Thread Number: 11044
Polishing Kirby (and Royal upright) using the HANDI-BUTLER
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Post# 119284   12/26/2010 at 15:48 (3,214 days old) by uprightman ()        

This will probably be old news to some of you; and NON-news to most, but:

vac-o-matic posted a thread (#10928) - complete with photos - of his buffed-up and brilliant Kirby's. They are magnificent - check them out! Inspirational!

Anyway, I have polished my vacuums a time or two using AUTOSOL and FLITZ. Both of which do a fine job, but it's a chore since it has to be done by hand.

So, this morning, I thought about trying the Kirby Handi-Butler polishing wheel and the "stick" of polish (#1 for harder metals). (Naturally, tried it first in that ever-elusive "inconspicuous" spot first.) Friends, it did the trick.

All I did was spray a Microfiber cloth a couple of times with distilled water to "damp dust" them, hooked up the Flexi-Shaft, the polishing wheel, added the polish from the stick (sparingly) and went over the metal parts. Afterword, I went over it with a soft cotton cloth - and then for the finishing touch - used the lambswool polisher (again, from the Handi-Butler) for that added glow.

Was so happy with the results, that I grabbed my Royal 880, and did the same thing. It has a different type of "glow", but, I have to say, both of these treasures polished up a treat.

And, the best part? Well, just like it says on my Kirby Omega attachment box, "More leisure time for YOU"!

So, if you, like me, have been unsure of how well the polishing wheel and polish sticks work and hesitant to use them - I recommend them!

Post# 119420 , Reply# 1   12/27/2010 at 22:55 (3,213 days old) by djtaylor (Salt Lake City, Utah)        
How'd you do that???

djtaylor's profile picture
I don't suppose I could get you to tell us, step by step, how you got your kirby so pretty. I no longer have a shop to work in, so I would have to do it at home. My fleet does not have that mirror finish that some of the other members's do.
or email me at

Post# 119450 , Reply# 2   12/28/2010 at 04:18 (3,213 days old) by uprightman ()        
I'm gonna TRY!


One: I removed the handle. Then I took a MICROFIBRE cloth and sprayed distilled water on it. (Only used distilled because I had a spray bottle full of it that I use to wipe off vinyl records.) Damp dust the power plant unit - including rug nozzle. Give them a light buff with the dry part of the cloth.

This step is important because some of the discoloration was cured with this step alone - especially on the power plant part. Why polish what you don't have to?

Two: hook up your HANDI-BUTLER attachment connecting the FLEXI-SHAFT. Take the "heavier" of the two buffing wheels (mine has colored stitching on it; the "lighter" wheel does not).

Three: after turning the machine on, hold the polishing compound stick (#1 stick for heavier metals) up to the wheel and just count to three (at first) to "load" the wheel. (I say that because the polishing compound contains oil and an abrasive in it; didn't want the abrasive part to scratch the machine, or at least wanted to keep it to a minimum. Plus the wheel does the work; the compound just helps it along.)

Four: Go over the machine parts with long, light, even action (as possible). (Again, because ANY polishing compound has grit in it, if you "bear down" you might scratch the surface more than necessary.) Don't worry, you'll get a feel for it! But, "softly, softly" is the key - and, again, the wheel seems to do MOST of the work.

(If you have "stains" on the nozzle, go over them, again lightly, in shorter strokes - but, try not to bear down too heavily on the wheel.)

Wipe with a cotton cloth - or an old cotton T-shirt, or an old cotton sock frequently; would not recommend a synthetic (like rayon) cloth - that might smear instead of wiping off the compound. (You'll get a feel for dividing the parts into sections (i.e. the left side of the nozzle: polish, buff; then the right side, then the front.)

Five: When finished with the polishing wheel (and after wiping off the polish with a cotton cloth, attach the lambswool polishing pad to the FLEXI-SHAFT, and go over the entire area. I think that you'll be pleased.

Six: Didn't try this until AFTER I posted my original thread, BUT take the MICROFIBRE cloth sprayed with water - just like the first step, and go over it again. This TRULY made a difference!

