How to Clean Pewter

Pewter is made mostly of tin and over time, may develop a dark patina. This dark patina is expected and even desired and removing it may detract from the value of your piece. Further, the proper way to clean your pewter may depend on the type of finish your pewter has. Generally, pewter will have a polished finish, a satin finish, or an antique (oxidized) finish. Following these simple methods will help keep your pewter in fine condition.

Cleaning Polished Pewter

Polished pewter is the most common type of pewter, and has a shiny finish.

What You Will Need:

  • Mild dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Sponge
  • Soft polishing cloth
  • Soft towel
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Vinegar
  • Boiled linseed oil
  • Rottenstone
  • Pewter polish

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Wash your pewter in warm water with a few drops of dish soap, rubbing gently with the sponge.
  2. Rinse with warm water and dry thoroughly.
  3. Make a paste of 1 tsp. salt, 1 cup vinegar and about a half-cup flour.
  4. Apply paste to pewter, and rub gently with a soft cloth using a circular motion.
  5. Leave paste on for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  6. Rinse thoroughly and dry with soft towel.
  7. To restore luster, make a paste of rottenstone (decomposed limestone, which is available in most home improvement and hardware stores) and linseed oil (for the smoothest most effective paste, boil the linseed oil first and make the paste when the oil is warm, but not hot).
  8. Apply the paste to the pewter and rub with a soft polishing cloth, using circular motions.
  9. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a soft towel.

Cleaning Satin Pewter

Satin Pewter has a rougher appearance, with a grainy finish. It’s not shiny like the polished pewter.

What You Will Need:

  • Mild dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Sponge
  • Soft towel
  • Very fine steel wool

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Wash your pewter in warm water with a few drops of dish soap, rubbing gently with the sponge.
  2. Rinse off suds with warm water and dry thoroughly.
  3. Buff the surface of the pewter VERY LIGHTLY with the steel wool. Make sure you rub in the direction of the grain and DO NOT press hard. This buffing should only be done every few years; doing it too often may damage your pewter finish.

Cleaning Oxidized Pewter

Oxidized pewter has a darker finish than satin or polished pewter. It generally has an antique look to it. Polishing is not necessary or recommended and a simple washing with warm water and a mild dish detergent should keep your oxidized pewter looking its best.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • NEVER wash your pewter in the dishwasher as the detergent and rough washing cycle will damage the finish.
  • NEVER use abrasive cleaners on your pewter as they will damage the finish.
  • There are some pewter products available which may be effective for cleaning and polishing your pewter. Just make sure the product is specifically designed for pewter, not for silver.
  • Pewter will not have the same shine as silver and silver-plated items; even polished pewter has a duller finish.
  • Avoid using pewter plates or bowls for acidic foods (such as citrus) as the acid in the food may damage the pewter.
  • For a quick cleaning of your pewter items, try using cabbage leaves—simply remove the leaves from the cabbage and rub over the pewter, as you would with a polishing cloth. This old-time method is said to leave the pewter looking absolutely great.

Comments

  1. Katrina says:

    I have some satin pewter plates that look like they probably went through the dishwasher and are very dull. I have tried a number of polishes with no luck. What do you recommend for extremely dull, new, pewter plates?
    Thank you!

  2. Mary says:

    I have a very large stained glass butterfly that was made with pewter beading instead of lead, and I don’t know how to clean it. Help?

  3. Sam says:

    Nonsense! The internet will eventually get to the bottom of lies and old wives’ tales.

    Right from the start, I see the person that posted this has never, ever tried this concoction. It was first apparent when they said to make a paste with 1 cup vinegar, a little salt and about 1/2 a cup of flour. That makes a “paste” about the consistency of orange juice. It should be obvious without even mixing and just reading the measurements. You must use around 2 cups of flour to 2 1/2 cups of flour to make it into a paste.

    I’ve seen this same concoction in these measurements all over the internet, each site perpetuating the same lie. One even tells you to use the same measurement to make a “thick” paste.

    So the next question is, does it work? It didn’t do a thing that I could tell. So I didn’t even attempt step two of the rotten-stone mixture.

    I’m pretty tough on these sites that simply copy and paste what other sites recommend, but I can tell you the biggest warning flag of any site like this is when they say, “use mild dish soap.” Just extra words to make it look like it’s very important not to use Harsh dish soap. In fact, where can you possibly go to find harsh dish soap or dish soap that isn’t mild?

    Wasted time, wasted vinegar and wasted flour.

  4. Will says:

    I’m keen to listen to any tips available, however when ideas are poo-poo’ed I do expect the cynic to end up producing a positive comment. In the absence of a constructive opinion, I regret that the negative criticism is not worthy of listening to either. So Sam, over to you for your perfect solution which we all await.

  5. John says:

    Sam,
    You said, “2 cups of flour to 2 1/2 cups of flour.” That’s even worse; no paste at all!

  6. Brian says:

    It really worked.

  7. Bari says:

    How do you reverse damage to pewter from the dishwasher?

  8. Graeme says:

    I have a small bowl with a lid, both with a beaten finish, branded Selangor Pewter 97%. Both parts have small marks similar to corrosion on aluminium and the lid has some darker spots of the same. Any suggestions?

  9. Jean says:

    I am 86 years old. I clean pewter with only one thing: a cabbage leaf. The pitcher always looks shiny and new after. If the leaf is fresh, it will be soft and a bit moist. Dampen an older dry leaf with a little water. Polish with a soft cloth.

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