Caring For Vintage Tea Sets & China | Washing
You may be a collector of vintage tea sets and table wares or inherited family heirloom china and are wondering about the best way to look after it.
There is a lot of detailed information on the internet about this subject, however the first thing is you should use it! Bone china is actually strengthened by use and by washing.
The most important thing you can do is never put your precious vintage china or cutlery in a dishwasher or microwave. These beautiful pieces were made in a time before the advent of the modern dishwasher with ultra high temperatures and harsh chemical detergents. Bone china is actually very strong, however the delicate designs, transfers, paint finishes and gold trim are not. Vintage china will fade and turn very dull if repeatedly washed in a dishwasher.
If you have a plastic washing up bowl, great. If you don’t you can lay an old cloth or tea towel on the bottom of the sink to help cushion any falls. Fill with warm to hot water and a few squirts of your regular detergent. Avoid lemon detergents (too acidic) or anything containing bleach as this could damage the transfer and finish.
Swivel the tap (faucet) as far away from the sink as possible. Most breakages during washing are usually caused by accidentally knocking the piece against the tap when lifting it out of the water to dry.
Wash in the usual way with a soft cloth, but do avoid scourers or rubbing with a scourer as this will damage the finish. A note about vintage cutlery and flatware (which we will cover in a separate post). On no account use a scourer on vintage silver or gold cutlery as it will most definitely leave scratch marks and will ruin the high polish finish.
The tannin in tea can sometimes leave brown marks and be a little harder to remove from teacups, but a little pressure with the cloth will get it all off.
Stack carefully in a drying rack and dry with a linen tea towel. That’s it! If you don’t want to use your vintage china then you should wash it at least once a year. An immersion in water will help to keep it strong and if you live in a dry climate or use airconditioning, a small bowl of water should be kept somewhere unobtrusive in the china cabinet to keep the air humidified.
If you have large dinner sets to be stored, you should layer a piece of tissue or kitchen paper between each plate. This will help protect the finish and reduce the risk of scratching.