I am not a collector of Bakelite. I do enjoy looking at Bakelite jewelry, but don't own any myself. I generally don't have the kind of money required to purchase a Bakelite object. But, I do acquire Bakelite household products. Though I have not tested it, I assume that most of my older clocks, and my telephone are Bakelite. I decided that I should clean up some of my items, but didn't know the first thing about it. Generally, with other items, I find that glass cleaner works great. It takes off the dirt, and doesn't harm most products. I can generally get most items pretty clean with a little elbow grease. But, have left my plastic products alone.
After deciding this is something I should know, I did a little research and found that original Bakelite was generally used for household products and electronics for its heat resistant qualities. It was also typically made into black or brown objects. Bakelite is made from phenol and formaldehyde, the latter being one of the smells a product emits when subject to warm temperatures. The Bakelite resin is filled with materials such as sawdust or asbestos and fired and a high heat. The final product is a thin finish with a high gloss.
Catalin is a form of Bakelite resin. Catalin is usually made into jewelry. It is a created using a similar process, except it does not have the fillers and is baked at lower temperatures. It is a transparent material that can be dyed or marbled. It can be filed and polished, which Bakelite is to fragile to do. This type of product can be cleaned with any household cleaner, and will not ruin the object. But, Bakelite needs a special touch.
1. The first step to cleaning Bakelite is to wiped it down with a damp cloth or toothbrush to loosen any dirt collected on the case. Bakelite cannot be cleaned with anything alkali or ammonia cleansers. Nor should alcohol be used. A dish liquid that does not have ammonia in it can be used to remove dirt. There are specialty cleansers out there, but a liquid metal polish will work.
2. After wiping the item down, apply a small amount of the metal cleaner to a clean cloth. Using a firm circular scrubbing motion, wipe the entire object.
3. Allow the polish to sit until it is dull and cloudy.
4. Buff with a clean cloth to remove the residue of the cleaner. These steps can be repeated until the object is clean.
Now, I'm off to the store to buy some cleanser!
Image from Tube Radioland
Image from Due Time
Information taken from Rediola Guy and Wikipedia.