Saturday, May 29, 2010

ID Mommy Tip: Cleaning Up Garage Sale & Thrift Store Finds

You already know I'm big on garage sales and thrift stores...I love the thrill of the hunt, and not knowing what little treasure I might find.  But, another one of my favorite parts about garage saleing is restoring old, beat up items and making them look all shiny and new again.

Last week I posted a home recipe for tarnish remover, which has worked great on some of my tarnished silver finds.  Today I'll share a few more ways that I clean up old stuff.  Unfortunately these items are pretty much the opposite of my tarnish remover post when it comes to eco-friendliness, but they really do work great.  If anyone has any good (safer) home remedies to replace these, I'd love to know about them!

I usually start with just a sponge and water, but when that doesn't cut it, these are a few of my favorite things:

Bestine - This is something I only know about and own because I'm a designer.  It's made to thin rubber cement, and you can get it at art supply stores, or online.  My last can lasted me 10 years, and I just recently purchased this can.  It works great to remove sticky stuff like price tag goo.  It's really nasty, cancer-causing, flammable stuff, so keep it away from the kids.  But, it works great.  You can also find other cleaners that do the same thing like Goo Gone.

Steel Wool - This stuff is great for removing rust and bringing back the shine on your steel or even chrome stuff.  For a couple bucks you'll have enough to last your whole life, unless you're shining up something huge like a car.

Magic Eraser - They aren't kidding when they call this "magic."  It's my favorite thing to use on beat up'll remove the little colored lines you see on toys that were caused from crashing into other toys.  Here's an example of what it did on a great vintage Fisher Price schoolhouse I got for $0.50 cents:

Just be sure to wash off the toy well after using the eraser, and keep the Magic Eraser out of your kids' reach, because it does have a chemical inside that will burn your skin!

The Dishwasher - When it comes to cleaning and sanitizing little plastic toys like Legos, I like to either dump them in a big bowl of hot, soapy water and then rinse them in a colander, OR, just put them in a mesh laundry lingerie bag and run them through the dishwasher.  Those little bottle baskets work well to for small items.  The dishwasher works great for larger items too, and you can do the "sani-wash" to kill any cooties.

The Laundry Machine - Of course I wash all clothes that I get for the kids.  But, I also put anything and everything of the plush variety in there...stuffed animals, toys, blankets, you name it.  I have lost count of how many toys I've run through the machine that are labeled, "surface wash only," and have yet to actually wreck anything.  Many baby item's I've purchased like my swing, bouncy chair, strollers, play mats, and bassinet all have been designed for the fabric to be easily removed and washed, making them look like new!!

Hasbro Playskool T.J. Bearytales Animated Plush Bear
Batteries - You'd be surprised the great toys people get rid of, which their kids stopped playing with, just because they never got around to changing the batteries.  I wouldn't either, if I didn't have rechargeable ones, because they do add up with all the toys.  I found a TJ Bearytales bear in a big box of $0.50 cent stuffed animals, asked if it worked, and they said, "yeah, it just needs batteries."  I took it home and popped in some of my rechargeable batteries, and now we have an awesome, expensive toy for next to nothing.  It was worth the gamble to find out at home whether it works, as they quit making can find them new on Amazon for around $150-$200! (or much cheaper used on Ebay or CraigsList!)

Super Glue - All moms learn the value of super glue from the moment their baby starts moving.  From this moment on, things will break, and you will be expected to fix them.  Now you can not only fix the stuff your kid breaks, but the stuff other people's kids break, too!


  1. Thanks for posting about cleaning up the Fisher Price school house. My Mom just gave me the one that I had as a child. It was in the basement for 30 years and definitely needed help! My 18 month old loves playing with it. It definitely beats the new Fisher Price school house! I will be trying your tip today. Thanks!

  2. You're very welcome! And yes, those old toys were really made to stand up to toddlers' abuse, weren't they? I've been picking them up at garage sales...we now also have the school bus, "fun jet" airplane, and family fun to see your kids playing with the toys you played with, isn't it? ;-)

  3. Be sure you wash your hands soon and well anytime Bestine gets on your skin. It is absorbed through the skin and is a good cause of lymphoma/cancer. I didn't know that and used it many years as a keyliner to thin rubber cement and remove glued type blocks. Now I know how dangerous it is. It REALLY works great to clean tho and to remove sticky labels



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