How to Clean Pewter: From Jewellery to Antique Pieces

As a passionate collector of pewter pieces, I’ve always been captivated by the unique charm and timeless elegance of this soft metal. From the intricate designs of pewter jewelry to the rustic allure of antique pewter items, each piece tells a story of craftsmanship and history. However, I quickly realized that owning these beautiful pieces came with a responsibility – the need to maintain their luster and beauty. The question that haunted me was, “how to clean pewter?”

I remember the first time I tried to clean a piece of polished pewter. I was nervous, worried about damaging the delicate surface with harsh cleaning agents or abrasive tools. I fumbled through the process, using a soft cloth and mild dish soap, gently rubbing the surface in a futile attempt to restore its original shine. The result was far from satisfactory, and I knew I had a lot to learn.

The journey to mastering the art of cleaning and maintaining pewter wasn’t easy, but it was worth every moment. Today, I want to share with you the knowledge I’ve gained, the secrets I’ve discovered, and the techniques I’ve perfected. Whether you’re a fellow collector, a casual owner of pewter items, or someone considering a purchase, this guide is for you. Let’s embark on this journey together, and I promise you, by the end of this article, you’ll be well-equipped to care for your pewter pieces, ensuring they retain their beauty for years to come.

How to Clean Pewter

Understanding Pewter

Pewter is a fascinating material, a soft metal alloy primarily composed of tin, with small amounts of other metals like copper, antimony, or sometimes lead. Its history dates back to the Bronze Age, and it has been used for centuries to create a wide range of items, from household utensils to decorative pieces and jewelry.

There are different types of pewter, each with its unique characteristics and care requirements. The most common types you’ll encounter are polished pewter, satin pewter, and oxidized pewter.

Polished pewter is known for its shiny finish, similar to silver. It’s often used in jewelry, picture frames, and decorative items. Satin pewter, on the other hand, has a more matte, grainy finish, offering a more contemporary look. Oxidized pewter, also known as antique pewter, has a darker, aged appearance, adding a touch of vintage charm to any piece.

Understanding the type of pewter you have is the first step in knowing how to clean and care for it properly. Each type requires a slightly different approach to cleaning and polishing, which we’ll delve into in the following sections.

How to Clean Pewter

Cleaning pewter requires a gentle touch and the right materials. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean your pewter items based on the type of pewter.

  1. Cleaning Polished Pewter1.1. Fill a sink or a large bowl with hot water. Add a few drops of mild dish soap to create a soapy solution.1.2. Dip a soft cloth or sponge into the soapy water.1.3. Gently rub the surface of the pewter piece with the damp cloth or sponge. Be sure to clean all areas, paying special attention to any intricate designs or crevices.1.4. Rinse the piece thoroughly with warm water to remove all soap residues.1.5. Dry the piece with a clean, soft towel. Ensure it’s completely dry to prevent water spots.
  2. Cleaning Satin Pewter2.1. Prepare a warm soapy water solution as described above.2.2. Use a soft sponge to gently wash the surface of the satin pewter item.2.3. Rinse the item with warm water.2.4. For satin pewter, you can use fine steel wool to lightly buff the surface. Make sure to rub in the direction of the grain and not press too hard. This should be done sparingly, only once every couple of years, to avoid damaging the pewter.2.5. Dry the piece thoroughly with a soft towel.
  3. Cleaning Oxidized or Antique Pewter3.1. For antique or oxidized pewter, simply wash it with warm water and a few drops of mild soap.3.2. Use a soft cloth to gently rub the soap on the surface of the pewter.3.3. Rinse the piece with warm water.3.4. Dry the piece thoroughly with a soft towel.

Remember, the key to cleaning pewter is to be gentle. Pewter is a soft metal and can easily scratch or dent if handled roughly. Always use soft cloths or sponges and avoid abrasive cleaners. With these steps, your pewter pieces will maintain their beauty and charm.

