Cleaning a typecase / cabinet

I was so fortunate to finally get a type cabinet at the Platen Press Museum in Zion, IL, can’t wait to start using it, but here’s the dilemma I have no idea how to clean it, I’ve started vacuuming out each of the compartments of a drawer, got most done but the hose/brush doesn’t fit in the smaller compartments. It was suggested I hose it down in the yard with a high pressure hose, and let it dry in the sun, but being a city apartment dweller I don’t have access to a yard or a hose lol. (My shower doesn’t even have good water pressure, ugh) What would be the best way to clean this at home, indoors? The drawers have the oil paper linings and type dust, and some weird white dust that I was told wasn’t mold, and some mouse droppings ew lol. Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance!

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Provided you have good ventillation and a mask try the ‘blow’ function on your vacuum cleaner instead of the suck - and a paint brush to loosen the mouse droppings etc. But take care - the white dust could contain lead residue - so you won’t want it around too much. And in an apartment you’ll get mouse droppings everywhere!

If you can take the cases to a auto shop have them use high pressure air to blow out the trash.

Mouse droppings, i thought that stuff was type lice droppings. Never use water on the type cases, listen to Aaron, you will ruin the cases with water. That white stuff is not good to handle, wash your hands and don’t lick your fingers and you should be fine. Dick G.

I’d use a shop vac and a stiff paint or duster brush. Put a good filter in the shop vac and hold the hose end close to the boxes while you brush around and loosen the junk. The shop vac will pick it and the resultant dust up and a good filter in the shop vac should control it. You do want a strong suction to be sure everything loose goes into the shop vac. It’s slow work but you should be able to get it clean. I would NOT blow the stuff out — it will go everywhere.


I was at the Platen Press Museum type sale on Saturday and it was I that offered the advice on cleaning out the cabinet.

The cases all have the original oiled-paper liner on the bottem under the compartment dividers. A lot of the bottoms had torn/damaged/stained liner paper in them.

I have over 35 years of experience cleaning out cases for my own shop I have found the following to be the fastest and easiest way to remove the paper and leave a beautiful bottom in each compartment.

My requirements are a hot sunny day and a garden hose with a high-pressure nozzle on the end. I deal with each case, one at a time. I usually prop the case against something at a 45-degree angle and turn the hose on and blast each compartment. Some of the paper will come out immediately but there can also be sections that are more stubborn and may require a minute or two for the water to soften and release the paper. Once the paper has been blasted-out for the most part, the most important thing is to immediately dump all the water out, shake the case a bit to try to get as much water as possible out and THEN immediately prop-up the case so that it directly faces the hot sun to get it to dry as quickly as possible. The water should not harm the case at all AS LONG as it is not allowed to stay wet long enough to cause any saturation and warping on the wood (the bottom specifically).

When dry, you can easily go back in with a pair of tweezers or other tools and clean out whatever little bits might be left.

This particular cabinet was very old and the cases had solid (not laminated) bottoms. It had the paneling on the sides as well as the back and will be a spectacular object once it gets cleaned and refinished.


Thanks for the suggestions, lol I’ll make sure not to lick my fingers. Unfortunately no blow option on my vacuum, but I did take an exacto knife to the paper linings that seems to be coming out pretty easily. Ok went to home depot, they suggested after vacuuming the gunk out, scrubbing it with 2 parts paint thinner and one part linseed oil w/steel wool? How’s that sound? I think I’m going to remove all the paper first and then start that part.

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Hey Rick! I was searching around on the site and saw this advice in someone else’s post and was wondering if it was you since it sounded so similar. Unfortunately I don’t have a yard/hose since I’m a city dweller in an apartment. So I’ve been going through each drawer with an exacto knife and cutting the paper out I finished one drawer, I’ll attach a pic of what it looks like so far, the bottoms look great, I can’t wait til I’m all done.

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Wow! The Exacto Knife method certainly produces the effect you are looking for. The case looks great! One down and 19 to go. I’m sure you’ll end up with a cabinet that you will be very happy with.


:). Finished a second one last night, some are stubborn, but they’re coming out. So after I get it all cut out should I go over everything with the 2 parts paint thinner 1 part linseed oil? The guy told me to practice on the back of the cabinet first. Is this oak btw, and is the wood that lines the cases unfinished? I was going to get some Murphy’s Oil soap but it says don’t use it on unfinished wood.

The paint thinner/linseed oil thing is something I have NEVER heard of. In fact, I have never heard of anyone ever trying to ‘refinish’ the interior of a case. There are many that have been painted in flat colors, but I don’t ever recall anyome laquering them.

I don’t know what that would add to anything. Your interiors look beautiful as they are once you have removed the paper, and are perfectly suited for the end purpose that you intend for your cabinet.

Glad you got it all home OK. That was quite the challenge to get everything into your van at Paul’s sale. This should be something you’ll end up treasuring for the rest of your life once you get done with it.


Wasn’t trying to really refinish, but just to clean it out once the paper’s out, there’s still little bits of grime and I didn’t know how to “wash” it out after the paper’s gone. In that case I may just leave it. There’s still bits of paper I have to pick out from under the dividers. A friend asked me what I’m going to do with it if I stop making jewelry, I’m like it’s a great piece of furniture, I’d definitely keep it, may not have anything in it then, but makes a great piece for a room.

Oh yeah and thanks for helping me with the real life Tetris problem of getting it in the van…we had a fun ride back to the city trying not to slam too hard on the breaks and get hit in the head with cases.