Now here's what I THINK, I don't KNOW for a fact: There is bound to be some MINOR scratching of the surface (with silver, it's called PATINA - which is actually desireable - it gives a "warmer" glow); I have not noticed it on my Kirby (or Royal), but please just know that it is a possibility. That's why I let the wheel do the work, and did not go heavy with the polishing compound.

...And, again, let me tell you, I feel like I have NEW machines.

Best of luck - Steve.

P.S. As far as the handle itself, I only did the KIRBY-GRIP part - the bottom of the handle that has metal showing; the micro-fibre cloth sprayed with water removed fingerprints, etc. for the metal trim on the side of the handle.

P.P.S. I really hope that this works for you. If you have any questions, please let me know!

Post# 119451 , Reply# 3   12/28/2010 at 04:27 (3,213 days old) by uprightman ()        
...and a P.P.P.S.

I did have to load the wheel more than once! (Usually when you do your "sections") But, every time I did, I just gave it a count of ONE, TWO, THREE.

It will take some time to do the machine(s), yes; but, it has been worth the effort!

Post# 119453 , Reply# 4   12/28/2010 at 07:16 (3,213 days old) by eurekastar (Amarillo, Texas)        

eurekastar's profile picture
Thanks for those tips! I learned a few things too!

Post# 119469 , Reply# 5   12/28/2010 at 09:00 (3,213 days old) by twocvbloke ()        

I polished up my Heritage84 with my Handi-Butler (Heritage type, used on my Tradition), and the HB produces a better and longer lasting shine than hand-polishing with liquid compounds. I think it lasts longer because the polishing sticks basically wax the metal, so preventing the tarnishing and keeping the shine... :)

For a much easier shine though, it is better to get a proper polishing wheel set, with big, wide wheels, either fitted in a dedicated buffing machine or attached to an electric drill, the Kirby Handi Butler us great for quick jobs, but, it does take a long time to get a good polish... :)

Post# 120730 , Reply# 6   1/9/2011 at 14:13 (3,200 days old) by djtaylor (Salt Lake City, Utah)        
Handi-Butler or Dremel Tool

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Which would be better for polishing up my Kirbys, a Handi-Butler or something like the Dremel tool?

Post# 120776 , Reply# 7   1/9/2011 at 21:04 (3,200 days old) by jodan3399 (Brownsville, PA)        

I have a Heritage 84 that is my next vacuum project as soon as I get time. It has a loose power switch that is my first priority, but also some very deep scratches on the top cover (over the headlight).

Any tips are appreciated. I'm planning for this one to be my "new daily driver". Never had a Kirby, love the look and sound of them.

Post# 120799 , Reply# 8   1/10/2011 at 03:10 (3,200 days old) by twocvbloke ()        
Dremel or handi-butler...

Handi-Butler, hands down, the dremel will take forever being so small, even the HB takes a while compared to using something like a proper floor mounted polishing machine, so, Handi-Butler for sure... :)

Or, if you have the money to spare, a desktop polishing wheel, and some of this polishing compound that Kirby uses themselves:

CLICK HERE TO GO TO twocvbloke's LINK on eBay

Post# 120919 , Reply# 9   1/11/2011 at 02:48 (3,199 days old) by uprightman ()        
Between the two - I vote for the HANDI-BUTLER...

However, with that said, I would imagine that when Kirby's are sent in to the company to be refinished, chances are great that they use a set-up more like TWOCVBLOKE's.

IF you don't have a HANDI-BUTLER, and are thinking about doing them by hand, I thought that I'd pass this along:

I've called Kirby (1-800-437-7170), and asked what they use. (I had just gotten my OMEGA and CLASSIC III at garage sales, and they had gotten dull over the years). Kirby used to recommend AUTOSOL - which was really expensive, but could be used on any hard metal surface; NOW, they use something, or at least told me that they used this - FLITZ Paste Polish. Managed to find a receipt from this past July and for a 5.29 oz. tube it was $10.50; the polishing cloth (which measures 16"x16") was $7.80.

