Thread Number: 72919  /  Tag: Refrigerators
Thoughts on cleaning gunk off wood grain refrigerator handles
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Post# 963380   10/19/2017 at 14:34 (337 days old) by ken (Ulster Hgts, NY)        

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So Im finishing up getting the 72 Sears Coldspot back together after repaint. The handles have some spots of crusty dried on gunk. If they were solid chrome or plastic Id try soaking in soapy water. The handles are chromed pot metal with a wood grain insert in the face. The insert is metal but Im not sure if the wood grain is painted or a decal. If I had to guess Id say not a decal because there is no wear showing which I think a decal would show after 45 years. It looks as though the inserts snap into place as it's possible to push the edge away from the handle base. I got a small screwdriver under the edge of the insert and lightly pried thinking it might pop off but it didn't seem like it wanted to come off at the top or bottom which is where it seems to be the most secure. One of the handles has a spot of gunk directly on the wood grain. Soaking would probably work to loosen the dirt but I'm hesitant to take a chance on ruining the wood grain by doing that. Any thoughts?

Post# 963400 , Reply# 1   10/19/2017 at 16:51 (337 days old) by turquoisedude (Ogden & St-Liboire (where??), QC, Canada)        

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I'd try 'soaking' by applying a cloth dampened with plain water first to see if the gunk gets loose enough to be removed.   I'm stumped as to what the handle insert could be - so many refrigerators of this era had a woodgrain decal but a couple, like GE, used a woodgrain-tinted plastic insert.  I haven't seen a Coldspot of this era up close for a very long time, alas!  

Post# 963416 , Reply# 2   10/19/2017 at 18:32 (337 days old) by funktionalart (Phoenix, AZ)        

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A couple possibilities for cleaning....have a cup of HOT water and a soft tootbrush to spend several minutes just massaging the hot water onto the areas. Just keep at it awhile...eventually things free up to some degree. If it looks like no damage is going to happen, spray on some 409 cleaner OR use that toothbrush with some WD40 sprayed on the bristles and go to it again....time consuming, but should get you results

Post# 963421 , Reply# 3   10/19/2017 at 19:15 (337 days old) by parunner58 (Davenport, FL)        

This post has been removed by the member who posted it.

Post# 963509 , Reply# 4   10/20/2017 at 11:14 (337 days old) by ken (Ulster Hgts, NY)        

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Thanks for the advice guys. I'll give them a try. I guess the wood grain could be a decal. I had the thought that a decal couldn't be durable enough to stand up to 45 years of use without showing signs of wear. The wood grain insert in the handle is definitely metal as I tested it with a magnet.

Post# 964199 , Reply# 5   10/24/2017 at 22:16 (332 days old) by fisherpaykel (BC Canada)        
Woodgrain or Wood

Your posting got me thinking about the late 60's Canadian made by Hupp Corp. Gibson fridge my family had when I was a teen. It had a real wood insert-walnut I am quite certain,roughly 1/2 inch thick. It always seemed a little bit classy! Well, the handle at least! If your cleaning fails maybe a piece of thin real wood veneer could be applied and moulded to fit.

Post# 964204 , Reply# 6   10/24/2017 at 23:12 (332 days old) by rp2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        

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We had an '80s Whirlpool fridge with simulated wood inserts.  They were located above and below the pulls for each door, and pried off only from the end where they met the pulls.


I could only find a picture of the all-white version, but it gives you an idea.  The wider ends are where they could be fairly easily pried off. 


Whether a similar system was used on older models than this, I don't know, but it might be worth gentle investigation.


Otherwise, I swear by "Totally Awesome" spray cleaner from the 99c Only Store -- or likely the dollar store near you.  I've had experiences where the built up grease started running faster than I could get the cleaning rag on it.

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Post# 964208 , Reply# 7   10/25/2017 at 01:26 (332 days old) by sudsmaster (East of SF, West of Eden, California)        

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I don't know if this will be applicable, but my 70's era GE P*7 wall oven has a wood grain panel on the door, and a chromed cast metal handle with a wood grain insert.

I was able just now to remove the handle with two phillips screws. Holding the wood grain insert to the cast metal were two more, much smaller phillips screws. Upon removing the insert, I discovered it's a piece of stamped steel with some sliding metal pieces that are threaded. The insert itself is indeed a "decal" which is firmly glued to the stamped metal insert support.

The handle assembly itself it bolted on top of the woodgrain paned on top of the door. That panel is heavy brown plastic with a simple woodgrain insert, about 1/32" thick, which is stuck to the brown plastic frame with some sort of adhesive. The adhesive itself is showing its age and releasing a bit around the edges, but I didn't attempt to remove it and renew the adhesive, largely because when the handle it attached it will firmly fix the panel wood grain insert in place.

