Fine china isn’t as popular at dinner tables as it once was, but it still makes an appearance from time to time. Those that are gifted some heirloom quality fine china might take it out on holidays or other special occasions. It’s definitely not for everyday use. Some people request place settings of fine china when they get married. Even though they don’t use it throughout most of the year, it graces holiday tables, and will likely one day be passed down to a son or daughter.
Cleaning fine china isn’t as simple as stacking the dishes in a dishwasher either. Even hand washing them requires some thought and a bit of planning, since it’s not your average home cleaning duty. Once you’ve learned how to do this properly, however, you might not hesitate to bring up your great-grandmother’s favorite dishes. After all, she wouldn’t want them hiding in a cabinet—would she?
Items Needed for Cleaning Fine China
Some of the following items may be put to use when cleaning fine china.
- Bucket or basin
- Baking soda
- Dish towels
- Liquid dish soap
- Dish drying rack
- Cream peroxide
- Table salt
- White vinegar
- 1-inch clean paintbrush
Hand Washing Your Fine China
If you’re washing fine china after enjoying a Sunday dinner or holiday meal, extra care is required, but it doesn’t really involve anything out of the ordinary. Don’t run your china through your dishwasher. This isn’t a home cleaning task where corners may be cut. The china must be hand washed instead.
Line the bottom of your kitchen sink or dish-washing basin with one or two thick dishtowels. This will help cushion your fine china to prevent breakage. China is far more brittle than everyday dishes.
Mix a few drops of mild liquid dish soap into your basin or sink full of warm water. Wash the dishes with a soft cloth, rinse, and then set them into the dish drying rack. Allow the dishes to air dry. Give them a light buffing with a clean, dry dish towel before putting them away.
Removing Stains from Your Fine China
After years of use, and because it is usually very porous, stains may form on your fine china. This doesn’t mean your great-grandmother or whomever you received your fine china from shirked their home cleaning duties. Since many foods like berries, tea, coffee, chocolate, and some sauces or gravies leave stains, they may have marred the appearance of your china. There are a few ways to remove these stains. Read on to see which one might be the best option.
Soak china marred with fork and knife marks or scratches in a basin or bucket filled with whole milk. The milk will seep into the pores of the china and whiten many of the dark marks made by utensils.
Baking Soda and Water
Light colored stains or stains you believe to be recent will likely benefit from a paste of baking soda and water. Mix the paste in your hand or in a small cup. Place it directly on the stain and allow it to remain there for about half an hour. Scrub the baking soda gently into the stained area with a wet dish cloth, following the aforementioned steps for hand washing your fine china. Rinse and stack in a drying rack to air dry.
Table Salt and White Vinegar
If the baking soda didn’t completely remove the stain in question from your fine china, or if you believe the stain to be an old one, combine table salt and white vinegar to a pasty consistency. Place the paste directly onto the stain and allow it to remain there for an hour or more. Scrub the paste away gently and proceed to wash the dishes by hand, once again using the aforementioned steps. Place the washed items in the drying rack to air dry.
If both the baking soda and the salt and vinegar methods of removing stains from your china have failed, there is one more method to try before throwing in that proverbial towel. Make a trip to your local beauty supply store and buy some 30-40% volume cream peroxide. This is typically used by hair stylists and estheticians to bleach human hair on both the head as well as on the upper lip. It might just take care of the stain on your china, too.
“Baste” the stained china with the cream peroxide, using a clean (new is better) 1-inch paintbrush. Continue doing so off and on for a 24-hour period is best, adding more each time without rinsing in between. After a full day, the stain is about as light as it will get. Proceed to wash the dishes by hand in mild liquid dish soap. Rinse well to make sure all of the cream peroxide is removed. Stack the dishes in the drying rack and allow them to air dry.
Even if you don’t use your fine china for your annual Thanksgiving dinner or holiday meal, it’s a good idea to take it out of storage once per year to wash it. When re-stacking the plates, bowls, cups, saucers, and platters make sure to cushion them with a paper towel or heavy napkin–paper or linen–in between each.