The polishing paste is EXCELLENT (and can be used a number of metals), and it does go a long way. The polishing cloth - well, it's pretty much like any Micro-fibre cloth that you can pick up at a dollar store - the large size is handy though.

Not a bad option at all if you are limited to hand polishing.

The results were Very Good; the only difference is, which TWOCVBLOKE pointed out, it seems as if the Kirby compound sticks "wax" the metal as well. Nice if you can get it, but not absolutely necessary.

(Couldn't really tell from TWOCVBLOKE's link, but those pads look as if they fit the Kirby Turbo tool attachment. While my G-4 has that attachment, my OMEGA and CLASSIC III don't. They just have the polishing wheels.)

Post# 120920 , Reply# 10   1/11/2011 at 03:00 (3,199 days old) by twocvbloke ()        
the link...

Those aren't pads, they're slices from larger sticks of polishing compound that you apply to the polishing wheel (like the sticks you get with the HB kit, but better), and according to Kent (the seller), they are what Kirby uses for machine polishing and are the best ones to use on a Kirby... :)

I don't have a proper polishing setup just yet, but I do want a desktop polishing machine, with wheels about 4 times thicker than the Handi-Butler set (great for small items, slow going for big items!!), bigger wheels means faster polishing... :)

Not to mention, the sharp metal cup thing on a HB cloth wheel is a bit lethal, I've not cut myself on it yet, but it has gouged out a few scratches on the Kirbys I have polished, which is quite annoying, though a solution for that is a couple of layers of masking tape over the edges of the metal cup things, just remember to replace it every time you use the thing otherwise it wears down and you're back to square one with scratching metalwork... :S

Post# 120921 , Reply# 11   1/11/2011 at 03:03 (3,199 days old) by twocvbloke ()        

Oh, by the way, the TurboSander/Polisher/Massager will fit any Kirby, just cos it's from a G-Series doesn't mean it won't work on an Omega or ClassicIII, I have one for a LegendII which works happily, albeit a bit slower, on my single-speed Tradition (a UK thing, didn't get two-speed Kirbys until the Heritage!!!)... :)

Post# 120922 , Reply# 12   1/11/2011 at 03:35 (3,199 days old) by uprightman ()        

TWOCVBLOKE: Hey, thanks for that information. Now, I'm going to have to dig deep in the storage closet for that G-4 Turbo Tool!

Plus, I did wonder what one would do once the sticks were worn down.

I mean this in the BEST way -- you're like Hyacinth Bucket (no, really it's BOUQUET). One of my favorite lines from that show is Hyacinth telling someone, "I don't think anyone is REALLY happy unless they have something to polish." (Second favorite: Onslowe stating, "Here I am, surrounded by NO beer.")

Also appreciate the caution about the metal cup on the polishing wheel - just took a look at it, and you're right. I hadn't noticed that before.

Post# 120954 , Reply# 13   1/11/2011 at 12:06 (3,199 days old) by twocvbloke ()        

Oh yes, always have to have something to polish, I think it's one of them British traits, we like shiny things... :P

I need to give my G3 a polish (even though I can't use it just yet), for some reason the G series is easier to polish, probably cos there's less exposed aluminium, and it's flat in most places too, makes it easier to polish I guess... :)

Post# 121015 , Reply# 14   1/12/2011 at 01:18 (3,198 days old) by bimmer740 (Long Island, New York)        

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I think I may have to pick up a Handi-Butler and some polishing rouge after reading this thread. I purchased an Ultimate-G at a garage sale over the summer and it really bothers me that it doesnt have the mirror like finish that my Diamond Edition does. I used Mothers Mag and Aluminum Polish on it after I bought it, and while it did make it look better, it still doesnt look as nice as I would like it too. I purchased my Diamond Edition new and after all these years, it still looks fabulous! I dont understand why the Ultimate G is so tarnished when it isnt that much older than my Diamond. Does anyone wax their machines with high quality automobile wax to maintain the shine? I know that some collectors wax their plastic machines after they have restored them and was wondering if the same can be done with metal machines. Also, what do you use to clean your metal machines with regularly? I use Windex occasionally or distilled white vinegar, both of which I know are not the best to use to keep the machine looking its best. I love so many different machines but, for me nothing looks better than a nice polished Kirby!! :)

Post# 121376 , Reply# 15   1/15/2011 at 02:16 (3,195 days old) by uprightman ()        
A caution about picking up a "Classic" HANDI-BUTLER


The "sets" between Kirby models CAN, if you are checking out eBay (or someplace similar) for them....

