Step by Step Guide to the Restorative Cleaning of Vintage & Antique Porcelain


Periodically cleaning your pieces of porcelain is important. With careful restorative cleaning & handling, your vintage glass and antique porcelain items will look beautiful for years to come.

1. Pad your work area with soft cloths or towels. Polyethylene foam stretched over a table and affixed to the underside works well.

2. Always work on an object from the highest point down.  Remove the dust and the dirt from it.  Use a dry, soft brush to remove dust and any particles.

3. Use a very mild or diluted dish washing liquid soap & lukewarm water to wash it. Why lukewarm?  Using water that is too hot or too cold may risk damage the piece. Avoid using abrasive cleaners, scouring pads or put porcelain in your automatic dishwasher.

Never immerse your porcelain in water completely, it is best to use a damp cloth to clean porcelain items. Use a dabbing or very gentle wiping motion with a soft cloth.  While cleaning your antique piece you have to take extra care to place it on a drying area padded with some soft towels or cloths.

4. Stain removal: Rub your piece gently  with a cotton swab or a dampen,

clean cotton cloth with a solution of 10 parts denatured alcohol, 8 parts distilled or deionized water, and 1 part non-detergent household ammonia. Gently wipe the surface of the object, being careful to turn the cloth to a clean surface as it picks up dust and dirt. You can re-soak the cotton swabs if needed during the cleaning process. Be sure to rinse the area thoroughly with clear warmed water.

Please note: Ammonia can react chemically with unstable glazed and glass surfaces. If any question arises concerning the stability of the surface to be damp-wiped for stains, consult a conservator and the Regional Curator before proceeding with this method.

Other Stain Solutions:  hard water or alcohol stains – try citric acid or white vinegar with warm water.  Tobacco stains: try gently rubbing the piece with a dab of toothpaste or denture whitening paste. Mineral or chemical deposits: we recommend that a consult be arranged with a professional conservator.

5. Before cleaning be sure to remove any jewelry (rings or bracelets) so not to risk scratching your piece. If you have hard water, consider using bottled or filtered water instead of tap water warmed in a kettle.

6. After cleaning let your antiques porcelain to air dry for a bit, then use a soft, lint free towel to gently dab any excess water off of them.

Basic Antique Porcelain Care

1.  Any utilitarian object, old or new, which has been restored or conserved in any way should revert to decorative display only. If a restored piece, adhesives used in the process may be toxic if ingested.

2. All restored objects should only be cleaned with a damp cloth or dusted with an artist brush. Do not use water to clean.  This includes some older or aged finishes ( in particular gold, silver or moriage) have an adverse effect to cleaning.

3. Temperature and humidity extremes should also be avoided in storage or display.  Keep objects in dust-proof storage or exhibit cases when possible.

4. Avoid handling objects by their handles, rims, finials or sprigged attachments as there may aggravate firing faults or cause hair-line breaks.

5. Do not use metal spring-loaded plate hangers – easels or springless plate hangers are preferable in any case. Cushion or purchase metal hangers with plastic tubing to prevent chipping at the rim.

6. Tape, collection or inventory stickers should not be placed over enamel, luster, gilt, painted surfaces or restored areas as damages may result when removed.

7. Any objects which exhibits efflorescence or flaking glazes should be kept at a constant relative humidity of 40%.


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