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How to remove paint from old bakelite knobs

Updated February 21, 2017

Also known as Bakelite, polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride is a type of synthetically engineered plastic first made in the early 1900s. If you try to aggressively remove paint from an old Bakelite knob using only friction-based abrasion, you'll likely scar the Bakelite. To effectively eliminate the paint without damaging the underlying plastic, utilise a relatively mild solvent that will soften the paint without damaging the knob.

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  1. Prevent a potential rash by wearing rubber gloves.

  2. Dampen a rag with white spirit solvent. Wipe down the painted Bakelite knob with the rag.

  3. Quickly cover the knob, using plastic masking sheeting. Tape all four edges of the sheeting down to prevent air flow from drying the solvent.

  4. Wait five to 10 minutes; remove the sheeting.

  5. Scrape the loose paint from the Bakelite knob using a 2.5 cm (1-inch) wide plastic putty knife and sandpaper.

  6. Scrape paint from detailed inundations, using a dental hook.

  7. Clean the Bakelite knob using steel wool dampened with solvent. Dry the knob with a fresh rag.

  8. Warning

    If your Bakelite knob is affixed to an item that runs on electricity, unplug the item before beginning work; white spirit is highly flammable.

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Things You'll Need

  • Rubber gloves
  • White spirit solvent
  • Rags
  • Plastic masking sheeting
  • Professional painter's tape
  • 2.5 cm (1-inch) wide plastic putty knife
  • 80-grit sandpaper
  • Dental hook
  • Steel wool

About the Author

Ryan Lawrence is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. He has been writing professionally since 1999. He has 10 years of experience as a professional painting contractor. Lawrence writes for High Class Blogs and Yodle. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and public relations with a minor in history from the University of Oklahoma.

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