I collect pottery and stoneware dishes, and one thing they all have in common is a tendency to be marked up by silverware. You’ve probably noticed the marks. They are thin gray lines that resemble spider webs. These marks are usually found in bowls, dinner plates, and tea cups.
These lines are caused from the metal in the silverware as it is dragged across the surface of your dishes. Sometimes this can happen in the dish washer, as the utensils rub against the plates. Most commonly though, it is caused by the action of the silverware against the plate as we eat our meals.
These burnish marks can be removed in one of several ways.
For faint marks, a mixture of baking soda and water will usually do the job. Form the baking soda into a paste, then apply to the marks. Using a damp wash cloth, gently rub the marks in a circular motion. This will take a bit of elbow grease, but eventually the marks should disappear. Don’t bear down so hard that you will break the plate!
If the burnish marks are heavier, it will take a little more abrasion to remove these marks. Instead of using a wash cloth, switch to a extra fine steel wool pad (OOOO grade). Again, gently scrub in a circular motion until the marks begin to disappear. This won’t remove all the the marks, but will lighten them. Once the marks have lightened, rinse the plate and prepare a new batch of baking soda paste. Apply with a dampened wash cloth as before.
I do not recommend using steel wool on porcelain china nor your vintage dishes, such as Fiestaware or Franciscan.
So what if the baking soda paste doesn’t work?
Occasionally I’ll buy thrift store dishes that have been so heavily marked up by silverware, they appear to be a dingy grey in the center. For these, I use a cleanser designed for cleaning pottery and stoneware dishes. It is made by the Pfaltzgraff company and seems to be the only product on the market especially for removing silverware marks. It is called “Stoneware and Porcelain Cleaner.” This cleanser is corrosive and made of a combination of phosphoric acid, ferric chloride and silica. It can be used on most everyday dishes as well as your collectible pottery dishes, but is not safe for fine china.
While wearing gloves, apply the cleaner directly to the stain. Use a paper towel to spread the cleaner evenly, then let set . After 15 minutes has passed, gently rub the plate surface with a damp paper towel to remove the marks. Once the marks have disappeared, wipe the chemical off with another paper towel. The plate is then washed and rinsed to remove remaining traces of the solution.
The stoneware and porcelain cleaner should be used with caution and always as a last resort when baking soda won’t work.
The best solution to keeping your plates clean is to prevent the marks from building up in the first place. Remove burnish marks with baking soda as soon as they happen. Also, keep utensils from hitting your dishes while being washed. You might even consider purchasing a second set of silverware that is less prone to causing burnish marks. For more information about Pflatzgraff’s stoneware and porcelain cleaner, visit the Pfaltzgraff website at www.pfaltzgraff.com.