Just purchased your first piece of pottery ware but have no idea how to properly maintain the intricate piece? Discovered that a favorite pot has sustained discoloration or chips and are looking for repair methods? Stumbled upon this article and realizing that there is more to pottery maintenance then just water and soap?
If any of the above questions relate to you, you are in the right place. Please read on for our brief but comprehensive guide on how to correctly handle pottery ware.
Care before first use
Pottery vs Porcelain: know the difference
There is a variety of pottery types based on the raw material of the vessel, shape, glaze, and treatment. To learn more, please visit the article below. For the purposes for explaining pottery care however, it is important to just know the difference between pottery and porcelain, which are both types of “pottery”.
Pottery, is made of a variety of coarse clay. Depending on the quality of clay it is also known as earthenware or stone way. It is generally more opaque, water-absorbent, weaker and rougher than porcelain; but these imperfections and more “down-to-earth” qualities are prized by the Japanese.
Porcelain is made from a mixture of kaolin(pure white porcelain clay), silica and feldspar which are finer and uniform particles. Compared to pottery, it is made at higher temperatures and fuses with the glaze which makes it thinner yet stronger, with a smoother non-permeable surface.
Because porcelain does not absorb liquids, there is generally no need to worry about water damage and subsequently odors and stains. For pottery ware, on the other hand, especially pieces created from coarser soil, it is recommended to perform “sealing” before use as a preventive measure against future water damage.
Sealing is simply a process of boiling the new pot in a starchy mixture in order to stopper the microscopic holes in the pottery. Certain types of glazing applied on some pottery pieces also prevent against water damage and thus do not require sealing. However, since it is difficult for the average owner to recognize the type of glaze, and there is generally no downside to sealing; we highly recommend owners perform sealing unless instructions explicitly state otherwise.
For small pottery pieces
- In a larger container big enough to submerge your pottery, prepare a mixture of either rice with water (yes, porridge) or wheat flour/potato starch with water. For the latter, use 1 to 2 spoonfuls. The resulting slurry should have a consistency similar to porridge. Heat up the mixture over fire.
- Place your pottery vessel into the container and allow the mixture to boil
- Once the mixture boils, turn off the heat and allow it to cool.
- When it is cooled completely, take out your vessel. Wash with water until it no longer is slimy to the touch.
- Wipe down completely with a clean tablecloth. Thereafter, allow the vessel to air dry thoroughly.
- Your pottery ware is now sealed!
For large pieces such as clay pots, it may be difficult to find a container to submerge your pottery. Instead, we seal only the interior of the pottery. The process is the same except the rice porridge or starch slurry will be made inside your pottery; when the mixture is cooled, wash the pot thoroughly, wipe down and allow your vessel to air dry.
＊Be careful not to stack dishes on top of each other when boiling, as the shock of boiling may cause them to break.
Care of pottery ware before and after each use
Proper usage of pottery
It may be tempting to use your pot freely like any other container, but pottery can be fragile (and more than just breaking easily). Follow these tips to ensure your vessel is kept pristine for as long as possible.
- Care when using in microwave ovens:
Porcelain and heat-resistant pottery can be used in the microwave oven, but for pottery, avoid warming when holding liquids. Also, regardless of type, if it has been treated with a metallic glaze, it cannot be used in the microwave oven.
- Care when using over fire
If you put a clay pot over a strong fire while it is wet, the sudden temperature change may cause cracks. There are pots that are meant for cooking over charcoal fires, and crack lines are completely normal for these vessels but if yours is a precious decorative piece, avoid using over fire.
- Avoid using for strong-smelling or dark-colored foods and liquids.
Smells and colors are easily transferable to your vessel and can be difficult to remove. Read on to find out how to remove these stains and odors, but prevent the problem in the first place by using other kitchenware for strong-smelling foods and liquids.
Washing before and after each use
For daily use, basic washing with water and dish detergent is sufficient. Use a soft sponge to avoid damaging the pottery ware. Follow these tips for special cleaning cases.
- Usage of dishwasher is not recommended
Avoid using the dishwasher for pottery vessels. Porcelain should be fine, but the rattling or high water pressure may still cause damage to the piece.
- Removal of stains and odors
If you encounter stains or odors that do not disappear after simple thorough washing, we recommend 3 different ways to remove them.
- Boiling. Simmer the pottery in hot water should help. We also recommend adding a bit of baking soda or lemon juice/vinegar, depending on the stain and smell, to the hot water.
- Salt. For tea or coffee stains, place salt on a wet sponge and polish away the stain on the pottery.
- Tableware bleach. For very tough stains or if there is mold, use bleach to sterilize your pottery. Add bleach to hot water and soak the vessel inside.
- Ensure your pottery ware is completely dry before storage
Due to the permeability of pottery, there may be still some water even when the piece seems roughly dry. In turn, this allows bacteria and mold to develop on your pottery ware. Sun drying is recommended for large pottery ware and always air your pottery for sometime even after wiping down thoroughly.
Repair of chipped pottery
Sometimes, cracks or chips will happen, especially with old pieces you have kept for a long time. If safety is a priority, it may be wiser not to continue using the pottery ware. However, in most cases, it is no problem to continue using the pot even with crack lines or some chips.
Smoothing of chips
It is possible to smoothen chipped pottery at home. Use cloth files of about 100 grit to polish down the chip. You may also apply certain instant adhesives to fill out chips.
For complete breakage or larger chips, we highly recommend kintsugi, which is a traditional Japanese method of repair by applying gold lacquer to rejoin broken pottery ware. The resultant piece may be even more beautiful as a result of the kintsugi repair. Please visit the following article to learn more about kintsugi.
Every piece of pottery is delicately crafted by masterful hands and if properly maintained, is a functional yet stylish work of art that will never go out of style. We hope that you have enjoyed reading this guide and have learnt some tips as to how to take good care of your pottery ware that will serve you and your family for generations to come.