DIY Pewter Cleaner

Cleaning pewter doesn’t require expensive commercial polish. You can create a homemade cleaner using simple ingredients found in your kitchen. Here’s how:

  1. In a bowl, combine half a cup of white vinegar and one tablespoon of baking soda. This mixture will fizz, which is normal.
  2. Once the fizzing subsides, add a tablespoon of mild dishwashing soap. Stir the mixture until it forms a paste.
  3. Apply the cleaning solution to the pewter gently using a soft cloth. Rub the paste onto the entire surface of the pewter in circular motions. This method is effective for cleaning both polished pewter and satin pewter.
  4. Let the paste sit on the pewter for about 30 minutes. This allows the baking soda to clean the pewter and the vinegar to remove any tarnish.
  5. Rinse the pewter thoroughly with warm water to remove all the paste and any soapy residue.
  6. Dry the pewter with a microfiber cloth to prevent water spots.

Remember to test this DIY cleaner on a small, inconspicuous area of your pewter piece first to ensure it doesn’t damage the finish.

How to Polish Pewter

After cleaning your pewter, you might want to polish it to restore its shine. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to polish your pewter:

  1. Prepare a polishing paste. For this, you’ll need boiled linseed oil and powdered limestone. You can find these at your local hardware store. Mix two parts of boiled linseed oil with one part of powdered limestone to form a paste.
  2. Apply the polishing paste to the pewter using a soft polishing cloth. Rub the paste into the pewter in a circular motion, following the direction of the grain.
  3. For satin finish pewter, use a lighter cleaning method. You can use fine grade emery paper to lightly buff the surface. Make sure to rub in the direction of the grain and not press too hard.
  4. Once you’ve applied the paste, let it sit on the pewter for a few minutes.
  5. Rinse the pewter thoroughly with warm water to remove all the paste.
  6. Dry the pewter with a microfiber cloth.

Remember, polished pewter should have a shiny silver polish finish, while polish satin pewter should have a matte finish. Always use gentle motions when cleaning and polishing pewter to maintain its beauty and integrity.

How to Clean Pewter Jewellery

Pewter jewellery, whether it’s silver pewter or polished pewter, requires special care to maintain its lustre and prevent damage. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean pewter jewellery:

  1. Prepare a cleaning solution by mixing warm water with a few drops of mild dish soap.
  2. Dip a soft cloth into the solution and wring it out until it’s just damp.
  3. Gently rub the jewellery with the damp cloth. Be sure to clean all areas, including any intricate designs or crevices.
  4. If your jewellery has stubborn tarnish, you can use a paste made from baking soda and water. Apply the paste with a soft cloth and gently rub it onto the jewellery.
  5. Rinse the jewellery thoroughly under warm water to remove all soap or baking soda residue.
  6. Dry the jewellery completely with a soft cloth. This is especially important for pewter jewellery as moisture can lead to tarnishing.

Caring for Pewter

Proper care for your pewter items, such as cleaning a clock, extends beyond polishing. Here are some additional tips to help you maintain your pewter:

  • Store your pewter items in a cool, dry place. Humidity and heat can cause pewter to tarnish over time.
  • Avoid using commercial pewter polish on your pewter items. These polishes can be too abrasive for the soft metal and may scratch or damage the surface.
  • For satin pewter items, avoid polishing them too often. Satin pewter is meant to have a matte finish, and excessive polishing can make it overly shiny.
  • Don’t put pewter items in the dishwasher. The heat and harsh detergents can damage the pewter.
  • Handle your pewter items with care. Pewter is a soft metal and can easily dent or scratch if dropped or handled roughly.

By following these cleaning and care tips, your pewter items, whether they’re polished pewter, satin pewter, or pewter jewellery, will retain their beauty and charm for years to come.

Conclusion

Cleaning and caring for pewter doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With the right knowledge and tools, you can easily maintain the beauty and lustre of your pewter items, whether they’re polished pewter, satin pewter, or pewter jewellery.

Remember, a simple solution of warm water and mild dish soap can effectively clean most pewter items. For stubborn tarnish, a paste of baking soda and water can help clean pewter without damaging its surface. Always remember to rinse thoroughly and dry your pewter items to prevent water spots and tarnishing.

Whether you’re polishing a piece of polished pewter to a high shine or maintaining the matte finish of satin pewter, always use gentle, non-abrasive materials and techniques. Pewter is a soft metal that requires a gentle touch.

With these tips and techniques, you can ensure your pewter items remain as beautiful and charming as the day you got them. Happy cleaning!

Wondering what to read next? Check out our guide on how to clean silver jewellery here: