What is 'Kelite'? The Kelite Bldg. in Los Angeles
A discussion started in 2001 but continuing through 2018(2001)
Q. I just received a print from a customer in Europe that list a note asking for Kelite to be applied to a brass center conductor. I'm not familiar with the term Kelite. Is it a brand name for a European process or is it a generic process? What is its usage in an electrical environment?
Thank you for any assistance.Fred Counter
microwave development - Needham, Massachusetts
Q. While working in A Naval Shipyard in the late 70's we used a product called Kelite. It was in Powder form and was diluted with water. The mixture then was siphoned into a steam hose, and was used to clean Electrical and Electronic cabinets and parts. It had to be rinsed off after cleaning with cold water. The cabinets and parts cleaned were then baked in a oven at about 90 degrees for several hours to remove any remaining moisture.Clifford Jones
- Bremerton, Washington
aircraft supply - Valencia, California
A. Hi, Folks. I suspect, but don't know, that this is an alkaline cleaner. You could probably determine the pH. You might check for cyanide since cyanide was not uncommon in cleaning solutions years ago. And if there is no cyanide, titrate it to confirm the degree of alkalinity.
I also suspect that it was a product of Allied-Kelite, an old-line chemical supplier from Baltimore which eventually became part of Macdermid; they may be able to tell you if there is any info about Kelite No. 89. Good luck.
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey
July 3, 2013
A. The Kelite NO. 89 was a steam cleaning compound for Aluminum and painted surfaces. Phosphate based & buffered to 9.5-9.6 pH approved by Ford Motor Co. and Braniff international.Tony Cangelosi
- New Hudson, Michigan
A. My Grandfather, Louis Sorensen, founded Kelite Corporation in the 1930s. It was purchased by Richardson Chemical in the 1960's and Allied Chemical in the 1970's. It was based in Los Angeles, CA on Main Street. I can tell your more about the products if you are interested.Doug Sorensen
- Boulder, Colorado
February 17, 2010
Q. Hi Doug,
I was wondering what happened to the Kelite Steam Cleaners? Who sells the Kelite Cleaners now?
- Detroit, Michigan
October 11, 2011
Q. Mr. Sorenson, what do you know about the Kelite building itself, at 1301 N. Main St in Los Angeles? I rode by on a bike ride and find it quite enchanting, I'd like to live there someday.
It is in great disrepair but the current owners have kept their taxes current at least.
- Monrovia, California
Hello Judy B of Monrovia and Cathy S of Detroit
I had forgotten all about my post on this site. The building you have pictured on 1301 N. Main St in Los Angeles was the Corporate HQ. Regional distribution centers also existed in the Chicago area and in Berkley Heights, NJ. In the early 1960's Kelite was listed on the (former) American Stock Exchange and was purchased by Richardson Chemical. Richardson in turn was later purchased By Allied Chemical. My Grandfather, who founded the company in the early 1930's retired after the sale to Richardson. Kelite Corporate operations were absorbed into Richardson. Allied also acquired Witco and the Kelite and Witco operations were combined at the old Kelite location in LA. 1994, Witco-Allied-Kelite was acquired by MacDermid Corp. The building was vacated at that time and then abandoned. An environmental cleanup effort included the complete gutting of the structure. Only bearing walls and exterior wall remain. The building is currently owned by a neighboring commercial real estate investor. I had considered asking the current owner if he would allow me to retrieve the "Kelite" sign hanging above the corner window as a kind of family heirloom but it is probably too big and bulky to keep around the house!
There are additional plant and warehouse buildings to the rear of the building pictured on Main street. The property extends all the back to the boundary of the Santa Fe railroad right of way where rail spurs once terminated at the Kelite loading and unloading faculties.
Kelite's first products focused on industrial cleaning solvents, metal finishing, electrochemicals, and detergents. The company's products stayed generally focused in these areas although there was a brief foray into the consumer retail detergents markets such as laundry soaps and dishwashing powder in the 50's and 60's.
If you are in possession of old liquid or powdered chemicals in Kelite containers, I suggest that you dispose of them in the appropriate industrial chemical disposal method. Some of these chemicals decompose over time and most of these products are highly toxic and would be harmful to people and the environment. They could also damage or react with other material found in the factory or home.
