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How to Clean Pewter?

The first rule on how to clean pewter is simple:

Do not ever put it in a dishwasher!

Why? The detergent used in the dishwasher may attack the pewter chemically. Handwashing with warm water and a mild detergent is good enough. If the pewterware has been in contact with acidic foods such as orange juice, you need to wash it right after use. Otherwise your precious item will get stained pretty quickly from the corrosive food. For that matter, it's not a good idea to put soft drinks like Coke into a pewter tankard or goblet. Coke is acidic with a pretty low pH of about 2.5-3.5.

Do you need to clean pewter items which are not used with food or drinks?

For items like figurines, you can dust it occasionally. Using a soft cloth would do. Don't use anything abrasive. Pewter is a soft alloy and can be scratched easily. You can also use a damp soft cloth if you need to remove some light stains. That's what I do most of the time and it's worked fine for me.

Depending on the type of finish, you will also have to clean pewter differently.

Polished pewter (the shiny and smooth type) can be cleaned using a paste made of flour (1/2 cup), vinegar (1 cup) and salt (1 teaspoon). You can do this at home. Just mix them up into a thick paste and rub it all over your pewter. Just like giving it a facial! Let it dry, then remove the dried paste. Give it a good rinse with warm soapy water and remember to dry afterwards with a clean, soft cloth. Do this every couple of years. A gleaming, clean pewter will certainly cheer up your eyes.

If the pewter needs some polishing to remove scratches, you'll have to look for some suitable polish. Find one which is lightly abrasive and follow the directions given. In general, do not rub too hard or you will cause even more damage to the surface. Some pewter manufacturers can recommend a suitable type or brand of polish to use, so you can check with them first. There are also many pewter cleaners available on the web, so do a search.

Here's an off-the-shelf pewter cleaner I use occasionally, but only for normal cleaning and not to remove scratches.

Hagerty Pewter CleanerHagerty Pewter Cleaner

Some people recommend using 'rotten stone' to polish pewter. This is usually weathered limestone mixed with silica. It is also known as 'tripoli' and is commonly used as a polishing abrasive for glossy finish. I have not used this before, but chances are that I might have already used it unknowingly. That's because it is sometimes used in the polishing waxes which you can find easily in the hardware store.

If your pewter has a satin finish (grainy and rougher, not shiny) you can clean it with warm water and soap like I explained earlier. It doesn't need much care, but you may want to brush it every few years with fine steel wool to return it to its original look.

Oxidized pewter has a darker and antique look. Older pewter containing lead will have such an appearance. You won't want to do any polishing on it. Just washing it with water and mild detergent would do. Polishing will actually remove the dark oxidized layer (called 'patina') which protects the layers underneath. Besides, the antique look is highly desirable, so why remove it?

An ancient way to polish pewter is a cool one. Just get some cabbage leaves and dampen them in vinegar. Then dip the leaves in salt and use them to scrub your pewter clean. Rinse with water and a gentle soap after that, followed by drying with a soft cloth.

Have I tried it? Not yet. Why don't you try it out first??

By the way, you can find out how I cleaned an old and dirty pewter teapot. No special tricks used...

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