‘Tis the season for bike projects instead of cycling, and I scored a couple of sweet vintage white-vinyl accessories for Mary Poppins on eBay. (I know, eco-friends: no vinyl that’s final, right? I’m making an exception since this stuff is not newly manufactured.) Unfortunately, both items need a good clean – even the NOS one – because while in storage in their original locales they collected grime and some mildew grew on them.
That’s right, Albertans: mildew. That dark grey stuff that grew on the grout in the bathroom of your student apartment. In parts of the world that are wetter than here (ie, almost everywhere), it grows on almost anything that’s left lying around. Consider yourselves lucky.
Being me, I started by doing some research on how other people remove this stuff. Here are the best links I found for vinyl-cleaning methods:
– eHow: How To Clean A White Vinyl Bag
– car restoration site Classic Tiger: Vinyl Cleaning Tips
– eHow UK: How To Clean Mildew Stains From Vinyl
That sounds like a lot of work. Let’s see why it’s worthwhile:
First up: a white vinyl over-the-bumper skirtguard, NOS, marked Bluemels, at least 50 years old according to the seller, from the UK – shown here just before I cleaned it, with a ruler for scale. Yes, it doesn’t have a brake-hole – but it’s also fairly narrow. It also may have been intended only for use on coaster-brake bicycles like mine. I can see why there aren’t a lot of these still in use since the plastic is as thin (and has the same texture) as the standard el-cheapo vinyl shower curtains – in regular use they would have gotten brittle and torn fairly quickly.
Before I use it on a bike, I’ve used it to create a pattern for reproduction. I’m pretty sure, now that I’ve measured it, that it won’t fit my 28″ wheels – so I’ll need to make a second pattern that’s a little bigger. Here are the measurements for this one, which should be fine over the bumper of a modern standard 26″ wheel’s bumper:
Closeup showing logo and discolouration from storage. The tip of the triangle, if it was truly triangular, would make the sides 11.5 inches long; the elastic cord (you could use thin shock cord) makes a loop that adds about two inches to that before it’s stretched.
That angle is 65 degrees.
Inside out to show the heat-sealed hems and curved stitched seam, to give an idea of the seam allowances to build into a pattern.
Wouldn’t it be great to whip up some of these from thrifted plastic shower curtains or vintage oilcloth tablecloths in fun patterns? So easy, too – one curved seam, the hemmed edges, and reinforcing stitches where the elastic is sewn on.
Second: a sweet vintage white vinyl saddlebag.
…and that’s my 4-year-old assistant photographer in the background.
The pair of loops on the metal brace attach to the slots on the rear of the saddle, and the loop at the bottom goes around the seat post:
This is the bottom of the bag. The lighting isn’t ideal but you can see all the black scuffs and possible mildew spots on there.
Interior shot showing definite mildew spots. The sides are stiffened with exposed cardboard – not exactly luxuriously crafted, but authentic to the period of the bike.
Here’s how I cleaned them:
Step 1: I sprayed the surface liberally with a gentle oxygen-bleach based laundry stain remover (I used OxiClean Baby, since it was what I had on hand). This works for white vinyl, since you don’t need to worry about the colour changing with bleach exposure – I’d test in an inconspicuous spot first if the vinyl was any other colour. For the interior of the saddlebag, I carefully used a rag saturated with product instead of spraying, to keep the cardboard dry.
Maybe it’s the biochemist in me, but I love watching bubbles form as the nasty stuff gets oxidized.
Step 2: After letting it sit for a minute, I used an old soft-bristle toothbrush to gently scrub the surface wherever there were stains. I worked quickly.
Not a bad photographer for his age, is he?
Step 3: Next I wiped the surface dry with paper towel, and assessed if I needed to repeat steps 1 and 2. Then I rinsed the surface with water (or a damp rag, in the case of the saddlebag, since I didn’t want the exposed cardboard inside to get wet), to remove any residual oxygen bleach and detergent.
Step 4: Finally, I used an automotive vinyl cleaner-protectant spray according to the directions (i.e., spray on sparingly, then wipe down with paper towel to remove excess). I only did this step for the saddlebag, since the skirtguard plastic felt quite supple.
Here are the results:
Pretty impressive, yes?
Hopefully the weather will warm up enough to take some photos of these installed in the next week or two. (At time of writing, the outdoor temperature is holding steady around -30C… yuck.)
What bike projects are you working on?