Cleaning Antique Glass

Spring cleaning for my family (and many others) means the dreaded job of cleaning the house windows. Although most of us have become skilled at it, I have to say that cleaning antique glass is a great deal more fun, and presents a different set of challenges.

First, assess the project : does it appear to be ?usual? dirt/film, or is it grease, soot, paint, baked on ? Will simple washing suffice or is special cleaning going to be needed?

Be extra careful with antique glass. Use a plastic dishpan, rubber washbasin, or place a rubber mat in the bottom of the sink so the glassware won?t accidentally bump the hard sink bottom. Spread out a towel on which to place the glass to dry, so it won?t bump on a hard counter top.

Old glass is especially susceptible to sudden temperature changes. Use lukewarm or warm water ? never plunge old glass into hot (or cold) water ! Rather than hard scrubbing, let a piece soak to loosen crud, while you find something else to do for a while.

Start with the simplest first: wash with ordinary dish-washing liquid or use a window cleaner and wipe with paper towels. If that doesn't work, move to a ?heavier duty? product.

Because glass is essentially impermeable, it therefore is very forgiving of cleaning products, but it can be scratched. Use only non-metal scrubbing pads, brushes and other tools to clean it. I like the woven nylon ?scouring? pads made for hand dishwashing. Keep an old toothbrush handy for crevices. Pipe cleaners often work well for inside areas you can?t reach.

Do not plan on using the dishwasher -- the detergent is so caustic and abrasive it may cause micro-scratches, etching the glass surface, which eventually looks like a cloudy film . (Have any of your household glasses taken on a dull, dingy look? That is often why!) If your glassware has fired-on color, such as vintage Pyrex or Fire-King, NEVER dishwasher it, because just one time will ruin the finish! The glasses we collect often are decorated with enamel logos or letters. NEVER put glassware with this type of decoration in a dishwasher.

To remove brown rust spots and stains on either glass or the decoration, non-scratch scouring powder can work really well: if the stain doesn?t disappear after a gentle rubbing, make a thick, wet paste of it to cover the stains, let set for a half hour or so, scrub and rinse. You can also try liquid bleach or any of the special rust/iron remover products you can find in the cleaning aisle at the store. Any of these treatments can be repeated.

Check out the labels on spray-on oven cleaning products you?ll find on grocery and hardware store shelves. Many are recommended for glass ! Oven cleaners are great to remove soot, old grease and surface scum, especially on lamp or lantern glass. Be sure to follow label directions carefully as the materials in these products can cause serious harm.

Another tip to try is denture cleanser which often can remove minerals with a gentle soaking.

Dump-dug glass and other buried pieces, especially bottles, may suffer from ?sick glass syndrome,? a foggy-appearing surface film apparently caused by a chemical reaction from being buried in the earth. If you tilt the affected piece you?ll see a rainbow of colors reflecting in the film. We have not yet found anything that will remove this. (If you have, we would be extremely grateful to hear about it !)

Written by Jane Silvernail

Visit Time's Treasures on Ruby Lane