China and Crystal Care

Dust off your fine dishes, and use them every day. By taking these steps to care for your china and crystal, cherished collections are sure to sparkle for years to come.
Julie Feagin Sandner

Handle With Care

  • Food is china's number one enemy.
  • "The longer food sits on a plate, the more acid eats away at the glaze. If you don't plan on doing the dishes immediately, give your china a quick rinse to remove as much food as possible," Liam says. Also, it is best to rinse your dishware rather than let pieces sit too long in soapy water.
  • "Always wash your china and crystal by hand. Use a mild detergent in warm water," Liam directs. "Remember, also, to place a rubber mat or a dish towel in the bottom of the sink." This protects china from chipping or breaking.
  • After rinsing, drain dishes in a plastic or wooden drying rack. Wipe dry with a soft cloth, and put away.

Convenience May Not Be Best

  • "If you insist on putting your china in the dishwasher, use a very mild detergent on a gentle cycle," Liam suggests. Don't overload the washer, and never use a lemon-scented detergent or one that contains bleach. These products contain acid that is harmful to the surfaces and finishes.
  • Some of the newer patterns are considered dishwasher-safe. Older patterns (20 years or more), especially ones with gold or silver bands on the rim, should be washed by hand. The gold or silver might be able to take a few machine washings, but over time it will fade.

Storage

  • Stack your plates no more than four high,
  • Liam says. For protection, it is best to place a cushioned layer, such as a paper towel or a coffee filter, between each piece. For cups, stack them no more than two high. "Any higher can weaken the rim and cause cracking and chipping," Liam explains.
  • Hanging your fine china on the wall is a great way to enjoy it all the time. If you plan on hanging plates, be sure to use hangers with clear plastic tubing over the wire ends to provide padding.
  • China is made to use. Storing it in areas where temperature and humidity levels can't be controlled has an adverse effect. If you don't use your dishes often, it is a good idea to wash them at least once a year. This maintenance will keep impurities from damaging the glaze.

Repair Options

  • What do you do with a broken plate? Send it to the experts who can seamlessly fix a chipped or cracked piece of crystal or china. The folks at Replacements, Ltd., specialize in determining if a piece should be repaired or replaced.
  • Are the platinum or gold bands on your plates rubbing off? Replacements can reband the faded dishware.
  • If sending your fine dishware out to be fixed is too much trouble, ask a local gift store if they know someone locally who can help. Bigger stores might also have a visiting expert who comes a couple times a year to repair broken pieces or to consult.

Stemware Care

  • Crystal also requires special handling. Most pieces are broken during cleaning or in storage. Here are a few tips to keep your collection clear and in one piece.
  • Hand-washing with lukewarm water is recommended.
  • Use a minimal amount of mild detergent. The more you use, the more residue will build up on the surface.
  • Never twist from the stem. It can be quite fragile and will break easily.
  • Adding vinegar to the rinse water will keep crystal spot free.
  • Dry crystal immediately with a lint-free paper towel.

"Home Tips: China and Crystal Care" is from the November 2003 issue of Southern Living.