Saarinen restoration; phase 1, Cleaning.

Our Saarinen table and chairs are in great shape, especially considering their age and use. However, chipped paint on the pedestals, a scratched tabletop and worn areas of the fiberglass chairs leave me planning to do some major restoration down the line. That'll come later, when we have the time and funds for a proper job. 

I broke up the restoration process into three phases. Baby steps, my friends. Baby steps.
1. complete cleaning.

2. new seat cushions.

3. fixing the chipped table top, refinishing the fiberglass chairs and pedestals.

Today, it's all about phase one, cleaning, which I completed in an afternoon over labor day weekend.
After bringing the set in and assembling them, it was time to start cleaning. They don't look too bad in the photos, but trust me--there was a layer of dust on everything and grime in spots from years of use. 

Cleaning a little grime doesn't bother me at all. I love knowing that I'm the second owner of a well-loved and often-used Saarinen tulip dining set. I imagine all the family meals, game nights, study sessions and conversations that have taken place around this very table. I'm excited to make similar memories around it in the years to come.

I did my research during the month we waited to pick up the set. I read about Retro Renovation Pam's own experience, as well as an older post on the same site about cleaning a Saarinen set. 

What I took away from my reading? Non-abrasive cleaners are recommended by the manufacturers. Toothpaste is a less abrasive method to remove stains than Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, which is another product that does a great job.
I assembled my fleet of arsenal; windex, oxy clean spray, and kitchen bleach spray. My favorite of the three was the bleach spray. It did a great job with less effort than the other two, even though I thought the oxy clean spray (which is generally used for pre-treating laundry stains) would work best.
I also grabbed the toothpaste from the medicine cabinet. Can you see a difference in the edge of the table? It's darker on the left side, and that's not because of shadows. I used toothpaste on the right. Not bad, but not perfect.
I also smeared toothpaste onto stained areas of a chair after they'd been cleaned with the spray. It lightened them some, but not completely. One chair with mediocre results was all I needed to break out the big guns, namely the slightly controversial (according to the comments on Pam's post) but truly amazing Magic Eraser.
And of course, it worked like a charm. 
Every stain, every chunk of grime, every dirty smudge vanished. 
FYI: The controversy over the product revolves around its abrasiveness. But, I figured that since one day I'll be following these instructions to refinish the chairs--instructions that include sanding the fiberglass surface--I could use the eraser. I plan to refinish sooner than later, so a little preliminary abrasion shouldn't hurt.
I also needed to remove the gross velcro left from the original blue cushions (which sadly were replaced by the previous owner with white ones.) The second set of cushions don't have velcro on the back. They also don't have a wood insert like Pam's. (I'm wondering if the first set would have?) 
The second set of cusions do have splits in the vinyl so I'll recover them before putting them back on. That'll be phase two.
And of course, my favorite solvent spray worked like a gem at removing the 40-year-old super glue.
Once the velcro was off, I was done. 
And my magic eraser was reduced to a shard.


  1. AAaaahhhh. I've always wanted this table. Lucky you. Great space - love your dining room.

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