How to Clean Antique China


Antique china is an heirloom that increases greatly in value with each generation it’s passed on to. China is made to last, and with proper care it can remain beautiful for generations. Take care of your family heirloom antique china by following these steps.

How to Clean Antique China by Hand

Whether you’re preparing for china for use or for storage, cleaning by hand is the safest and the only recommended method. Avoid using citrus scented or bleach infused detergents on china. The acid will harm the finish of the china.

What You Will Need:

  • Sink
  • Thick towel or rubber mat
  • Warm water
  • Mild detergent
  • Wash cloth
  • Microfiber cloths

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Begin by placing a towel or mat in the bottom of the sink to protect the dish in case of a fall.
  2. Fill the sink partially full with warm (not hot) water. Add a small amount of dish detergent and mix until suds begin to form.
  3. Use the washcloth to gently wash the dishes. Avoid using any scrubbers or abrasives as it can damage the surface, and thus damage your piece.
  4. Allow the china to air dry or hand dry it using microfiber cloths.

How to Clean Antique China in the Dishwasher

This method is not recommended due to the harsh conditions and high probability of cracking, chipping, or weakening of the finish. However, if you do use a dishwasher, follow these steps to lessen the chance of damage to the dishes.

What You Will Need:

  • Plain dishwasher detergent (avoid bleach or citrus formulas)

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Load the dishwasher carefully, leaving plenty of spaces between dishes so that they do not touch or will not bump one another during the wash cycle.
  2. Run the dishwasher on GENTLE cycle. If you do not have a gentle cycle, you will want to use the shortest and lowest heat cycle available.
  3. Allow the china to air dry. Do not use the heat dry cycle on the dishwasher as it can cause cracks and damage the decorative features that make the china so beautiful.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • It’s always better to clean china by hand. Dishwasher prongs and harsh detergents may damage the surface. Heat from the drying cycle may crack china or loosen the trim.
  • Do not leave antique china in an environment that is not temperature or moisture controlled for long periods of time.
  • Do not use steel wool or abrasive pads or cleaners.
  • If you store china in stacks, place a sheet of paper towel between each piece to help prevent chips or breakage caused by friction between the pieces.
  • To clean a silver rim, use silver cleaner and rub lightly so you do not remove the finish. Wash thoroughly before using. Wear rubber gloves and work carefully when cleaning with a silver cleaner. Silver cleaner contains harsh chemicals and should not be ingested or allowed to set on the skin as it can cause great damage.


  1. Roxanne says:

    What about cleaning yellow sticky tape marks off an unused 30-year-old china teapot?

  2. Suz says:

    Thank you for the helpful tips. I have been noticing that on my mother’s china there is a crackling effect, which I believe to be in the glaze. I am hoping you can tell what is the cause and what I can do to prevent it from happening.

    Thank you,

  3. Melanie says:

    The crackling effect is known as “crazing.” Unfortunately, crazing can not be fixed.
    Source: – How to Clean China with a Crackled Brown Appearance

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