How to Restore Antique Steel Boxes

Written by linda stamberger
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How to Restore Antique Steel Boxes
Antique steel jewellery boxes can be restored. (antique, open ring box clipping path image by Scott Williams from

Antique steel boxes, which come in all shapes and sizes, are used for holding a variety of documents and objects. People like putting paper goods, such as important documents, in large steel boxes. They can sometimes be fireproof and don't splinter like antique wooden storage boxes. Antique steel boxes, however, may become dented or have scratches in the surface. With a few simple fixes, though, antique steel boxes can look like new.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Washcloths
  • Soft towels
  • Gentle dishwashing detergent
  • Bucket
  • Mixing stick
  • Clean cloths
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Baking soda
  • Hammer
  • Plastic gloves
  • 0000 grade steel wool pad
  • Steel metal cleaner
  • Metal polish
  • Lambs wool mitt

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  1. 1

    Clean very old or valuable antique steel boxes with gentle household items that won't scratch the surface. Sometimes the old patina, no matter how scratched or dirty, is what adds value. Gently rub at the surface of old steel with a wet washcloth and warm water. Wipe the dampened washcloth over the steel. Dry with a soft towel.

  2. 2

    Mix a few squirts of gentle dishwashing detergent into a half bucket of warm water. Take a mixing stick and mix together until suds form. Wet the washcloth with the sudsy mixture and wipe it over the stainless steel. Take a clean cloth, dampen it under running water, and wipe the soapy residue away. Dry with a soft towel.

  3. 3

    Wet a small cloth with rubbing alcohol and rub over any stubborn dirt spots thoroughly. Take a clean damp cloth and rub the alcohol and dirt away. Dry with a soft towel. If the alcohol doesn't work or the box is too delicate, try using a mixture of baking soda and water the consistency of tooth paste. Leave on box stains for 15 to 20 minutes and then scrub away with a soft, wet washcloth. Dry with a towel.

  4. 4

    Take a hammer and bang out any obvious dents from the inside of large stainless steel storage boxes. Tap gently at first to see if the dent pops out, then use more force on stubborn dents. Put on plastic gloves and take fine 0000 grade steel wool pad and use in conjunction with steel metal cleaner. Add a generous amount of metal cleaner to the steel wool. Rub over the entire surface and interior of an antique steel box to remove dirt or rust in sections. Don't scratch the surface of the box or remove the antique patina.

  5. 5

    Use metal polish to polish the box after cleaning. Place a generous amount on a clean rag. Rub thoroughly over the entire surface of the box. Let the polish set for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove with a second clean rag.

  6. 6

    Buff old antique steel boxes in good condition. Use a lambs wool mitt--the kind used for waxing cars. Use a dab of steel polish in the centre of the glove. Buff it onto the steel box gently. Take a soft cotton cloth and wipe away the polish. The small amount of polish buffed on will remove surface dirt, not the patina.

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