Compact Mirrors & Powder Compacts

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

The Use, Care and Repair of Vintage Stratton Powder Compacts

Vintage 1950s Stratton powder compact

A classic late 1950s / early 1960s vintage Stratton powder compact (Vanroe Compacts)

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…

Vintage 1960s Stratton orchid powder compact

One of my favourite designs – Stratton’s 1960s orchid compact. I’ve found this design with black, cream and green backgrounds. All are gorgeous!

Help! How do I clean my Stratton?

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.

Simple scratch fixing

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 magnolias compact - Erika

Another classic – Stratton’s vintage magnolias design, signed by the artist “Erika” (Vanroe Compacts)

Help! My Stratton compact has a fogged or broken mirror…

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.

Vintage Queen convertible Stratton compact with replacement sifter

A restored vintage “queen” convertible Stratton compact – with new sifter and puff (Vanroe Compacts)

Where can I find replacement Stratton sifters?

shop for stratton powder siftersApologies 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!

I’ve also written about Making your own powder sifter and Refilling your vintage powder compact.

How do I keep my Stratton compact in healthy condition?

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.

red leather stratton compact case

Stratton’s Italian leather compact case. Mine lives in my handbag.

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.

1970s vintage stratton foster compact

A super cute 1970s compact signed by Stratton artist, “Foster”

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22 comments on “The Use, Care and Repair of Vintage Stratton Powder Compacts

  1. Pingback: Vintage Tips, Tutorials and Links Round-Up | Penny Dreadful Vintage

  2. anna santoro
    June 2, 2012

    ho un portacipria Stratton, regalatomi da mio marito nel 1966, sul coperchio ha una rosa di smalto di colore rosso su sfondo bianco,vorrei sapere qualcosa in più come ad esempio il valore
    . Grazie

  3. Rachel Carpenter
    September 21, 2012

    I’ve recently been given a stratton compact that belonged to my great-nan. It is in good condition apart from there are green patina marks on the top where the laquer is also peeling off. I have been told by the company that now own stratton that they cannot do anything about this…. but can you recommend anything to prevent it peeling off further and help me retain the beautiful pattern on it. Thanks.

  4. Rachel
    October 6, 2012

    When will you be stocking more sifters and puffs please?

    • Jane Johnston
      October 24, 2012

      I’m working to source these currently, and should have more stock in time for Christmas. I will let you know as soon as I have a date :)

      • Rachel
        October 28, 2012

        Thanks Jane :)

  5. Nat
    December 6, 2012

    Is it normal for loose powder compacts to spill loose powder? I was recently given a stratton loose powder compact which came with its original sifter. I cleaned it up and added my powder as well as bought a powder puff that didnt quite cover the entire sifter itself, but was really the only puff i could find at the time to use as a substitution. I carried my compact in my purse for about two weeks powder would leak out into my makeup bag and cover up the compacts mirror as well as collect around the rim of the compact once i’d open it. Is it normal for vintage compacts to leak outside of the compact as well as have the powder collect inside? I had even noticed the powder leaking when i’d gently tap the compact on my palm. The entire compact itself is very sturdy and closes properly, the hinges arent loose nor is the lock. I haven’t loaded my compact with a large amount of powder either. Its all just a messy process to use at the moment and have no idea if any of this is normal. I’ve read the sifter is supposed to keep the powder in place but it doesn’t seem to being so. I tried to find information on your website about this issue but couldn’t really find anything to solve my problem. If you have any tips or solutions would you please share? Im hoping its mainly a powder puff problem and have been looking into purchasing a mac powder puff seeing as they’re larger than whats available in drugstores.

    • Jane Johnston
      December 19, 2012

      Hi Nat,

      No, it’s not normal for your powder to spill like this. The powder lid should compress the powder beneath the sifter, so that everything stays safely in place.

      Do you think that the sifter is original to your compact? It might be that someone has replaced with a slightly smaller size than it was made to use. Is your sifter lid a solid lid or a ring?

      Looking forward to solving this mystery! x Jane

  6. Tilly
    December 16, 2012

    As always a fabulous collection – more vintage powder compacts can be seen at http://www.lavenderhillantiques.com – Best regards Tilly

  7. Alana
    January 20, 2013

    I recently purchased an unused 1950s-era goldtone Stratton compact. While I love the compact, the top was mored badly scuffed than the seller portrayed. I was wondering what products I could use to polish the scuffs, and reduce slight tarnishing. Thanks!

    • Hi Alana
      I find a product called sim chrome is effective on very stubborn tarnish. Olive oil is always my starting point though! Good luck Tilly

      • Jane Johnston
        January 21, 2013

        Thank you Tilly! Olive oil’s a fantastic tip!

        Alana, if the compact’s lacquered try car scratch fix very very gently on a concealed area. If any colour starts to lift of the metal stop straight away, as this will be removing protective layers. You might also like to get in tough with Geoff Craven as he’s re-surfaced some of my own collection beautifully.

  8. carmel
    April 17, 2013

    Hello, I have an old vintage stratton compact case? Do you have any idea how much it would be worth and where i could sell it? Its gold in colour with a butterfly in the centre of the case front. Thanks
    Carmel

    • Jane Johnston
      April 18, 2013

      For Strattons like yours, the best advice is to watch similar compacts on ebay – and see what they go for. It’s where most collectors buy more mass-market vintage compacts (Stratton was a prolific company!). Depending on condition and design, you’ll probably be looking at £12 – £40. If it’s a rarer butterfly with box, you may push over £40 but this is currently rare for a Stratton (unless it’s a ballerina design, where £60 is now not unusual).

      Remember to list your compact with “vintage Stratton butterfly compact” in the title, and “in box” if your have one.

      Hope this helps! Jane

  9. Sarah
    June 11, 2013

    Hello, I have a vintage Stratton compact which is designed for loose powder. I have recently purchased a sifter, puff and loose powder, however the powder spills out every time I use it (even though it seems to be the right size). My compact has no self-opening inner lid so I’m wondering if this is the issue? Do you know if it’s possible to buy a replacement lid? Thanks, Sarah

  10. Angie
    June 18, 2013

    I have just purchased a Stratton compact with the signature of Breeze on it can you give me advise as to where I can look this artist up
    I am new to collecting Stratton and this is my first signed compact
    Thank you
    Angie

  11. kylie purcell
    October 26, 2013

    Hi I have a Stratton powder case in box like new condition no marks still shining like brand new in velet sleeve in original box has on the box 5 354 216 mini conv 3471 can anyone tell me what price it may be worth I looked on ebay and they are all no where near the condition of this one it also has a gold leaf ingraving pattern on the top and is all gold

  12. lynne rauer
    October 7, 2014

    I have a silver compact with no name of manufactuer. On half is a mirror,the other bare. It is an irregular square, 67 x 70mm. Any ideas what to do for a compact refill?

  13. Jennifer
    December 8, 2014

    I recently was given a Stratton compact with a Wedgwood design and it’s dirty and scuffed, any suggestions??
    Thanks

  14. louise
    August 20, 2015

    Oooh, was clearing out my mother in law’s dressing table earlier this week; her daughters had piled up lots of compacts, ready for chucking, but they seemed too beautiful to throw away so I kept three. They are all Strattons!! Feel like I’ve just inherited an Aston Martin of the makeup world. Now to find some powder for them…

    • Jane Vanroe
      August 20, 2015

      What a lovely comment! I hope you enjoy your Strattons :) x

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About me

Jane Johnston Vanroe Powder Compact Mirrors

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