Jane Vanroe on collecting vintage powder compacts and compact mirrors. You can find Jane's designs at www.vanroe.com and on Amazon in the EU & USA
If you’ve read just one or two of my posts, you’ll realise I’ve a big thing for Stratton powder compacts. The vintage compact I first fell for was a Stratton, and it’s by far the company I have the most conversations about at vintage fairs. I stock new Stratton powder compacts, as well as replacement Stratton powder sifters and puffs at my shop, Vanroe Compacts.
However, vintage Stratton powder compacts can be temperamental old souls. So, here’s a quick trouble-shooter for their loving owners…
Right-o. Firstly, never, ever, submerge your compact in water. This will seep under the mirror and cause it to fog.
You can clean the powder well with water, but keep well clear of that mirror. Brush out all powder with a stiff paintbrush or toothbrush, then use luke warm water with washing up liquid to attack any remaining clog. A tiny spritz of glass cleaner on a cloth (not onto the mirror) will help you polish the mirror / remove any persistant makeup.
Really hardcore powder compact collectors won’t touch their compacts with anything other than methylated spirits. However, I don’t like using meths in my house, particularly with two small boys. I’ve cleaned well over two hundred compacts with water with no problems – as long as that water goes nowhere near the mirror! Remember to dry your compact naturally, away from any sources of heat, and fully open. You don’t want any water vapour attacking the mirror silvering.
Removing patina / scratch-fixing is better left to a specialist. But if your compact’s protective lacquer is still intact, you can polish up nicely with a car scratch-remover and finishing wax. Don’t attempt this if there is any sign that the lacquer is peeling, and always test on a small, concealed area.
Vintage Stratton mirrors are frustration itself. Many have a circular area of fog or speckling, which thanks to Geoff Craven, I now know to be caused by the disc of foam once used to mount the mirror in place. Over time, the foam can attack the mirror silvering. This is impossible to reverse, so I’m afraid the only option is a replacement mirror.
Replacing Stratton mirrors is a specialist job (unlike KIGUs which can usually be pushed out with a bit of welly). See my post on Can you repair my vintage compact? A quick, inelegant fix is to remove any remaining glass shards, then mount a slightly smaller mirror within the immovable frame. The glue to use, I’ve found, is Araldite Rapid Ceramic and Glass. This is not a fix for precious compacts as it is irreversible.
Apologies for a blatant plug here – I sell replacement Stratton powder sifters over at my shop, Vanroe Compacts. I had to request these specifically from Stratton, so if you have any questions about choosing a sifter for your compact please do get in touch!
Always carry your Stratton in a protective pouch. A little velvet pocket is fine, but I carry mine in my gorgeous red leather compact case by Stratton.
Always store your compact without powder. If left with powder for any long period of time, vintage compacts may start to develop a green patina. Rather unsightly and a pain to remove!
Keep hairspray and nail varnishes away from your compact as these may corrode the lacquer.
Finally, show off your gorgeous Stratton at any and all opportunity! :)
You might also like my post on The History of Stratton Powder Compacts.