Before and After #1 - Cleaning Ceramics and Porcelain

Welcome to our ongoing series “Before and After”, where GSaleHunter shares some techniques used to change victims of Vintage neglect into Photo Studio WebStars. There are many types of materials and finishes, each requiring the ability to clean safely. However, sometimes it’s waay more than an item’s Vintage patina we are deciding upon …sometimes it’s dried-on food and sometimes the dust has mold!

This is generally about “Do No Harm” while getting the job done as quickly and easily as possible ...Time being Money. The core concept here is to share our personal cleaning Tips, so you can cheaply and easily restore your Farm Fresh Vintage finds to their original beauty.

It takes humility and compassion to attend an Estate Sale.  Not a shiny topic, with a certain Creep Factor we frequently hear from other Vintage Dealers who would much rather only go to Flea Markets, Garage Sales and Thrift stores. All negative pre-conceptions about swooping in to buy someone else’s posthumous collectibles fades the instant you find yourself hosting your own family’s Estate Sale.

It is a job that needs desperately to get done, and that requires Buyers. Going from "creepy" to "a Blessing!" is a matter of perspective. After decades of attending we have been in absolute Wonder at the lifelong collections up for sale. Something so simple as a jar full of buttons, you can only imagine being collected one set at a time, over a lifetime, and the list of Collection possibilities is limitless.

Stressful logistics and the emotions hosting an Estate Sale are at peak, so we are always respectful when in attendance. Managing a loved-one’s hoarding tendencies is quite often mired in an unmanageable amount of cleaning. As we all age, loss of vision affects our ability to meticulously clean like we may have in younger days. Loss of mobility compounds with that inability to even see the dust. The result is, many items we purchase are in dire need of hot soapy water.

Some Antiques we know better than to alter more than a gentle dusting, and while some folks like to perform restoration themselves, we have a Client base that likes to buy clean ready-to-use Vintage. Our personal drive for Restoration comes from a feeling of respect for the lost sentiment in these once cherished objet d'art, and compassion for what might appear on the surface as neglect. Our business is reviving lost treasures and finding new Admirers, and this is how we do it.

Of course, you cannot wash books with soap and water, so this “Before and After” Series has some serious legs! All that glitters is not Dusty Gold, sometimes it’s leather or brass or gilt porcelain, and every material needs special TLC to come clean without harm. So be sure to check back often to see what we are up to next!

Today's topic is Porcelain and Ceramics. The star of today's show is a Coffee and Desert set for four which was passed over by other Dealers. We were able to pick up on Half Price day (last day) because it was so dirty it looked damaged. After closer inspection, we were confident this high-quality Vintage Japan porcelain was simply encrusted with dried food and hard water. An adorable (and complete!) set with no real damage.

Cleaned with what? This is our first tip because we use it most often. It's an inexpensive product you have passed a thousand times in the grocery store ...Bar Keepers Friend. Since I use so much its easiest to pick to up a couple cans on Amazon, and you can help support us by clicking on our affiliate link above and get some for yourself!

Their slogan is "Once Tried, Always Used" which is too true. BKF (Bar Keepers Friend) main ingredient is Oxalic Acid which is only mildly abrasive unlike truly abrasive cleansers such as Comet and Ajax. The acidic cleaning nature of BKF removes not only hard water stains, but also tarnish on many metals without scratching, but that's another episode.

The way I use BKF is with a damp sponge drizzled with dish liquid and sprinkled with the powder form of BKF (which I prefer). While described as Mildly abrasive and labeled for use on ceramics and some metals (see label) we only used BKF on fully over-glazed porcelain and ceramics. Not a choice for painted or metallic/gilt china.

If ever in doubt try on an inconspicuous hidden area, but China with gold or platinum trim or highly decorative raised patterns should NOT be cleaned with BKF. Always follow manufactuer's cleaning instructions. I also put on a pair of nitrile gloves for those bigger jobs, it can be hard on your hands (and manicure!) if used for more than a few minutes.

So a little Elbow Grease and two pennies worth of Bar Keepers Friend and WoW this looks like new. This set is squeeky clean and ready for your next Tea Party. Stunning!

Check back often, join our Social Media on InstagramTwitter and Facebook, and sign up with your email to get our newest Tips and Tricks and the next episode of "Before and After"  See our other Blog "Researching Vintage" to learn how we prep and research incoming new treasures. Thanks for stopping by!

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  • Kenneth Willis on

    Thanks for the tips and they look beautiful. I have so many things I need to sell that I have inherited .I see some of them on your site. Please contact me if you are interested in seeing what I have. Thanks ! Ken

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