Just like many other items in a normal household, our crockery and cutlery eventually succumb to everyday wear and tear, losing their brand-new sparkle and shine and – worst of all – often acquiring ugly stains. These marks and discolourations can become a serious embarrassment at special occasions, such as dinner parties, as well as a source of visual irritation in daily use. But fear not – a few simple cleaning procedures and precautions will not only have your cutlery and crockery sparkling again in no time but will also help to prevent further staining in the future.
Good Habits for the Kitchen
The way you handle and treat your used crockery and cutlery can play a large part in the prevention and removal of stains. Make sure you always rinse any soiled crockery or cutlery after use – never leave things congealing over night. If you are too tired to do the full washing-up, at least rinse everything quickly with water before stacking them, ready to be washed the following morning. If any of your cutlery or crockery have burnt particles sticking to them or large, obvious stains, soak them in a bowl of warm, soapy water – for at least 15 minutes – before washing them gently.
If you are using a dishwasher, take great care in selecting the detergent, to ensure that it has been specially formulated to protect fine tableware. Make sure that you read the instructions carefully and follow the recommended amounts for use.
Finally, be especially careful when using certain herbs and spices which are known to have powerful staining properties. Tumeric, for example, is a bright yellow spice which will leave an equally bright yellow stain on anything it comes into contact with – particularly white or light-coloured crockery. It can be tackled with baking soda (see below) but using care and precaution when handling will help greatly in reducing the chance of ugly stains.
Pantry Favourites for Stain Removal
Many of the common stains on crockery and cutlery can be removed using some simple everyday items from your pantry. For example, vinegar is a very effective natural stain remover. It can be used on limescale deposits that are a result of “hard water” and which can even affect the taste of certain crockery contents, such as coffee. Similarly, vinegar can be very effective on a variety of general stains as it cuts easily through grease and helps to “freshen up” crockery. Vinegar can also be used in the dishwasher as a natural rinse-aid, to remove odours and help glass sparkle. It’s one drawback is that it can leave a potent smell in its wake!
Lemon juice is another common pantry item that is an ideal natural stain remover and has an advantage over vinegar in that it does not leave a strong odour. Like vinegar, lemon juice has a mildly acidic action and works on a variety of stains. Even the rind of lemon segments after the juice has been squeezed out for cooking or flavouring purposes can be dropped into stained teacups which are then filled with boiling water and left to steep. The cups can then be washed as normal and a large part of the stained interior will come out whiter and brighter.
For some tougher stains, a paste made of water and baking soda can often work wonders. Dip a damp cloth in the paste and rub gently onto the stain before rinsing clean. For water marks on crockery, cutlery and glassware, vegetable oil can be rubbed gently onto the surface and then allowed to stand for 2 hours, followed by cleaning as usual.
The Deal with Dishwashers
While we may all love our dishwashers for the work and time they save us, they may not be so good for our crockery and cutlery. Unfortunately, frequent washing in dishwashers and especially their use as a storage cabinet for dirty crockery and cutlery – often cause our crockery to scratch and blur and our cutlery – particularly if it is stainless steel – to corrode and become discoloured.
First of all, always check the dishwasher’s recommendations for the type and amount of detergent to be used. Avoid dishwashing detergents that are strongly caustic. Silver cutlery should always be washed by hand, rather than placed in the dishwasher. Stainless steel cutlery – particularly knives – should be removed as soon as the cycle is finished and not left in the hot, humid atmosphere of the machine which encourages corrosion.
Items that are regularly washed in the dishwasher can acquire “detergent stains” which usually show themselves as rainbow-like stains on the surface. These can usually be easily removed by lemon juice.
The Secret for Stainless Steel Cutlery
One of the most common complaints for stainless steel cutlery is the “rainbow-stains” mentioned above. These can occur whether through hand-washing or frequent use of the dishwasher and are due to the detergent not being thoroughly rinsed off, leaving a residue which gradually hardens into an iridescent film. A mild stainless steel cleaner or some lemon juice will usually remove this type of stain easily.
Another common complaint is small dark holes or pits, especially on the knife blades. This is due to corrosion and the pits are actually tiny areas of rust. These pits are unfortunately irreversible and will grow in size if care is not taken. It is best to tackle this by not storing any cutlery in the dishwasher for long periods before washing and removing them immediately after finishing the wash cycle. Stainless steel cleaners may be useful in restoring or at least enhancing the appearance of your stained cutlery in these circumstances.