Pewter is a grayish-silver alloy which is used to make a variety of things, such as plates, mugs, jewelry, and decorative showpieces. The metal does not tarnish easily, although it may for a dark patina. In this article, we will learn more about this alloy, and the various methods which one can use to clean pewter articles.
Did You Know?
Pewter was first created during the bronze age in western Asia. It was then extensively used by the Egyptians, Romans, and Europeans for making tableware and other decorative items, until porcelain was created in China around 1000 B.C.
Pewter items usually form a dark patina, and it is recommended that this layer should not be removed while cleaning. This is because the appearance of patina on an antique increases its value. It is also important to note that the finish of the object plays a major part in the cleaning techniques that are utilized.
What is Pewter Made of?
Pewter is a metal alloy of malleable nature. It has a low melting point of around 200°C. The metal is primarily made of 85 – 99% tin, with a mix of antimony, bismuth, copper, or lead. Although rare, sometimes even silver is used. Both, copper and antimony harden the tin, while lead makes the lower grades of pewter strong, and gives the object a bluish tinge. Cleaning techniques for an item made of pewter differs, depending on the composition of elements and the finish of the item. The first type is known as fine pewter, which is made of 99% tin and 1% copper. This pewter has a polished finish, and was generally used for tableware. The second type, known as trifling pewter, was used for holloware, and was made by mixing fine pewter with approximately 4% lead. This type has a rougher and duller finish as compared to fine pewter. The final type, lay pewter, is made of 15% lead, so it was never used in making food related items. It has a satin-like rough finish, without much shine. Let us now look at the variations in cleaning techniques, depending on these categories.
How to Clean Pewter Plates and Polished Tableware
- Boiled linseed oil
- Mild soap
- Warm water
- Pewter polish
- Vinegar, 1 cup
- Salt, 1 teaspoon
- Polishing cloth (soft)
- Soft towel
- Flour, ½ cup
- Use the sponge to gently wash the pewter item with warm water and soap.
- Rinse off the soap with warm water, and then dry it well.
- Mix the salt, vinegar, and flour in a bowl, to make a paste.
- Using the soft cloth, gently rub this paste all over the pewter item, and let it rest for around 20 minutes.
- Rinse the item well, and dry it with a soft towel.
- If you want to restore the shine of a polished pewter item, create a smooth paste of rottenstone and boiled linseed oil. Rub this paste onto the item gently with the soft polishing cloth.
- Once again, rinse the item and dry thoroughly. You will now have clean and shiny pewter tableware, ready for use.
It is necessary to be very careful while cleaning pewter plates and other dinnerware, as this material can get scratched very easily.
How to Clean Pewter Tankards and Trifled Holloware
- Warm water
- Mild soap
- Steel wool
- Soft towel
- Use the sponge to gently wash the pewter article with warm water and soap.
- Rinse and dry the item thoroughly.
- Use the steel wool to buff the item, in the direction of the grain. However, be sure that the pressure you apply is extremely light. Also, this buffing should be done after a gap of a few years, to avoid losing the finish.
How to Clean Pewter Jewelry
Oxidized pewter gives the jewelry an antique appearance, and because of its darker finish it is very easy to maintain. This type of pewter does not require any polishing, and a wash with soap and warm water is enough to keep the pewter in good condition. Although pewter polish for jewelry is available, it should be used very rarely, and only in tiny amounts. To clean pewter jewelry that is entwined with a material like leather, use a soft cleanser product available in most stores. This will help you get good results, without using water.
Other Ways to Clean and Polish Pewter
- Rubbing pewter with cabbage leaves is a great way to retain the luster of the metal.
- Just using plain vinegar with a soft cloth can clean pewter items very effectively.
- Baby shampoo works just as effectively as soap while cleaning pewter with warm water.
- Wipe your pewter articles with ketchup, using a soft cloth. Leave it to rest for 10 – 15 minutes, and wash thoroughly with warm water. Dry well to get a super-clean look.
- Using a paste of baking soda and water is also an effective way to bring some shine to your pewter item.
- If you take the services of a professional to clean your pewter articles, a combination of steam cleaners, ultrasonic cleaners, tumblers, and liquid cleaners are used.
- Some experts resort to electrolysis for cleaning. However, this is a fairly difficult process, and should not be attempted by anyone without experience.
Pewter Care Tips
- Scrubbing steel wool to remove heavy tarnishing of fine pewter should only be used as a last resort, as it can cause damage if you are not very careful.
- Since pewter has a low melting point, it is not advisable to expose it to extreme temperatures.
- Never use a dishwasher to clean pewter, as it can easily damage the article’s finish. Hand-washing the item is the best way to go about this job.
- Similarly, using abrasive cleaners can also damage the finish of the item.
- Use only those polishes which are either all-purpose or formulated for pewter. Cleaning pewter with silver polish will not give the desired result, and may spoil the appearance over time.
- Do not use citrus fruits or juices in a pewter container. The acid in these liquids can cause pockmarks to appear on the metal.
- The body fluids from our palms can damage pewter. For this reason, use clean cotton gloves during the cleaning process.
- Store the items in a dry and warm place, wrapped in a clean cotton cloth.
- If you have a pewter article that is mixed with other metal, glass, or porcelain, it is best to use soap and warm water for cleaning.
- Cold and moist conditions can severely damage pewter. Measures must be take to prevent such an environment around the item.
Cleaning and caring for items made of pewter is very easy, since it doesn’t tarnish as much as silver. It is a great low-maintenance choice for articles with lots of detail and appeal.