#1. Care & Cleaning
I would love to begin this discussion with the most commonly asked questions regarding the care and cleaning of fine china and crystal. The same concept and technique applies to any porcelain and glass regardless of value.
The most important thing to remember is that you need consistency. Adjust the temperature of the water to warm. Warm enough to clean but not scalding hot, and keep it that way. Maintain the same temperature throughout the process. It is the extreme of temperatures, from ice cold to hot that causes damage to both glass and porcelain causing them to be shocked and thus crack. Bear in mind that if a glass has had ice in it, do not plunge it into hot water. Allow it to gradually change temperature from cold to warm.
Use a soft sponge and a mild detergent to clean all your fine pieces easily and safely. If there is gold decoration, remember that it is real gold and thus soft and easily abraded. So rub the gold gently and rinse. Do not scrub or use an abrasive.
After the glasses are washed, drain them on a towel and then you can dry them with a lint-free dishtowel (linen is best) or allow to air dry. Again, do not rub the gold too vigorously with the towel when drying.
And now a “secret” tip from experience—Once the dishwasher is empty, use the drying rack as your drain board. You can wash the goblets and allow them to air dry in the dishwasher where they will be safely ensconced until you are ready to wipe them and put them away.
During a dinner party I will easily and quickly wash the first course plates, put them in the dishwasher, close the door and they are out of sight. By the time I get to the rest of the dinner plates, these are practically dry and ready to get stacked and put away.
Don't be afraid to use your sterling silver flatware everyday...
Sterling silver and silver plated flatware becomes more beautiful with use. Its luminous sheen will mellow and warm with age. It will develop a patina that will bring out the detail and accents of your pattern, and will give your silver a precious antique look. If silver is used and washed frequently, it won't tarnish. The very best care that you can give your silver flatware is to use it every day.
Silver flatware may go in the dishwasher...
Except for your dinner knives, your silver flatware can go in the dishwasher. The knives should be hand-washed and dried. This will prevent water from getting into the space where the stainless blade is attached to the silver handle. If water seeps into this space, year after year, it will start to break down the composite material that is used to fill the handle. This results in the irritating rattle that you sometimes notice in hotel flatware.
#2. Stacking & Storing Porcelain
It is always a good idea to stack your plates with something between them. If you look closely at the bottom of a plate, you will see that the foot-rims are not always glazed and even if they are, over time they become rough from use. It is amazing to see how damaging that effect is on the plate below. Just the stacking and jostling of storing can be more damaging than years of use at the table. My advice is to always stack and store your plates with something. Many times you will see plates with foam or felt liners between them but my clients are always surprised to see how I stack the plates on display. It is neither fancy nor expensive. Simple paper plates do the trick. Throw away the foam, as it breaks down, gets wet and eventually makes a mess. Keep the Tiffany felt liners for posterity but just pick up plain paper plates and use them religiously. If they get wet or dirty, throw them away and start fresh. The ridged edge raises the plates up just enough and does not take up much valuable space.
When you are stacking porcelain, make every effort not to “over-stack”; ie do not make tall piles of china. I try to avoid going any higher than a set of 12 dinner plates, though you can stack desserts and salads 24 high as they weigh considerably less. The weight of many dinner plates could easily result in a cracked plate at the bottom. If possible find a wire shelf to use as a divider between the stacks to reduce the weight.
Stay posted....more to come....