hinder more rust development. Try your polish out in a small area again, then gently apply it.

     As an honest collector, it is worth telling any potential buyer that a tin has been restored. Many amateur touchup/restoration jobs will be easily detected by most buyers. Why risk someone's wrath or nasty comments when they can be avoided.

     After you finish working on your tin, store it in a dry area out of any direct sunshine. Then sit back and enjoy the view. If you've done a good job of cleaning, you may also know that the tin may have significantly increased in value, just because you invested a little of your time in caring for it.

     Something else to try or let me know about - I found an ad about a product called GS-27 Scratch Remover. It's supposed to blend scratches on your car even remove rust from paint or chrome. Says it will remove surface scratches on enamel-finish appliances as well. A 5.3 oz tube costs $14.99

     If any reader has tried this product, please let me know what results you've had on your tins. Looks like it's available over the internet through some automotive sites. Thanks, Mike.



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