Cleaning Pewter

by Emily McBride
(last updated February 1, 2010)

Many people have pewter objects in their households. Pewter is an alloyed metal, which means that it is easy for it to tarnish and dull, or develop a patina (a dull spot). However, you can keep your pewter clean and shiny with some simple home remedies.

First, you need to make sure that you are caring for your pewter in ways that will help prevent it from needing as much cleaning later. This is especially applicable to pewter dishes or utensils. For example, if you are using your pewter with something that is acidic (e.g. lemon juice), you need to make sure to wash your pewter as soon as you can. If you do not, the acid will react with your pewter and cause patinas to develop from corrosion. However, do not put your pewter in the dishwasher. It can react badly to the detergent. It is better to just handwash your pewter with warm water and mild soap. It may be a good idea to avoid using your pewter with anything acidic in the first place, in case you will not be able to wash the pewter before it starts corroding.

You will not need to clean your pewter as thoroughly if you are not using it with acidic materials such as food or drink, but you will still need to polish and clean it occasionally. Use a soft cloth to dust your pewter (if you use anything too scratchy or abrasive, you could damage the pewter). For just small, dirty spots, you can get the cloth damp to gently get rid of those. Your pewter should also be polished occasionally. The type of polishing you do should depend on the type of finish your pewter has. Before you start, wash your pewter with water and gentle soap to get rid of any dust or other particles. Then, use a soft cloth to dry thoroughly.

  • Polished (shiny) finish: Use one cup of vinegar, a half cup of flour, and one teaspoon of salt to make a paste. Gently rub this paste in a circular motion with a soft cloth, and then let the paste sit for thirty minutes. Wash the paste off, and then use a soft cloth to dry the pewter thoroughly. To make it shiny, use a paste made of rottenstone and linseed oil, and rub it on with a soft cloth. Rinse and dry.
  • Satin (grainy) finish: Use steel wool to very gently and carefully buff in the direction of the grain. Do not do this frequently or you will damage your pewter.
  • Oxidized (antique-looking) finish: Do not polish or clean besides the normal washing with water and gentle soap.

Author Bio

Emily McBride

A senior majoring in English and editing at BYU, Emily hopes to enter the field of professional editing upon graduation. Emily has done humanitarian work in Africa and studied in London. She enjoys blogging, foreign films, and playing the piano. ...

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