One of the most rewarding parts of using old gear for me is the restoration process. I'm not a concours-collector-minded type, but a clean piece of old gear is a sight to behold. It's almost like stepping back in time to the day when the new owner put the piece of gear on the air for the first time.
Getting a dirty chassis clean can be a pretty big challenge. Over the years I've found some little tricks that work fairly well and might not seem all that obvious.
Before starting with any cleaning solutions, I usually try to blow off the chassis first with a compressor. This removes a lot of crap that would otherwise turn into mud as soon as you apply cleaner. If you have a large compressor, be careful as a strong blast of air can actually do damage. Even my small compressor is capable of this. To aid in the removal of loose dirt, try using a variety of soft paint brushes to loosen the dirt.
When it's time to move on to the cleaning fluid part (Windex, soap and water, whatever flicks yer switch), put away the paint brushes and try an old toothbrush. And for those really tough, deep areas between transformers, IF cans, or whatever else - those gray sponge disposable paint brushes work great. I use the small size for most applications. They are bevel-cut at the bottom and also have a stiff piece of plastic inside to lend shape and support. This is handy for getting into cracks and cervices, but be careful. As the sponge wears away, the plastic can become exposed and is capable of marring aluminum. Q-Tips work well for the areas you can easily reach, and most drug stores have the long, wooden swab version for deeper places.
I'm not a fan of the dishwasher or hose approach for anything but the most extreme cases where you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain. But I do try to rinse the areas cleaned before drying the chassis in the sun or with some source of heat. Be careful of getting liquids into transformers and coils, of course.
There are plenty of other tools for certain situations. #0000 steel wool is good for polishing away surface damage, but should be used with care or you can do more damage than good. Same thing applies to cleaners, of course. I reserve use of 409, Fantastick, or other heavy duty cleaners for extreme cases as they almost always remove the luster of paint, if not the paint itself.
I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but maybe someone will find a tip in there that will help out in a restoration. Even better, I hope to see more helpful comments that I can learn from as well.
~ Todd, KA1KAQ