I cleaned the cast chrome metal handle with simple dish soap, warm water, some brushing and some non-scratch scotch brite (blue) sponge. Same for the handle insert on stamped steel. I dried everything thoroughly before re-assembling because the stamped steel doesn't look like it has a heavy plating and might rust if left wet too long.

So if I were you, I'd check to see if the door handles can be removed with some screws, and then if the wood grain insert itself can be removed with more screws. I would also hold off on flooding it with an aqueous cleaner to avoid the possibility of any stamped steel insert backing rusting later on.

Post# 964229 , Reply# 8   10/25/2017 at 07:09 (332 days old) by westingguelph ()        

I find Mr. Clean Magic Erasers to be particularly using on appliances. Especially if the surface has an embossed texture.

Post# 964232 , Reply# 9   10/25/2017 at 07:14 (332 days old) by joeekaitis (Rialto, California, USA)        
Cotton balls and 91% isopropyl rubbing alcohol

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Chews through even congealed grease and oil.  Leaves no residue.  Wear gloves if you have dry skin, otherwise don't fret about your fingers turning ashy for a while.

Post# 964233 , Reply# 10   10/25/2017 at 07:25 (332 days old) by joeekaitis (Rialto, California, USA)        
Oh, and . . .

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. . . if the alcohol appears to have dulled the finish, rub on some furniture polish.

Post# 964317 , Reply# 11   10/25/2017 at 21:19 (331 days old) by sudsmaster (East of SF, West of Eden, California)        

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Pledge makes for a good plastic polish. I used to use it on plastic parts on my motorcycles.

91% Isopropyl alcohol and cotton balls. Sounds good. Just don't use it on other balls. Don't ask me how I know!

Post# 964357 , Reply# 12   10/26/2017 at 08:27 (331 days old) by ken (Ulster Hgts, NY)        
Thanks for the suggestions

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I removed the handles from the crisper drawers last night and gave them and the drawers a good cleaning. Afterward I played with the handles again. The inserts come away from the handle base easily in the center but the closer you get to the ends they don't budge. Cant tell what keeps them in place. There are no visible screws or clips showing that hold them. Will just have to carefully clean them with the inserts in place.

This post was last edited 10/26/2017 at 09:11
Post# 964404 , Reply# 13   10/26/2017 at 13:26 (330 days old) by rp2813 (The Big Blue Bubble)        

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If there are end caps on the handle inserts like the ones in the picture further up,  pry them off and you might find a screw under there.  It's been a long time and I can't remember one way or the other.

Post# 964411 , Reply# 14   10/26/2017 at 16:23 (330 days old) by ken (Ulster Hgts, NY)        

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No end caps. That part of the handle at the top and bottom of the wood grain insert is just the solid casting of the handle base. When I was prying the insert away from the base last night I could just make out at the upper end of the insert what looked like a tab that was part of the insert bent at 90 degrees which went down into the solid casting of the base at that area. Gave me the thought that two tabs top and bottom pushed down into the handle base is what holds the insert. But as I said it did not want to come off the base at all.

Post# 964829 , Reply# 15   10/29/2017 at 15:01 (327 days old) by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

Maybe Goo Gone or Knight's Spray 9 which should be rinsed.

Post# 964832 , Reply# 16   10/29/2017 at 15:10 (327 days old) by thomasortega (Los Angeles - CA)        

Karcher comes to the rescue!

Try a steam cleaner. Maybe even one of those silly Mcullock canisters or that el cheapo Bissell handheld crap may help a lot in this case.

But if you want THE KING of the steam cleaners, that cleans even criminal records, then get a high pressure Karcher (nearly impossible to find in the USA) thank god I brought my Karcher professional unit with me when i moved here.

Post# 964845 , Reply# 17   10/29/2017 at 16:44 (327 days old) by ken (Ulster Hgts, NY)        
They are cleaned and shiny

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Cleaned them yesterday with Simple Green. It worked well. Description on bottle stated any water safe surface could be cleaned with Simple Green. There were some spots of grease that were thick. As per instructions I let it sit 1-2 minutes. I went over those spots a couple times. Used tooth picks to get into the crevices. I also bought a bottle of plastic cleaner/polish after reading info online concerning cleaning decals. But the Simple Green did the job so I didn't try the plastic cleaner. I put them back on the fridge today. Looks very good.

Post# 965403 , Reply# 18   11/1/2017 at 16:03 (324 days old) by ken (Ulster Hgts, NY)        
Some pics

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You'll have to forgive the quality. Taken with my "old-school" cell.

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