Sunday, September 11, 2011

Removing Dinnerware Utensil Marks

Increasingly, I find contemporary dinnerware patterns covered in pencil -like marks making the dishes look dull and unattractive. Names like Pfaltzgraff, Johnson Brothers, Dansk, and Nikko along with the Gibson, HD Designs that are Big-Box Mart (BBM) brands are affected. I would expect the BBM brands to be less durable, but the others surprised me. I did a little research on flatware, dishwashers, and glazes wondering if one of these was the culprit, but I was not able to find a definitive reason for the phenomenon. Some folks blame the stainless flatware, others the unglazed stoneware. I tend to think it is the stoneware. Growing up, we used Royal China USA Currier and Ives and we were none to gentle with it. We stuffed it in the dishwasher, scrapped the forks and knives over the plates, and stirred the heck out the cups. We broke them and we scored them with knives, but I do not remember gray marks.

Sample before cleaning

Regardless of how they are getting there, they gotta go! I found a few methods you can try. Please use caution on all your dinnerware. Do a test sample on the back of a plate, a badly chipped or broken piece to avoid any damage. Never use anything abrasive on fine china, hand painted decals or patterns that are not under gaze. Please be careful with your Fiesta and Franciscan dinnerware as well. Always Test, Test, Test! When in doubt, check the manufacture’s website, if possible.

One common ingredient to all the solutions is elbow-grease so be prepared to do a little work. Always rub in a circular motion and thoroughly wash all the product from the dinnerware before using them again.

Pencil Eraser: This may remove some light marks that have not scored into the surface. Surprising it does work, but you have to rub really hard.

Baking Soda: A mild abrasive and useful to remove light marks. Make a medium paste with water and the baking soda. I like to apply it, stack up the dishes and let them sit for 5 – 10 minutes. Then I use a damp cloth and apply the elbow grease. You may have to rub hard, just don’t break the plate.

Abrasive Cleansers: A grittier abrasive and will remove darker marks and lighten those where scoring has occurred. The two brands that I like are Bon-Ami and Bar Keeper’s Friend. I find both of these at my local supermarket with the household cleansers. Again, make a paste, apply, wait and rub. Clean of the grit before using the plates.

Steel Wool (0000 grade): For very heavy marks you may need to use a super fine steel wool pad. Scrub in a circular motion until the marks begin to lighten. Then switch to either the baking soda or cleanser method. Do not use steel wool on fine china. Do a test sample on the back of a plate. This method is not recommended for Franciscan or Fiestaware. I have not tried this method, but if you dishes are so bad you are going to toss them, this may work. This grade of steal wool is recommend for cleaning windows without cleaner so it should be okay and not scratch.

Commercial Pottery Cleaners: There are two that I know of made to remove utensil marks but they are they are pricier than other methods.

Revere Ware Stainless Steel Cleaner is said will remove even the nastiest metal marking from china or porcelain without etching or abrading the surface. It is manufactured by Copper Clad Products, Inc. of Reading, PA and can be found in many grocery and discount stores. I have never used this product. 

Pfaltzgraff Stoneware and Porcelain Cleaner is available directly from Pfaltzgraff and designed for their stoneware but can be used on most everyday dishes and collectible pottery. It is not safe for fine china. This cleanser is corrosive and made of a combination of phosphoric acid, ferric chloride and silica, so you will need to use gloves. Follow the directions carefully.   I have used this product and I like the shine it brings back to the plates.  Be careful of patterns, colors and leaving it on the dishes too long.   

After cleaning with Bar Keeper's

Personally, I have found that Bar Keeper's Friend followed by a quick treatment of Pfaltzgraff Stoneware cleaner works the best for me.  The abrasive cleaner removes the marks the easiest and then the Pfaltzgraff cleaner adds a little shine to the plates, 

I hope you find these tips helpful to extend the life of your dinnerware and keep your tablesetting beautiful.  

Beware,  if unsure if a pattern can take the cleaning method safely without damage, use common sense and test on older or broken pieces or at least on the back of a plate first.   It is recommended that you do not let utensils rub on plates and dinnerware in the dishwasher and clean marks when you first notice them. Happy Cleaning!

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