The steam cleaning machines, some of which were configured on two or four wheeled trailers and could be towed behind a passenger car or light truck, were marketed and sold in the 1950's. I think they were discontinued after that. As a boy, I recall my father, who ran the Berkley Heights distribution center in the 1950's driving up with one in tow and backing it up in the family driveway. He used it to steam clean his car's engine. (It was intended for more challenging tasks such as cleaning the inside of rail tanker cars.)
I don't think that anyone would want to purchase the building and renovate it as a condo or other living quarters. This area of LA used to be a major commercial and manufacturing district, especially during the war years. Over the years, the city has purchased some of the real estate in the area and after cleanup built low rent housing projects. The surrounding area is generally run down.
If anyone visiting this web site has any sales or marketing collateral I appreciating receiving them for my family records.
Thanks Doug Sorensen
- Yorba Linda, California
A. Dear Mr. Sorensen,
My husband and I were going through picture, memorabilia, and found an advertisement for Kelite. My dad, Don Hunter, worked for Kelite during the 50's. Is your grandfather Ted Sorensen? I remember my dad talking about Ted, and I believe my mom and dad traveled with the Sorensens to Chicago on the train for a conference/sales meeting. My mom got a fur coat for the occasion, a big deal! I still have some Kelite bottles maybe some note pad paper, that my dad used. My dad was in sales for Kelite, I believe with the airlines.
I took a picture of the advertisement, if you are collecting memorabilia of that time I would be happy to send the original to you. I could send you a picture of the original if I have an email address, to have you decide if you would like it. I also have a Polaroid booklet with my dad at company hangers, probably Lockheed. They are steam cleaning(?) an airplane, and the large Kelite drums are in some of the pictures. There are pictures of the Kelite tank wash unit. The pictures are all dated in 1955.
Please let me know if you are interested in any of the objects I have, I think they would be a nice part of history, if you are interested.
- La Verne, California
To contact me about this material from Kelite, please reply to,
- Yorba Linda, Ca
November 16, 2012
Q. Hello Mr. Sorenson, my name is Laura Figueroa, a 40 year resident of the William Mead Housing Developments (The Projects) next door to the Kelite Building. So yes, my question is unrelated to everyone else.
I'm a Ghost Hunter Investigator and have been very curious about the building for many many years. I am very curious to know if there were any fatal accident during the years that the company was functioning. Many of residents as well as myself have heard and seen many unexplained things, some which can be the homeless who find shelter there and the feral cats in the surrounding areas too. I will be speaking to the current owners to see they would let myself and others enter the building to take a look.....
Thank you in advance for any information you can give me or are willing to give me....
- Los Angeles California
A. RE: Kelite. L.C. Sorensen was my father. Doug Sorensen is my nephew. The building in the picture is of the front of the building which was most often called Plant One. It contained corporate offices, R&D labs and manufactured some of the dry or powdered products. It was also the shipping and receiving rail and truck dock.
The building was bought by Kelite just prior to WWII but was not used by Kelite until the late 40's due to its serving as a Navy Brig during the war. My first job at Kelite was tearing out the chainlink cells on the 2nd and 3rd floors.
Kelite's name referenced "Your Key to cleaning through pH control"
- Seattle, Washington
March 23, 2013
Q. I found a empty Kelite Canister that has what looks to be a sprayer on the top? It's kinda cool looking. Is it safe to keep this canister? And if so would it be worth anything?April Swisher
- Lafayette, Indiana
A. Hi April. If it were labeled "GE" instead of "Kelite" it could be a toaster, an aircraft engine component, or a deadly radioactive isotope. Kelite's product range was narrower, but if you know only a brand name, it's still very hard to hazard a guess whether the item can be safely and easily cleaned; sorry. But you can list it on Ebay or Craigslist and see what happens. Good luck.
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey
August 15, 2013
A. For what it is worth, I own a Tektronix oscilloscope vintage 1975 and in the maintenance section under cleaning the electronics, the following statement appears:
Recommended cleaning agents are isopropyl alcohol or Kelite (1 Part Kelite to 20 parts water). I found this site when trying to find out what Kelite was and where to find it.
- Worthington, Massachusetts, USA
October 3, 2018
Q. I am a student in urban planning at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM). Does anyone have some old pictures of the Kelite Building located on 1301 N. Main St in Los Angeles. If so, could you send them to me ? My email address: email@example.com
I recently traveled to Los Angeles to prepare my final project to get my degree in urban planning. The site of my project is located on what used to be the manufacturing district surrounding the William Mead Homes.
Also, any additional information/pictures you could share with me would be much appreciated.
- Montreal, Canada
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