Cleaning old type cabinets

I’ve been looking through the letpress archives to get specific information about cleaning. Not much there about type cabinets.
I have an old type cabinet that has been sitting in a garage in a cold moist climate providing safety and security for mice. The type has oxidized and the wood separators in the drawers have been chewed by mice, and some of the type too. The drawers had lots of lead bits and lead dust along with mouse p**p.
I need to clean the drawers, cabinets, and some of the still-good type. Thank you for any thoughts. Liz

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I have been collecting type for over 30 years, so I do have a little experience at this.

There are devices known as transfer cases that can be used for emptying one case directly into another, but from the sounds of it you would be better off to slowly empty each case and clean and save whatever can be salvaged.

Once the cases are empty, the job becomes to clean the grim and crap out of them. I have always saved this task for a very warm and sunny day. You can either use a special high-pressure nozzel for a water hose or simply try to get as much pressure as you can out of a standard hose-nozzel. and proceed one case at a time. I also like to have a bucket with warm soapy water and a good scrub brush standing by.

I lean the typecase against a tree of something and quickly “blast” it with the hose, trying to get into each compartment as much as needed. A quick hit with a soapy scrub brush also helps. The “trick” is to work every quickly so that the case doesn’t stay soaked but for a VERY brief period of time. You will want to shake it and get as much water out of it as quickly as possible and then lean it against something else, facing the warm sun, so that the sun can get into all the comparetments to dry it out as quickly as possible. The wood bottoms will tend to delaminate if left wet for too long. I suppose a hair-dryer could be used, but I simply depend on the warm Iowa sun during the summer out here on the farm.

Depending on your cases, some of the older ones will have a paper lining on the bottom of the compartments. This should quickly dissolve and come apart and get “blown out’ by the high-pressure water blast.

That’s the basics of how I do it. I have well over 30 full cabinets in my shop so I have done this a few times over the years!

Good luck.

Updated. I agree with everything in the previous post. The other things I do is to try to vacuum out as much as possible to keep the lead bits and other nasty stuff out of my yard.

On really dirty cases, or other wood items, I spray on some deck cleaner. It has some bleach in it and cleans things up fairly quickly. I, too, try to clean them as quickly as possible and use an air hose to blow off the excess water.

Thank you both for the advice. I am hoping to figure out how to do some of this cleaning indoors. The drawers were all vaccuumed out outside this summer, though not cleaned. Perhaps damp wiping with that deck cleaner and then water. (?)

As far as salvaging the type, I’ve heard vinegar, simple green… some of it has some oxidation some not.