How To Care For Fine Vintage & Antique Tableware, Part I

As you will find throughout my store, fine vintage & antique tableware, like china and crystal, with the proper care and storage, can last a lifetime and then successfully passed on to several generations.

A big myth around vintage china care is that you shouldn’t be using it too often in order to preserve it. But I say the best way to enjoy your vintage & antique tableware pieces is to use them regularly, just follow the care tips and recommendations below.

I broke this down in three parts, addressing each of the china, crystal and silverware separately to make it easier (and quicker) to read and remember.

How To Care For Fine Vintage & Antique Tableware China

Part I - How To Care For Your Vintage & Antique China 

Vintage and antique china are heirlooms that can increase greatly in value with the passing of time. The artistry and detailing in the old china must be preserved, and with right care it can remain beautiful for generations. Here are some tips to help you care for your family heirloom or the pieces you've collected yourself.

Rule number one, and the most important to remember, is to never put vintage or antique china, particularly the hand-painted or metal-rimmed ones, in the dishwasher because they can easily get damaged and chipped.

Old china can scratch and chip easily and can be damaged by the harsh, modern day detergents. Dishwasher racks may scratch the surface of china, and heat from the drying cycle can loosen trim, eventually causing it to chip off.

Instead, you should consider always washing your older china by hand. Here are some hand wash tips:

  • use warm water and a mild detergent (avoid bleach);
  • place a towel or mat at the bottom of the sink to protect the china from scratches and chips;
  • fill the sink partially full with warm water, add a small amount of mild dish detergent and mix;
  • use a washcloth to gently wash the dishes. Avoid using any scrubbers that can damage the surface or fade the colors;
  • let china air dry or hand dry it using a soft cloth. 

As I said earlier, fine china is made to use and enjoy and improperly storing it for a long time and not using it can actually have adverse effects. Uncontrolled temperatures and humidity levels can cause the china glaze to become brittle and possibly crack.

Again, I recommend using your china often but if you don’t, you should consider taking it out of storage at least once a year and giving it some love by washing it and let it air out for a bit. This will help prevent impurities from getting under the glaze, and will help keep the glaze strong.

When storing your vintage china, consider these tips:

  • store your china in an even temperature environment to avoid premature glaze crazing; 
  • if you store china in stacks, place a sheet of paper towel between each piece to help prevent scratching or chips;
  • do not stack or hang teacups by their handles;
  • if china is used infrequently, do an annual washing and cleaning to help preserve the glaze and paint.

Well, I hope you found these tips helpful and that you get to enjoy your heirloom china collection for a very long time. If I missed anything or you have more tips to share please do so! I love reading your comments and learning from you.




    • Anna Collins

      Thanks for the advice about ensuring you take the china out of storage at least once a year to wash them if you don’t use them. I recently took an interest in collecting tea sets, so I wanted to expand my collection to vintage china. I’ll have to look for a trusted online store that sells vintage dishes at a good price.

    • Jennifer Sheese

      Found some vintage Laughlin E47N6 Floral With Gold Filagre of approximately 1/2” around the edges, in our basement while cleaning it out this weekend. My husband says it’s been down there 30+ years in a box. He gave large prices away years ago to someone to try to get a value on, never came back! I’ve only been here 5 years. Cannot locate name of pattern, as there are several similar patterns under different makers. I have 3 cups, 4 sauces, 2 dessert plates, 5 berry bowls. I would say fair condition given the conditions they’ve been stored in. I’ve cleaned them using your recommendations and am not going to store most of them, but and going to display one “full” set of what I have. Thank you for the direction on proper cleaning and storing. I certainly do not want any further deterioration of the gold filagre. Wish I had enough to use them for family Christmas.
      Thank you,
      Jennifer Sheese

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