Cleaning camera exterior metal and leatherette?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by nicolasraddatz, Nov 12, 2008.

  1. Hi all!<br/><br/>

    Many vintage cameras that have been on a cupboard for years come with a funky leatherette that has a "dirt layer"
    that has got in the texture of the leatherette. I wonder what do you guys use for cleaning it? I've tried isopropilic
    alcohol with variable success, but i guess there must be something more effective.<br/><br/>

    The same with exterior metal, what do you use?<br/><br/>

    Thanks guys!
  2. Leatherette is a tough one to clean. Whatever liquid you use, some will undoubtedly seep into the material, so I've stayed away from touching it.

    On the metal or plastic body surfaces I use a bit of household degreaser/cleaner on a cotton ball. You must use very little to keep it from migrating inside thru seams and you must dilute it if you are using a stronger concentration. Don't soak the cotton, just wet it a little bit. You may have to keep dampening it and keep rubbing a bit longer, but that's better than risking getting it inside the body. It does a nice job of cleaning nicotine stains and just plain old dirt out of the white lettering on a black camera. I guess you could also try it on leatherette, but don't soak it.
  3. I use a leather cleaner/conditioner for the leatherette and vinyl parts. Works very well, and boosts the shine slightly. On metal, I will use lighter fluid or denatured alcohol. It evaporates, so if you get a little internal, it shouldn't do any harm. I also use electrical contact cleaner for some of the mechanicals.
  4. The human hand sweats a lot and that sweat and other dirt build up on cameras (and everything else) over time. The
    way I clean a camera is with soap and water, as amazing as that may sound. I get an empty spray bottle and squirt
    a bit of dishwashing detergent in that, not much, almost nothing actually then fill nearly full with water. Squirt a bit of
    that soapy water on a rag or a Q-Tip and wipe. That is fine for leather/coverings and even the metal surfaces but
    metal usually gets a second cleaning with lighter fluid. Isopropyl alcohol is good for cleaning chrome but keep it off
    paint. I have tried all sorts of leather balms and cleaners but find they are messy to work with and do no better a
    job. If the leather is left a bit dull then a bit of shoe polish or mink oil or saddle something or other will shine it up a
    bit. No preference, they all do about the same job. To recolor leather that has lost its dye you might want Fiebings
    ( or, if you are cheap, try an (believe it or not) Avery Marks-a-Lot magic marker.
    In using magic marker you have to let it dry and soak in a bit then come back over it with a wet finger rubbing it dull
    to look like leather is supposed to. Ok, icky, but spit works best (but not if you've eaten within the hour). Have tried
    metal polish/paste but don't like it because it gets along the leather edges. The best metal cleaners are those paste
    types like Wenol, Blue Magic or any of the many others like it that come in a tube like tooth paste. They are all the
    same really.

    Now, what I really have not been able to clean is the matte chrome on a Minox. Dirt sticks to that and won't wash
    out. Hate that sort of chrome.
  5. Hi! I have cleaned quite a few less than BP1.00 cameras I bought on Ebay, old Prakticas, Exaktas, Zorkis and Feds. Regular ethyl alcohol cleans well. But leaves the leatherette a bit dry; so I polish it immediately with KIWI wax polish. That brings the sheen up.

    You can use white Kerosene too; it cleans the grime well and does not make the leatherette too dry. Of course, if you don't like the smell of Kerosene,....etc.? You can get perfumed Kerosene too.

    I have also used household Ammonia and liquid soap to clean; it cleans well. But you may have to wipe it with plain water after cleaning to get rid of traces of Ammonia and soap. All these cleansers work well on both metallic and leatherette surfaces. But please be careful not to use Ammonia on painted surfaces. It would bleach over time!

    What would I recommend most as the safest? Kerosene and wax polish to follow. Let the kerosene air and dry out before you apply the wax though. I hope this helps.
  6. Tom -

    For body cleanup I use electrical contact cleaner or lens cleaning fluid, on cotton swabs or small cloth patches. When applying fluid go sparingly, both possess high capillary action and will seep into unwanted places if swab is too saturated. I place a couple of drops to swab, then touch against tissue to wick away excess. Then you're just using enough to contact the surface to be cleaned, but not enough to flow into openings. Keep changing swabs as you go, or you'll just keep spreading contaminated material over the surface. Works well for getting crud out of relieved lettering, like logo's and speed/aperture scales, etc.

    For leather/vinyl, I use leather cleaner/conditioner, (Lexol is one brand.) Again, sparingly is the key, and keep changing cloth or swab frequently. In cleaning you may uncover areas worn through the color, then a good leather cream textured polish works well for me, I have come to prefer the black Meltonian brand. It goes on easily, keep rubbing until it becomes well worked into the surface, let air dry for just two or three minutes and rub with clean cloth, a nice satiny polished finish will result. In areas heavily worn or stained, more than one application takes care of filling in missing color.

    One real key factor is essential, work in small areas at a time. Trying to clean it all in one wet pass will result in cleaning agents migrating through crevices, getting it into places where you definately don't want it. Especially important when cleaning lens or barrel surfaces, if cleaning fluid migrates around lens edges it can wick onto back side of lens glass, then you stand the real chance of fungus getting started.

    After blowing or brushing away dust I hold the lens with glass surface facing down, then using just the least amount of fluid on swab I gently use minimal pressure in removing oil or fingerprints. Then a second pass with new swab and your breath on the surface finishes the job. Human breath and 100% cotton swabs or micro fiber cloths I think are the best lens cleaners available, if glass is not oil contaminated. I don't place lens fluid directly on lens surface, only to the swab, and never with lens pointing upward.

    Hope you find this useful.


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