History of Melmac Dinnerware
Plastic dinnerware was found in many homes in the 1940's through the 1970's and is highly collectible now. During the 1930's the raw material "melamine" hit an all time low price. With heightening wartime threats and soon to be monetary constraints, American industrialists jumped on the bandwagon to make melamine into functional products for both commercial and households.
Melamine, a thermoset plastic material was used in many factories and in much dinnerware production by the late 1940's. American Cyanamid was one of the leading manufacturers and distributors of melamine powder to plastics molders. They name-branded their version "Melmac".
One of the benefits of molders purchasing from American Cyanamid, was the advertising campaign for Melmac. Just look in any old Life magazines from the early 1950's and you will see how heavily Melmac the wonder plastic was marketed by American Cyanamid There were other manufacturers whom would offer melamine powders for molding (Allied Chemical and PMC Manufacturing to name a few), if a molder were to purchase from a non-Cyanamid distributor they could not refer to their melamine dishes "melmac". This may be why some old ads for plastic dinnerware specifically say "Made of Melmac" and others may say Plaskon, or perhaps just melamine.
American Cyanamid constantly improved their formulas, and did extensive consumer product testing and research (even hiring Russel Wright) (famous designer of furniture, dinnerware, etc), to do a long survey and compile reports in the mid 1940's. Additionally, American Cyanamid (pre 1960) would send inspectors to certain factories to make sure that melmac dishes were meeting certain specifications and highest quality standards.
Why Melamine? Early Plastics Dinnerware Manufacturing
The actual material "melamine" was dirt cheap in the mid to late 1930's and there was a push to use this new material for all kinds of things. Entering wartime constraints, plastic was soon to be the wave of the future. Housewares made of early plastics, resins and Bakelite did not hold up well or withstand regular washings or heat, but when melamine began in dinnerware production for the military, it proved that this new "improved plastic" could indeed hold up well.
Early melamine manufacturers experimenting with melamine operated 24/7 just to keep up with plastics demands.
Caring for your plastic vintage ware.
Melmac is a hard plastic dinnerware made with melamine and formaldehyde. It created quite a hit in an era that only had glass dinnerware. Made in soft pastels and the harvest colors of green, orange and yellow, the almost unbreakable dinnerware became most popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Manufacturers produced both household and restaurant Melmac dinnerware, but with the popularity of dishwashers and microwaves in homes, Melmac popularity started a decline. Now it has become very collectible and desired once again.
1. Wash with hot, soapy water. Use a toothbrush or soft brush to get into all the crevices and remove the dirt, grime and grease that may have accumulated on the vintage Melmac. Keep Melmac out of the dishwasher. The dishwashing detergent and high heat of the dishwasher will fade the dinnerware.
2. Eliminate stains by soaking three minutes in a bleach solution of one-half chlorine bleach and one-half water. Repeat for stubborn stains. Always dilute beach, because straight bleach can fade the color of the Melmac. Apply rust remover with a cloth to remove rust, but do not let plasticware soak in the solution.
3. Remove price tag glue by soaking Melmac in hot, soapy water. If the hot water does not work, try vegetable oil, or use a dab of glue solvent.
4. Keep pieces away from heat. Do not set pieces near the stove or put them in the microwave. Melmac burns, scorches, cracks and bubbles when exposed to heat.
5. Restore the shine by applying plastic polish to the Melmac. Purchase polish at a supermarket or discount store. It takes about 20 minutes of rubbing and polishing to restore each piece. Any remaining scratches will be less visible.
Tips & Warnings
· If abused or dropped on a cement floor, Melmac will break.