How To Wash & Care For Fine China Dishes

Hairline Crack Repair:

  • Soak the china in warm milk overnight. Gently hand wash in warm water with mild dish detergent.

Grey or Black Cutlery Markings:

  • Dab a damp sponge in baking soda and rub the marks gently. You could also try regular toothpaste.

Removing Stains:

  • Mix 50/50 table salt and household vinegar. Allow to soak for a bit before washing.
  • Mix a paste of baking soda and water, apply to stain and gently rub. Wash.

Extreme Stain Removal

Peroxide is recommended again and again by the pros. Here are some good clips I found explaining the process–depending on the damage this could take weeks:

*Found on the eBay Forums

I use 30 or 40% volume cream peroxide from the Beauty Supply Store ~ costs about $3-$4 for a large bottle. I immerse small items, as it doesn’t seem to hurt the transfer, or on larger ones, I just ‘baste’ for a few days and it comes right out. Be sure to soak it in water for quite a bit, after the stain has lifted and you have washed the peroxide off ~ just to be sure that none remains or gets under the glaze if there is crazing. It has worked for me over and over again, with no adverse results!

I run the china under hot water then put some cream peroxide with a teaspoon of ammonia right Inside the bowl than spread around and put in a plastic bag and seal. You can make sure the peroxide covers the piece by smearing around with your hand on the outside of the plastic. This should take about a day to remove the stain.

Or, just put the bowl in any large container full of peroxide and tad of Ammonia and let is soak.

Washing Tips

  • Wash the dishes shortly after the meal, do not allow to sit dirty (especially overnight).
  • Place a thick towel on the bottom of kitchen sink and fill with warm water, add mild liquid dishwashing detergent. Push tap aside so that there is no chance of bumping it against a dish. Remove all jewelry on your hands to prevent damage to the china.
  • Wash one item at a time. Clean with a sponge or cloth only, do not use anything abrasive.
  • For tough spots, drizzle a bit of the liquid dish detergent on the sponge and scrub gently. You can also try a little bit of baking soda on the sponge.

Soap: Use Ivory or Dawn or a similar *mild* liquid dishwashing detergent.

Use Bleach? No because it can cause irreparable damage to the glaze.

Can you wash fine china in the dishwasher? Generally no, the heat is too high and the detergents too abrasive. If the china was manufactured within the past 30 years or so, and is specifically stated to be dishwasher safe by the manufacturer, it’s alright to use the dishwasher.

Drying: Air dry then give a finishing rub down with soft, clean towels. You could also towel dry, make sure the towels are soft and clean.

Storing: Place cloth napkins, paper towels or doilies between each stacked dish to prevent scratching or damage. Do not stack or hang teacups. If china is used less than once a year, do an annual washing and cleaning to help preserve the glaze and paint.

Help! Fine China Cracks When Pouring Tea

Sharon emailed me with this question and I have a couple tips for this problem, but if you know of any more–please share them!

And PS: Do you put milk in first before pouring tea or do you do so last? I had no idea there was such a debate about it!

I have an extremely sentimental set of bone china.

Recently, I made my self a hot cup of tea. The cup “cracked” loudly and split in half.

Is there a way to enjoy my beautiful china without having the cups break when pouring hot liquids?

I am heartbroken. My Mother gave me this set and she is gone now.

Thank you,

Sharon gave me permission to publish her question on Tipnut, thanks Sharon!

Here’s some info I have:

  • Pouring milk or cream into the teacup first helps moderate the heat of the tea as it’s being poured into the teacup. This is what I grew up with and I also prefer the taste of the milk being “scalded”–but–there’s some dispute how “proper” this is (see notes below).
  • If you’re a tea drinker who doesn’t enjoy milk or cream with your cuppa, another method is to put your teaspoon into the cup and then pour the hot tea over the spoon–this helps moderate the heat as well.

I decided to do a little investigating and found a page on Canada’s Globe and Mail website (page is no longer active), quite a debate going! A few quotes:

I have found in my research that the milk went in first to save the fine china from cracking with the heat of the tea alone. Pouring the hot tea on a spoon in the cup should accomplish this too.

And another note:

Growing up in England, I was taught to put the milk into the teacup before the tea. This was so that the fine bone china would not be cracked or stained by the hot tea. Since English homes were kept cooler in the past, the cups were likely to be cool too. If you didn’t put the milk in first, you were supposed to stand a silver spoon in the cup while you were pouring the tea to diffuse the heat. Today the houses are warmer, as are the cups, and it makes more sense to put the milk in after the tea so that you get just the right balance of tea and milk. Even the queen does it this way today.

And one more quote:

There are often two reasons given for putting the milk in first. One is that if a smaller quantity of milk is poured into the much larger and much hotter volume of tea, it will be scalded, or “cooked,” and this will affect the taste. However, I have never been able to see such a difference myself. The second reason given is that fine china can be cracked if very hot liquid is poured into it. The cold milk at the bottom will moderate the thermal shock. As we tend to drink tea in mugs, a la George Orwell, this is not a consideration!

When using regular every-day teacups, pouring milk in first or last is by personal preference since the pottery or glass will probably not be so delicate and hold up just fine, but if you’re trying to protect your pieces of old fine china, I think milk should definitely be poured first.

