Cleaning and Caring For China Dishes Cleaning and Caring For China Dishes

Perhaps you inherited your grandmother’s heirloom china dishes. Maybe the gift of a lovely, new china dish set was yours at your wedding. Wherever you china originated, special dishes require special care for a long life in the best condition possible.

Harsh detergents and abrasives, temperature changes, and improper storage can have devastating effects on delicate china. Here are a few preventative measures and safe ways to clean and remove stains from fine china.

Before you wash, scrape leftover food from your china with a rubber spatula. Scraping with silverware might scratch the china or leave unsightly gray marks. Rinse the dishes soon after the meal is done, particularly if the food served was very acidic (like tomato based foods).

When you are ready to start washing, line the bottom of your sink or wash basin, as well as any dividing bars in between sections of the sink, with a rubber mat or soft dish towel. This will help to prevent dings and scratches from bumping around in the sink. Additionally, do not stack the dishes up inside the sink as you might a sturdier, everyday set. Wash one china dish at a time so they are not hitting against each other.

Wash your china using only mild dish detergents; never use abrasive or harsh cleansers. Use a soft dish cloth or sponge, not an abrasive pad. China should be washed in warm water. Washing china in hot water creates too great a temperature difference and can cause your dishes to crack or break. Slide china into the water on its side to more evenly distribute the heat through the dish, and avoid shocking and snapping the piece. Washing china with a gold or precious metal trim in hot water is especially taboo; you will wash and flake away the edging. Also, avoid rubbing dish detergents directly onto the metals.

To prevent coffee and tea from staining fine china cups, wash the cups soon after use in a solution that is one part hydrogen peroxide, three parts water, with just a drop of clear household ammonia. Rinse the dishes with warm, clear water.

If your china cups are already plagued by unsightly stains, you have a few cleaning options. Sprinkle a soft cloth with baking soda or salt and gently rub the stains away. A damp sponge sprinkled with cream of tartar should do the trick as well.

Gray marks on china left by cutting and scraping silverware can be rubbed away with a soft cloth dabbed with a little toothpaste. Rub gently with the cloth to remove the gray marks.

For stains on china dishes left from lime deposits or hard water, fill bowls or soak china dishes overnight in warm water with citrus rinds in it. Try soaking with rinds from oranges, lemon, or grapefruit.

To avoid spots, it is best to hand dry your china after washing instead of letting it air dry.

With washing complete, you need to take care how you store your delicate dishes. You should avoid stacking too many dishes atop each other. For those you do stack, place a round of felt, paper doily, rubber jar opener, or rubber jar rings between each stacked plate to prevent scratches. China cups should not be stacked, and they should not be hung from their handles on pegs or hooks. The best way to store and display china cups is lined up on a shelf, one by one.

Extremes in temperature of any kind are harmful to china dishes and cause cracks and breakage. Keep china in a room where temperatures are moderate, and do not box china away in a cold basement or hot attic.

Here are a few last tips to help you care for your china properly and enjoy it for years to come.


  • When removing dishes from a stack of china, lift them. Do not scratch your china by scraping pieces across each other.
  • Before serving hot foods on your china, it is best to warm them a little to avoid the shock in temperature and keep your china from cracking. Try placing the plates near a warm oven, or set them inside an oven that is just barely warm (do not overheat).
  • Fine, spidery surface cracks on your china may be able to be repaired with this simple trick. Place the cracked pieces gently in a pan of warm milk for half an hour. The cracks should disappear if they are not too deep.

With a little effort and preventative care, and these tips and tricks, you can safely care for and make minor repairs to your treasured china dishes. By preventing scratches and cracks and cleaning away stains and blemishes, you will be able to enjoy the beauty of your dishes for both serving and display for many years to come, maintaining a keepsake heirloom for generations to come.

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