I have two of them...and they have different tools, although BOTH have the polishing wheels and rouge/compound. The set from the Kirby Classic Omega has a knife sharpening wheel (which I've never tried), and this crazy wire wheel (that you might use to "bristle" off paint or rust from metal or wood); the Classic III set has a jigsaw tool(!). Have to admit to using that when my nephew was making a bird feeder thing from balsa wood - worked quite nicely. Point being, it might be worthwhile to check with the seller to find out what tools come with it.

And, unfortunately, the Handi-Butler "nozzle" (and by extension the Flexi-Shaft) doesn't fit the Generation series - at least it wouldn't on my G-4. That series has the Kirby Turbo-Tool attachment instead. I wouldn't know how to begin to use the polish sticks with that. (You might have to use a paste of some kind and then buff it off with the Turbo-Tool by using flannel or something similar -- but that sounds kind of tricky.)

PLUS - I noticed on my G-4 that the nozzle had some type of protective coating on it to begin with - a thin layer of "some" kind of lacquer - have no idea what it is. So, that's where I might recommend the FLITZ paste polish that the Kirby parts/products staff recommended to me.

So, while I agree that it's good stuff, I wouldn't want you to waste your money on an attachment that you can't use. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable in this group can find a way make them work.

Post# 279646 , Reply# 16   5/7/2014 at 04:03 (1,987 days old) by Elektrolux ()        
Polishing my Kirbys with Handi-Butler

1st off, I agree as well on those newer wheel cups (retaining washers). I put a few scratches in my D50 EmpTor. It cleaned up but had to sand it out and start over. I do use my Kirby 518 with Handi-Butler Mark II as I like the set up of cable and the standard wheel mounts so I can use my new ones on a 1/2" shaft and the retaining washers are very flat and locking cap is smaller in diameter so is easier to keep clear of rubbing work area. If worried, you can wrap a few winds of soft felt or rubber tape. bike handlebar soft grip or electrical tape work.

Which brings me to my method of the mirror finish. steel wool in a lite oil, I use Liquid Wrench (it's actually a penetrating oil but does great on corrosion and stains. I'd remove as much grit as you can with a plain alcohol spray then depending on how dirty, use the oil and steel wool. When you get it more clean start with wet/dry sand paper in a mildly soapy water. I found the dish soap helps keep paper clean and from clogging so fast and its a good lubricant during sanding. Us e multiple grits if you need. But I generally use 2 or 3 to get it ready for machine polishing. This sanding is more necessary only when retorting a surface with lots of scratches or pits an dings. The 1st sanding it what makes or breaks the finish

Now we're ready for the machine polishing. I like to cut polish then buff smooth.
Start with a 180 to 280 for bad scratches, skip to 280/300 for medium scratches then move quickly to 4040/600 then 800/1000. You can go up to 1500/2000 if you are patient and want that glass smooth surface. so 3 grits hard curse like Kirby's red rouge, then green or blue and finally a bright smooth white for the finishing shine. This I feel brightens the silvery finish. If on my older models I use a yellow for that vintage patina look. Blue gives more of a chrome look but I Like white for the aluminium. I use a different wheel for each color and a hard cotton to medium cotton flannel then soft flannel. in 3 stages with the 3 choices of rouge.

At the very end, and I don't know if needed but I find a quick hand polishing with my Flitz gives a clean finish and I believe it has a wax in it to protect. This is what I use for periodic cleaning.

I'm currently looking into a metal sealant as used on auto mag wheels or sports car lower trim. This stuff holds up against finger prints as it was meant to protect against road grime. I'll update when I get around to doing the next project.
Happy polishing

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