If you love all things vintage, chances are high you’ve dreamed of restoring the old appliances you’ve spotted at yard sales and antique stores before. But if you aren’t particularly handy, getting (and keeping) these items in working condition might seem beyond your skillset. The good news is that the older an appliance is, the easier it probably is to repair. On top of that, many of them might already be ready to plug in and use, even if you do need to give them a good cleaning first.
Without further ado, here are some tips for buying, repairing, and maintaining vintage kitchen items and appliances.
Shopping for Vintage Items
On the r/BuyItForLife subReddit, users post examples of durable, quality products that are made to last, including a whole lot of kitchen appliances. Browse the many threads posted by the subReddit’s 822,000 members, and you’ll find great recommendations for specific products and brands that are still going strong after 30, 50, 70, or even 100 years. This is a great starting point for shopping, whether you’re going for an antique farmhouse vibe or splashy “atomic” midcentury style.
With some patience and determination, you can probably find great vintage and antique kitchen items at thrift stores, flea markets, vintage malls, and online on sites like Etsy, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay. If you can’t find a brand name but like the look of a find, look at the details to make sure it’s an original rather than a knock-off. Things like real wood, dovetail joints, and obvious patina let you know it’s probably true vintage, and you should probably pass on anything that looks shoddy or feels cheap in your hands.
Here are some of Buy it for Life’s top recommendations:
You can still find these classic 50 to 100-year-old stoves all over the United States. Some are gas powered, while others are wood-burning. Other recommended brands include Garland, Hot Point, and Gaffers & Sattler. Best of all, models made in the 1970s or earlier are likely to have simple replaceable or repairable components.
KitchenAid Stand Mixer
Still considered a necessity for any wedding registry all these years later, the classic KitchenAid stand mixer is a workhorse built tough enough to withstand daily use for decades on end. If you want, you can follow u/will3675’s lead and give yours an update with some fresh grease and a new coat of paint.
Pyrex Percolator Coffee Makers
Stovetop percolators like this stunning 1960s David Douglas model will never let you down. In fact, true vintage Pyrex of any sort, including dishes, are virtually indestructible and still widely available secondhand. If you prefer something a little more contemporary, Bunn plug-in drip coffee machines from the 70s and 80s get good marks, too.
These old Sunbeam toasters are cute, easy to find, and extremely reliable. They lower your bread slices automatically after you drop them in and still offer a dial to fine-tune your preferred level of toasting.
One thing you might want to avoid buying vintage is your refrigerator. Not only are older models inefficient, but their door latches are also generally considered unsafe due to the risk of kids trapping themselves inside. If you really want a vintage-style fridge, there are lots of new models available in cute era-appropriate colors, including the Chambers Fun Fridge at Lowe’s, the Classic Retro 22” Energy Star Refrigerator at Wayfair, and virtually anything made by Smeg.
Repairing and Maintaining Vintage Appliances
When you can, ask the shop to plug in the item in question to see if it works. If it doesn’t, inspect it for obvious problems like signs of electrical meltdowns and excessive rust (in which case you should always pass). Electrical cords and heating elements, however, can often be replaced easily as a DIY project.
Many items have been sitting in storage for years and will need to be deep-cleaned and/or degreased. If the prospect of disassembling an item like an old stove is beyond what you’re willing to do yourself, see if an appliance repair shop near you has experience with vintage and antique items. With gas appliances, it’s also essential to have them tested for safety before installation. And when it comes to anything you’ll be eating or drinking out of, make sure to do your research before use. Some older items like teapots can contain hazardous substances, including heavy metals that can leach into your food and make you sick.