Any thoughts or more tips? The temptation may be to pack away the china and admire the pieces from afar, but when they’re sentimental (like in Sharon’s case), it really would be nice to actually use them and enjoy the memories that they bring.

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    • Bernardo Juan Ocampo

    I’d like to know if anyone would be so kind as to tell me if there is a way in which I can clean the stains which are produced in cream coloured China like Alfred Meakin, J&G Meakin,Johnson Bros.,Woods Ivory; Greandley;etc.(BUTTER colour) These are the stains wich came along with time, dust, humidity or even because of lack of regular use.
    Loooking forward to a reply,

    • TipNut

    Hi Bernardo, I don’t have any tips specific to your type of china, just the info I have listed above for china pieces in general.


    Is it suitable to store fine china wrapped in thick wraping paper. The kind that children used to draw on easils.I don’t intend to use it except once a year and wondered would any type of chemical or acids leach out of the paper and fade or discolor my black marble and gold china ?

    • TipNut

    hmmm, Brian I would go to a store that sells china pieces like that and ask them, bring a sample of the paper and one of the dishes with you. I can’t say for sure, sorry.

    • Martha

    I am getting married, and have inherited old china Limoges dishes from my grandmother. Some of them have chips. As I am from the new and lazy generation, I have a few questions:

    1) What is this “grinding” that can be done to repair chips, and how would I go about finding a store that would do it? ( I live in Montreal, Canada)

    2) Is there some form of sealent/protection that can be put on the dishes (professionally or DIY) to make them dishwasher safe?

    3) If you use less hot water in the dishwasher, put it on a “gentle” cycle, and use a gentle, natural soap such as the Melaleuca oil based soap, can you wash old china in the dishwasher?

      • brian

      one of the pleasues of having good china is that some of us took the time to care for thhm properly, and they look brand new, I know many prefer that they look used, but that’s a different breed altogether (LOL). If you have nice and pricey china or anythng else, take the time to care for them. Forget the dishwasher. Rinse off the china and let air dry if you are too tired or lazy to wash them properly, then in the morning, do the proper rinse and hand the towel in the bottom of the sink and arap a cloth over the faucet to avoid hitting any of the pieces. Use very mild temp of the water and only the barest amount of dishwashing liquid, avoid allowing the detergent to directly touch the item in the sink at a time and after years of this you will discover that the only question you have to ask is the one concerning how much money you can expect to make form wishing to sell your perfect conditon china collection.

    • Sarah @ Mum In Bloom

    What can I do with gold-plated china that’s already ruined? My mother-in-law gave me a beautiful set that used to be hers that she ruined many pieces on in the dishwasher. I’m going to try some of the tips above but I fear they are ruined forever. Any advise on what to do with them? Sell them? Recycle them? Cash them in for gold?

      • brian

      there is very little recoverable gold in china, even the highest quality. Many museum pieces can be both reglazed and re fired with the gold, but if they are simply family collection…. once ruined- once sold. many craft people wish to use unusual china to make new art items, this may be your best option.

    • Via Negativa

    They make good dishes for feeding my cats. Cats prefer shallow rimmed dishes and they aren’t good for much of anything else,now. The cats could care less how they look, they are just happy their whiskers don’t get bent backwards when they are eating.

    • MELINA

    Via, some folks are always looking for china etc. to make mosaics. I’ve seen adds for these and you could place an add at Kjiji or Craigslist that you have
    broken dishes available. Some will even give you cash for it.
    Sorry, should have been addressed to Sarah not Via.

    • Dave

    I have a beautiful bone china set (Bavaria) made in Germany circa 1940. It has 1 cm wide bands of gold paint that are tarnished and crackled.

    1. Do you know if the crackle is meant to be there as part of the artistic effect, or is it a result of age?

    2. If its age related, should I try to correct it by a cleaning method or is it best left alone?

    3. If it should be corrected, what would the best method be?

    • amin

    I have royal doulton tonkin dishes. they get small stain on back when I store them by foam or napkin between them.I tried all ways up to remove the stains but wasnt you have any idea how to remove them or why they appeared.thanks

    • Jonathan

    My mom recently found her China that her Grandmother gave her(my great-grandmother) and it appears to have yellowed over time. Is there a way to fix it?

    • Donna

    is it important to wash your china once a year if not being used?

    • Dave

    I have a set of Royal Doulton Morning Star dinnerware that is about 30 years old. It was originally made in England and I believe it has been discontinued. Should I be concerned about lead coming through cracks or chips? The chips and cracks are dark in colour.

    • Diana

    I’ve received my moms royal doultan old English Rose China which was Stored in a cabinet for 40 years and used only once/twice. Two pieces were shattered when I opened the cabinet and one piece fell apart when I lifted it out of the water. I know China needs water every now and then, how can I restore the remaining pieces and stop the breakage ?

    • Katherine Vidovic

    I recently had a rat problem in my garage. They got into the box with my China set and there is rat urine and feces on the dishes and cups :(. They are dishwasher safe, however I want to disinfect them first before bringing them inside to put in the dishwasher. I would like something stronger than just soap and water. Is a dilute bleach solution ok? What can I use to safely disinfect without damaging the design on the china? Thanks!

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