How to clean old cash registers

Updated February 21, 2017

Many people find old cash registers less of a product from bygone days and more of a classic example of mechanical perfection. Restoring the brass of an old cash register to its glory days can make it shine, but there is also the chance of damaging both the outer shell as well as the inner mechanism. A careful cleaning of the cash register is not for the faint of heart as it requires patience, a steady hand and the ability to know where to clean and how to clean in the most effective way.

Take out all of the screws from the cash register and place them aside.

Take the cabinet apart and remove all of the trim.

Dip the soft cloth into the shallow dish that has been filled with dishwashing liquid in warm water.

Wash the cabinet with the wet soft cloth.

Dry the cabinet with another soft cloth.

Wash the trim with the cloth that has been dipped in the soapy water. Dry the trim with the other cloth.

Polish the trim with brass polish.

Dry the trim using the chamois.

Repaint the indicator keys as needed. Put new springs into the indicators. Oil the indicators with the machine oil.

Remove the key arms. Sand the key arms and replate them using the brass plating kit.

Remove the counter from the casing. Sandpaper, then paint the counter.

Remove the printers from the casing. Clean the printers of ink with a soft rag and replace them into position.

Remove the case drawer and the wood base from the casing. Repaint the cash drawer. Repaint the wood base.

Reassemble and adjust the cash drawer back into its original position above the wood base in the cash register's casing.

Reassemble the cash register cabinet around the casing. Use new, polished screws to hold the cabinet together. Lacquer the cabinet and screws.


Cleaning the cash register will take many days of work. Make it an ongoing weekend project that you don't mind taking a month or two to complete.


Parts are not available for the majority of the mechanics of an old cash register. Any damage to a part will have to be repaired.

Things You'll Need

  • Lacquer
  • Two soft cloths
  • Shallow dish
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Chamois
  • Machine oil
  • Springs
  • Paint
  • Brush
  • Brass polish
  • Brass plating kit
  • Sandpaper
  • Soft rag
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About the Author

Marshal M. Rosenthal is a technology maven with more than 15 years of editorial experience. A graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography with a Bachelor of Arts in photographic arts, his editorial work has appeared both domestically as well as internationally in publications such as "Home Theater," "Electronic House," "eGear," "Computer and Video Games" and "Digitrends."