cleaning and polishing old formica

My 50-year-old formica countertop has a few unidentified stains on it, and there are areas that aren't shiny anymore. Can anyone recommend a way to remove the stains without dulling the surface, and/or a way to restore the gloss? The formica is mostly white, so the stains are easy to see. I've tried car wax (Rain Dance, I think) to improve the gloss, but it didn't do much good.
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Ray Heindl
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I've never had any luck with stains, but you should be able to improve the gloss with very fine polishing compound such as is used to rub out automotive finishes.
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That sounds like it's worth a try. And it would go so well with the car wax, too.
I've found that ordinary bleach does a good job of removing stains, but unfortunately it also removes the gloss. And once the gloss is gone, the surface seems to stain much easier.
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Soft Scrub with bleach works wonders if you pour it on the stain and leave it sit awhile. Minor scratches sometimes have a buildup of junk in them that makes them look dark, this lightens them up.
I have used that Gel Gloss product. It's all right, not great. http://www.gel-gloss.com/gglosshm.html But I think it's just car wax, right? So if you didn't like that, I wouldn't buy it.
-Oldylocks Who loves things to look new forever.
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"Oldylocks" <no> wrote:

Thanks, I'll give it a try. It probably can't hurt at this point.
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50-yr-old Formica? No *wonder* it bears some battle scars! Is this a kitchen countertop? With frequent soap, water, and cleaning solutions, waxes aren't going to hold up. It may be time for a new surface. Or just scrubbing/buffing and bleaching thoroughly, and living without gloss.
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Yes. I'm not 100% sure it's the original, which would be 50 years old, but I see no evidence the kitchen has ever been redone. It's actually in surprisingly good shape over all, except a few stains and glossless areas. There are a couple of small divots in it, but you have to look closely to see them.

You're assuming I wash it frequently :) When I tried the car wax it wasn't a question of holding up; it never got very shiny when I buffed it out. I was hoping there might be some magic formica polish out there, but apparently not.
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Well, a matte finish in many situations is quite fashionable. :-) I had quarry tile installed in my kitchen some years ago, and came home from the tile store with a flock of special cleaners, and coatings. After religiously applying, stripping, and re-applying for a couple of years, I said 'phooey', and left it alone. Surprisingly, this unglazed tile doesn't seem to stain, and aside from being non-glossy, is quite attractive and easy to clean. Something along the lemon/lemonade line. If you give up the gloss, you may be able to really bleach out the stains and achieve a low-maintenance middle ground. OTOH, it'd be worth giving the acrylic suggested by another poster a chance.
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I remove stains using baking soda as an abrasive, and I have recently started using ordinary acrylic floor wax on laminate counters. It gives them a shine, but more importantly, seems to prevent a lot of staining.
Regards, =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-==-=-=-Mike Lacy, Ft Collins CO 80523 Clean out the 'junk' to email me.
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snipped-for-privacy@colostate.edu wrote:

That sounds like an easy thing to try. What brand of floor wax do you use?
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snipped-for-privacy@colostate.edu wrote in

If you want fine abrasives, there are several things to try. Baking soda works well, as does Bon Ami cleanser; it has a soft mineral that breaks down easily without scratching the surface. Toothpaste, especially the cheaper brands, has diamanious earth (which I have long since given up even trying to spell correctly), which is the same stuff as in swimming pool filters--microscopic particles of silica. The filter stuff is milled to blunt the jagged edges; the diatomaceous earth used in insecticides keeps the sharp edges and would probably be a harsher abrasive. I know one guy who swears by cream of tartare mixed with lemon juce into a paste. There are very fine (like, one micron or better) very expensive diamond pastes available from chemical supply houses, though if you can afford to polish a counter with them, you can afford to redo the counter. And the house. If you use any of these, test on an out of the way spot at first. Once you abrade out the stain, you'll need to polish and seal, of course.
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"(none)" <(None)> wrote:

I've used Bon Ami, but it still removes the gloss. Baking soda sounds like a good idea; it works on my teeth when the dentist sandblasts them. But teeth are much harder than formica.

There's the rub, so to speak: what to use to polish and seal. If I weren't interested in keeping the gloss, bleach would do fine for the stains, but where the gloss is gone re-staining happens more easily.
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