Fine pottery is valuable and enjoyable, and it could last a lifetime. Here are some simple tips to make sure that it does.
You only have to lift a pile of plates to to know that china and pottery are heavy. They are best stored on sturdy shelves which you can reach easily and lift the pottery comfortably. If you stack items, put paper napkins between them so that the base of one cannot scuff the surface of the one below. Stacking cups is not recommended, because it puts pressure on the weakest point, the handle. Never stack more than two cups on top of one another. If you hang your cups, round (rather than square) hooks are safest.
Warming plates and dishes
To warm plates and dishes, it is best to put them into a cold oven and warm them slowly. Never put fine pottery on a hot surface. Cooking with oven proof dishes should be safe enough, because these wares are usually more robust than other pottery.
Washing and drying pottery
Fine pottery is best washed, one item at a time, in hot water with a normal washing up liquid. If you are happy to put your bare hands into the water, your pottery should not come to much harm. Put a rubber mat in the sink – if you drop an item, it has a better chance of survival. It is a good idea to take off any rings that might scratch the pottery. To remove stains, soak the item in warm water for as long as it takes. Abrasive cloths or powders are not recommended because they damage the surface glaze, which is a thin coat of glass. Unglazed items are particularly vulnerable. The best way to dry pottery is to rinse it and let it ‘drip dry’.
Dishwashers are very convenient but, when you consider how they work, you may not want risk your fine pottery in this way. Dishwashers operate at very high temperatures and water is sprayed with force at the contents. Dishwasher cleaning fluids are abrasive and the powders are worse. Harmful proteins may build up on items that are washed regularly in a dishwasher.
If you do use the dishwasher, here are some precautions that you can take. Check the dishwasher rack to make sure that the rubber or plastic coating is intact. If any metal is exposed, it may scratch or stain the china. Load each item securely. Only use a mild powder or liquid dishwasher detergent, and use the smallest amount for the fine china cycle. Don’t use the dry cycle for china, because the heat may be too high. Do not handle the china until it’s had time to cool.
Damage and breakages
If you damage a piece, you may be able to replace it. If the range is still in production, contact the manufacturer for a list of stockists. If not, try a specialised china and pottrydealer who will search for the item. Your local antique dealers may be able to suggest a specialist to repair valuable items. If you do your own repairs, try to use a glue which can be removed, as this will give you a second chance to put things right.