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General (quick) cleaning

For a quick case clean, to just remove grime and handling marks, you could easily justify the expense in buying an Ultrasonic Cleaner. Mains powered units can be bought brand new off eBay for around 20 pounds (GBP), less if you are bidding rather than buying outright. There are many different types and styles, personally I went for one that was big enough to fit larger items in, a bit more versatility makes for more uses. Try to get one with an internal basket, makes things a little easier and saves you having to dip in to the liquid every time you do something. Most have a timer, once you have added the water and cleaning solution (available separately and in truth, not really needed when doing Zippos), pressing the start button begins a two minute cleaning cycle. You will be surprised how much crap comes off even a clean looking example.

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Although the cleaner removes a large amount of gritty and generally dirty deposits, it does not polish anything. That is to say, if you put a tarnished brass item in the cleaner, you will get a tarnished (albeit cleaner) item back out. Ultrasonic cleaners may clean up many things, but miracle polishing isn't in the list. 


Stubborn cleaning

For some time I have been using T-cut for cleaning small scratches and marks off lighters.

It is actually designed for car paintwork, and to that end is not an overly aggressive cleaner.

Of the many things I have tried over the years, T-cut has proved to be the most effective, especially when you consider how quickly it produces results.

I recently bought a Brass Zippo off eBay knowing it was looking decidedly grubby, but also aware that even if the lighter were kept in a drawer from new, it would tarnish over time.

When it arrived it showed a couple of advanced oxidisation marks, it looked like it had been stored in an old tool box with a couple of nails happily rusting against it. T-cut removed all but the most stubborn of marks in a couple of minutes, and ten minutes later had the lighter looking good again.

The first two pictures below show the before and after shots (though unfortunately, the picture of the lighter in grubby state was from the original eBay advertisement) with the third picture being the finished lighter stood in front of the T-Cut container. For those looking to use this stuff in a similar manner, be aware that as well as the general purpose cream coloured stuff that I use (sold in the red container shown), there are also different variants sold for use on various car colours. Black for black etc. Rather obviously, these colour matched T-Cuts are not cream coloured. The only one I have ever used is the cream colour. I have used it on numerous colours of car with no issues. Personally I think the whole excercise in colour matching liquid is negligible. The only reason I point this out is that I have no idea what residue would be left after using a coloured T-cut on a lighter. The cream stuff turns to dust if left on, and buffs off instantly.


After posting information on the Zippoclick forums about the merits of T-cut on brass Zippo's, I decided to try and find an equally grubby lighter to do a proper demonstration. As I was on the hunt for a couple of Marlboro promotional lighters, the situation presented itself quite early on. The following is the information you may need if you haven't used this stuff before, along with a couple of pictures related to the subject matter.

I would recommend the use of a pair of rubber gloves for the job as the smell is quite strong, and the method of attack leaves your hands open to smelling of it for a while afterwards.

You need a clean soft cloth for the job (retired T shirts are ideal), and I would also suggest that you use a relatively new T-cut container. Many years ago I was given a tin of T-cut by a neighbour who had seen me using some on the car. When I came to use it, the contents were not smooth like the stuff I am used to, It felt far more gritty than I expected. It was actually in a tin rather than a plastic bottle, so possibility the tin was breaking down inside, or maybe T-cut goes off over a long period of time. Either way, It didn't get used then, and I wouldn't use it on a Zippo now. Even new there is a faint roughness to the texture of the liquid when you start, but this isn't an issue in use.

Shake the T-cut container prior to use, then open it up, hold the cloth over the opening to create a seal and tip the container over and back to normal (you should only have to do this 3 or 4 times for the whole lighter).  You do not need a lot for the job in hand, I find that if you do use too much, it doesn't make the job any faster, if anything it takes considerably longer.

holding the lighter firmly in one hand, push your finger up against the clean side of the cloth and work the T-cut firmly onto the surface, the whole process will only take a few minutes. If you do find you need more, then use more. The surface of the lighter (and the stuff on the cloth) almost instantly goes black as the dirt and effects of time lift. Periodically Buff off the Lighters surface with a clean area of the cloth to check where you have missed. Repeat until you are happy with the results.

I taped off the lighter I used for this demonstration as it was the best way to ensure that I only cleaned only half of the surface, leaving a distinct line where the T-cut cleaning process ended.

This effect took less than 3 minutes to achieve.  Personally I think that is pretty good. I have used this stuff on enamels, watch faces and obviously car paintwork with no adverse effects. I would think carefully before using it on a Zippo with a painted surface though. It isn't to say I wouldn't use it if I felt it was needed, but I would have to think it through carefully beforehand. How hard you rub is directly related to what you are trying to achieve.

I once had a DVD movie returned to me in a badly scratched state, the friend who brought it back was most apologetic, especially when it wouldn't play in my player anymore. I used this stuff gently on the playing surface and managed to get it back to a playable state. I should say however, that he went home that day to try and save one of his scratched DVD's, only to call up the week later with the one he had done to see if I could help him with it as he had failed to achieve the same result. What he passed me was a DVD with the surface rubbed away so vigourously that you could almost see through the disc. There was nothing I could do there, but it did teach him to be more careful.

As said elsewhere, it is designed for paintwork, so using it on a metal surface like a zippo gives me no worries at all, using it on anything less substancial than a painted body panel (like a plastic DVD surface) obviously needs a lot less effort and a lot more thought.

One other thing this stuff has going for it, It removes all trace of orange labels in seconds. I should add before I forget, that another useful substance for label residue removal is WD40. Equally fast at the job in hand.


If you find yourself confronted with a badly rusting inner, consider taking the strain out of things and use a Dremel with a small brass wire brush fitment. Don't go silly with it, but gentle use of the brush will take off the surface rust without damaging the metal. I must stress though, that you only use a brass wire brush, A steel one will scratch and damage the surface.

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Another use for a dremel is it's ease of use for removing a stuck flint. Everybody has their own Ideas on which bit to use, and in the interests of avoiding blame for damage, I am not saying which bits I use for the job. There are many opinions on which is the best on the forums, I personally had already done a couple before I saw their recommendations, so on this subject I will leave you with the knowledge it can be done, but will also advise you to check things out in detail before doing the job yourself.


I recently made a USB dongle using a Zippo slim for the enclosure (pictured elsewhere on the site). I was surprised to see how easy the flint tube was to remove during the procedure. I say this as a warning. Be careful when drilling out the flint, too much lateral pressure could prove disastrous and dislodge the flint tube. Prior to making the USB dongle, I had removed flints by hand using an awl, occasionally being quite heavy handed. Nowadays I treat the tube with a lot more respect.