If you have or purchase a fine bone china service for your table, and hope to hand it down to future generations, the following represents the best approach to its care:
Even if it says you can, do not wash your china
in a dishwasher; unless it is plain white, any pattern will gradually be eroded and across time, worn
Instead, hand wash in warm water, with mild detergent, and rinse in cool clean water (with half a cup of white vinegar added). Do not scrub the china to clean it, any hard soiling of food should be left to soak and then cleaned off with a cloth or sponge.
Ensure you have plastic matting to guard the bottom of the sink (or line it with a towel or cloth) to help prevent damage. InterDesign do a range with curling corners for a better universal fit and in different colors (we like the black color the best).
Leave to air dry on a plastic of wooden drainer (not metal) or on towels, or use a lint free cloth to dry your china (preferable) - dish drying towels by Fecido are superb and worth the price.
Always ensure each piece of china is thoroughly dry before storing.
To remove stains, mix an ounce of baking
soda per pint of hot water and fill the cup/pot with the mixture, leaving to
soak for an hour or two.
If this is unsuccessful, mix together small amounts of salt and a mild acidic liquid (white vinegar or lemon juice) in equal parts, and gently rub the stain with this solution.
If you are a proud owner of a fine bone china table service, you’ll possibly want to display it to full effect. If this is the case then ensure you have enough space and use cabinets with glass doors, to show it off while reducing the amount of dust collected!
If at all possible position the cabinet(s) away from direct sunlight, as this is a major cause of large fluctuations in temperature, causing the china to expand and contract. This will cause the outer glazing to crack (called “crazing”), and leads to fractures in the china itself.
A similar situation can occur if the cabinet(s) has internal electric display lights, the temperature changes can cause crazing, but the lighting also causes the air to dry out - leading to crazing also. Therefore use the lowest heat producing lights wherever possible (LED seems to be the best overall choice).
It is a good idea to keep humidifiers in the cabinet(s) to help maintain a moist atmosphere. Humidifiers used in cigar humidors are ideal: For a little under $200 Cigars International Electronic Humidifiers are an excellent but high budget choice; Alternatively use crystal gel jars with humidifier solution (which need to be topped up with the solution every two months. For those on a much lower budget simply keep small open containers of water (tucked out of sight) in the cabinet but these will need to be topped up with water every week (twice a week in hot climates).
This should ideally be lined with a non-slip, non-adhesive grip surface (top and bottom) that offers cushioning and breathability. The best we know of is by a company called Duck who have a range of colors, patterns, sizes, plus it is easy to cut to shape and is machine washable.
4. Positioning of China
Large items should ideally be displayed on the upper and bottom most shelves, making it easy to get to (and view) smaller pieces on the middle shelves (reducing the possibility of damage). Keep at least 1 inch gap between the front of the shelf and the china items as china can “travel” due to vibration.
Rotate the pieces periodically so that no one piece is exposed to same amount of light and temperature, all the time. Every 3 months remove all the china (this is the ideal time to “rotate” it) to clean it from dust; this is best achieved by washing each piece as dusting can cause small scratches on the surface.
Plates and bowls should be stacked no more then 6 – 8 high, one on top of each other, with a paper towel or serviette (paper napkin) in between each one - better still, use the shelf lining material mentioned above, cut to the exact size. One of them should be displayed in front of this stack on a clear plastic or (better still) wooden stand (never use metal or spring-loaded stands as these cause damage).
Cups should not be stacked (thus preventing chips and the weakening of handles) but placed rim downwards onto the shelf, in a single layer. This also prevents dust from collecting internally.
The same principles apply for storing your china when not displaying, as when you are displaying it. The only key differences are:
You do not need to use display stands.
All items with lids can be supported with tissue paper (or shelf lining material) to prevent chips.
Do not store in places where there are extremes of temperature e.g. attic, basement, garage etc.
Store in a cupboard or in hard containers (not cardboard boxes), wrapped in soft material e.g. bubble wrap, tissue paper etc. There are ready made kits to improve on this and, considering the cost of the china, are a very small price for the better storage option.
Fine surface cracks or "crazing" will appear on the china across time. A simple trick
to help remove them is to place each affected piece in a pot of warm milk (away from the heat source); leave for 30 minutes and the surface cracks should disappear.