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Caring For Your Pewter

Cleaning Glass, Ceramic or Pewter
The following paragraphs apply only to glass, ceramic or pewter steins whose surface decoration is intact. If there is any pre-existing damage, such as paint-flaking, washing the stein may make it worse. Steins have a lot of surface crazing (like faience) and should not be immersed for washing, as the water may penetrate the crazing. Instead, these steins should be cleaned with only a soft, damp cloth. Never wash wood or ivory steins; they require special cleaning techniques.

Most steins made of glass or ceramic have had the decoration fired on, so that it becomes fused with the body. These decorations cannot be washed off. On the other hand, use of an abrasive cleaner will cause scratches in glass, ceramic or metal, and can seriously mar the surface. Portions of the design which have been decorated with gold deserve special care. Gold is a very soft metal, and unlike enameled decoration, will wear off. Always treat gold decoration gingerly.

Partially fill the kitchen sink with warm, soapy water. Do not let the water get too hot, as this runs the risk of cracking the stein. Consider placing a towel in the water as a cushion for the stein during cleaning. Letting the stein soak will soften even heavy deposits of dirt and oil. It cannot be over-emphasized that handling the wet, soapy stein will be difficult. Gripping it by the handle, when possible, usually provides a secure grip. Use your hands, a sponge or a toothbrush to complete the job. Rinse the stein, inside and out, in warm water, and then dry it thoroughly. A few drops of water may continue to accumulate on the inside, so you might want to leave the lid cocked open for a few hours while the stein air dries.

Cleaning Pewter
Over time, if exposed to the air, pewter will oxidize and acquire a patina. Most collectors today prefer this patina to the original shiny appearance, so polishing pewter is not recommended. However, you can clean pewter by washing it as described above, or by the limited use of a mild abrasive (soft scrub) to remove dirt and grime. This should be done sparingly and slowly, checking the pewter as you proceed, to make sure no damage is done. Be sure to rinse the pewter thoroughly in clear, warm water when you are done.

Damaged Pewter
Pewter is a soft metal, and is damaged very easily. It also has a low melting point, and it changes from solid to liquid state very quickly, so attempts to solder it are best left to the experts. Bent thumblifts, finials and rims can sometimes be improved by applying heat (hot water is one possibility) to soften the pewter, and then gently trying to bend it back into its original shape or position. This must be done with patience, however, with only slight changes at a time, since the older pewter gets, the more brittle it becomes. Probably as often as a thumblift is straightened another is broken off entirely, so think about this carefully before attempting it.

Exposure to Heat (and Cold)
Extremes of heat and cold induce stress in glass and ceramics, and should be avoided. We noted above not to use hot water when washing steins, but care should also be taken not to display your steins where they will be subject to prolonged periods of direct sunlight, which can heat them up also.

 Walt Vogdes



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