Caring For Your Pottery  


The best deals can often be had when you find pottery that is dirty or encrusted with lime, since the true beauty of the object is hidden behind years of grime and the seller might not realize what they have. Below are some cleaning ideas that have worked for us in the past.

  Cautions!   Cleaning Methods
  1. These cleaning procedures are provided for information only, as examples of what has worked for us in the past. Use at your own risk!
  2. Do not use any of these solutions on pottery that is in poor shape, especially if it is excessively chipped, cracked, or crazed.
  3. These cleaning methods have been used on high-quality pottery with solid glazes such as McCoy (except Scandia and other lines that don't have a solid, shiny glaze), Brush, American Bisque, Shawnee, Morton, Red Wing (except brush-ware), etc. They are not recommended for pottery that is more porous, such as Stangl (the chemicals quickly seep down under the glaze and soak in) or terra cotta.
  4. Try cleaning in a small, inconspicuous spot first. Always use as little cleaning solution as possible.
  5. If the pottery has cold paint, any of the cleaning methods described, even detergent and water, can remove or degrade it. Be careful to clean around the paint so as not to damage it, and don't leave the pottery soaking in anything (even water).
  6. Don't let the unglazed feet or runners of the pottery soak in the cleaning solutions. We've learned the hard way with bleach; there are faded spots on the carpet where we set a piece of pottery that had been previously cleaned with bleach (oops!).
  7. Always follow instructions and cautions on the cleaning product labels. It's a good idea to wear gloves even if the label doesn't require it so you can clean in the hottest water possible.
  8. Of course, don't use any of these chemicals on anything that you might eat or drink from!
  1. First, try washing with hot soapy water. Use a toothbrush to get into crevices.
  2. Mild lime deposits (water spots) can sometimes be removed with effervescent denture cleaner. Fill pot with water and drop in one or two tablets.
  3. For more stubborn lime deposits, use CLR or LimeAway. Pour a little (full-strength) into the pot. Use an old toothbrush to move the cleaner up to the spots that need it.
  4. Rust stains can be removed with Rust Magic. Clean as above.
  5. The adhesive residue left behind by labels will sometimes come off after soaking in hot soapy water. For quicker removal, however, apply a little citrus-based cleaner such as Goo Gone to the sticky area, wait a few minutes, then rub off the residue with a clean dry rag. We have even used a citrus oil air freshener spray for the same purpose!
  6. Latex paint spots (I don't know why, but we find paint overspray on lots of pottery) can be peeled off with your fingernail after soaking in hot soapy water.
  7. Planters that have florist's sponge glued to the bottom are a real pain. I've used fingernail polish remover (with acetone) and fingernail polish thinner (with toluene) to dissolve the foam.
  8. We have used a 50/50 bleach and water solution to fade the discolorations (dirt) around stress cracks. It works great (note caution #6!), but we can't be sure that the bleach won't cause some degradation to the clay long-term. Use at your own risk!
  9. Although a dish brush or old toothbrush is our cleaning implement of choice, we have been known to use a non-metallic abrasive pad (like those used to scrub pots & pans) on especially hard-to-remove spots without scratching the glaze. Be careful and don't scrub too hard!