Cleaning pottery & ceramics (or not)

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Cleaning pottery & ceramics (or not)

Post by BrandX on May 6th 2013, 9:24 pm

Couldn't see anything on the forum on this subject posted previously - apologies if I have missed something on the subject.

The question is prompted by my latest purchase, a Tony Gant jug (or vase as I like to think of it) - here's a pic for a bit of added interest:



It had been used, which is ok, but there was a sticky residue left in the bottom. It was quite easy to remove, bit by bit, with pure soap and luke-warm water, and the gentle prompting of a small stiff paintbrush. I have been happy to clean previous gruby peices that were hard glazed and had no obvious surface damage with pure soap and water, on the basis that there was little damage it could do. However, for unglazed surfaces or where there is apparent damage, crazing, etc. I have left well alone for fear of making things worse. I know there are some well known tricks for cleaning glass, but have not seen much advice regarding pottery and ceramics. I would be interested to hear members advice for cleaning items or, indeed, whether they consider it a "no no" for the inexperienced.
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Re: Cleaning pottery & ceramics (or not)

Post by NaomiM on May 6th 2013, 10:18 pm

I've hand washed pottery with both crazed and unglazed surfaces in warm water with no detrimental effects, but maybe I've just been lucky?

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Re: Cleaning pottery & ceramics (or not)

Post by NaomiM on May 6th 2013, 10:19 pm

It will make the crazing look a lot worse until it dries.

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Re: Cleaning pottery & ceramics (or not)

Post by NaomiM on May 6th 2013, 10:23 pm

The ones I avoid washing are naked raku pots and raku with surface metal oxides, unless I absolutely had to.

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Re: Cleaning pottery & ceramics (or not)

Post by Potty on May 6th 2013, 10:35 pm

Depends on the clay / glazes in my opinion.

I find crazing on lower fired earthenware is much more likely to stain than the crazing on porcelain/stoneware, I assume because the crazing is tighter.

Personally I'd try and avoid/be very careful cleaning items with:

Gilding.
Easily damaged glazes. (raku / burnished etc)
Hairline cracks.
Over-painted designs.

If you have some something like tough water residue inside inside a pot, as long as the glaze is tough enough etc Cerium Oxide can be used to remove it.

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Re: Cleaning pottery & ceramics (or not)

Post by BrandX on May 7th 2013, 12:30 pm

Thanks for the advice Naomi and Potty.

Agree with avoiding the gilded, painted type of items - if your taking off grime, you're just as likely to take off the decoration as well. Hadn't heard of Cerium Oxide, but note its used for a number of cleaning/polishing uses. I have used baking soda previously for stubborn marks, and its obviously the slight abrasiveness that works. Again, this was only on hard glazed items.

I suppose the best advice is: be cautious and if in doubt, don't.
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Re: Cleaning pottery & ceramics (or not)

Post by 22 Crawford St. on January 29th 2014, 9:23 pm

No one mentions bleach above? I've used it to clean the inside of glass before and it's recommended in wine-making to bring demijohns back from the brink. Dunno what Cerium Oxide is?

.......... so I have a white piece of the porcelain Stig & it's very grubby. I don't think the usual soap and water will do. First question is

1) Can I whack it in a bucket with a drop of bleach/water ? Second question is
2) Do I want it pristine and gleaming white?  Shrugs
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Re: Cleaning pottery & ceramics (or not)

Post by NaomiM on January 29th 2014, 10:17 pm

I don't think the usual soap and water will do

I think first & foremost is use it, before dismissing it. It may be all you need. I've certainly never needed anything more for surface grime.
When I have had deep staining (fat under the glaze in an old baking dish) nothing has shifted it.


Cerium Oxide seems to be a glass polishing compound, presumably like jeweller's rouge. Useful for getting particularly stubborn, insoluble, surface residues off a glaze (which is essentially a glass layer), such as carbonates, but not so useful for stains.

Bleach will act on stains (also Hydrogen Peroxide), but is unlikely to remove surface residues - the water is more likely to remove dirt than the action of the added bleach. Sometimes the dirt - soot - is embedded between the crazed glaze, and I haven't found bleach effective in removing it or minimising the colour since soot is basically carbon and bleach breaks up chemical bonds to destroy the colour and you can't get much smaller than carbon atoms.

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Re: Cleaning pottery & ceramics (or not)

Post by 22 Crawford St. on January 29th 2014, 10:26 pm

Naomi TY, and second question; If you find something on a stall do you want it to be in slightly grubby 'original' state or in pristine, gleaming obviously cleaned and sanitised state with every mark removed?  In other words should I clean it?
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Re: Cleaning pottery & ceramics (or not)

Post by NaomiM on January 29th 2014, 11:16 pm

If you're planning to sell it I'd go with uncleaned. I cant resist uncleaned items, they look 'fresh to market'.

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Re: Cleaning pottery & ceramics (or not)

Post by studio-pots on January 30th 2014, 12:35 pm

NaomiM wrote:If you're planning to sell it I'd go with uncleaned. I cant resist uncleaned items, they look 'fresh to market'.
.................. so the Ebay seller who seems to have left a dead rat in the vase he sold was trying to appeal to people like you!  Happy

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Re: Cleaning pottery & ceramics (or not)

Post by dantheman on January 30th 2014, 12:40 pm

I have some really filthy pottery for sale

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Re: Cleaning pottery & ceramics (or not)

Post by NaomiM on January 30th 2014, 6:57 pm

studio-pots wrote:
NaomiM wrote:If you're planning to sell it I'd go with uncleaned. I cant resist uncleaned items, they look 'fresh to market'.
.................. so the Ebay seller who seems to have left a dead rat in the vase he sold was trying to appeal to people like you!  Happy


Well people buy houses with mummified cats in the wall, so I'm sure there's a market for potted rat.  Laughter 

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Re: Cleaning pottery & ceramics (or not)

Post by NaomiM on January 30th 2014, 6:58 pm

dantheman wrote:I have some really filthy pottery for sale

I hve some too, but we may not be talking about the same thing.  Cheeky Embarrassed 

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