Saturday, July 13, 2013


Last fall I picked up a few new/old pieces of pottery on etsy to grow
winter bulbs in.  One of the McCoy planters turned out to be too shallow
for bulbs so it sat on my kitchen shelf until I needed a small dish to strip paint
off a few small pieces of hardware that I wanted to put back on the bathroom door.

So I mixed up a little Arm & Hammer washing soda in a few cups of water
and submerged the hardware in the liquid.   I put the dish on an old
cookie sheet and set in the oven just to make sure it was inaccessible
to the cats and came back a few days later.

I found this:

The washing soda, which is sodium carbonite, apparently leached through
fine crazing in the glaze--which I can't even see--and crystalized on the outside
of the dish.  Doesn't it look like coral?

So if a solution can seep through a glazed container, it's understandable how
easily old china pieces can become stained by food and tea.

When I was at Andrew Spindler Antiques in Essex last month, I 
was drawn to a bowl of primitive clothes pins.  They were really
old, handmade, time and use-worn clothes pins...but I was more interested
in the scallop-edged bowl they were sitting in.  

So Andrew dumped out the clothes pins, washed up the bowl and 
wrapped it up in bubble wrap and packed it up...

...with the 1964 Peony Folly Cove print pillow.

(I love that pillow.  It's amazing how a
50-year-old design can still look so current.)

Anyway, the bowl had a brown stain at the bottom so  I thought I'd try
something I recently saw Meg from Pigtown Design use on some stained
china:  letting a solution of Oxiclean go to wok on the stain under the glaze. 

I mixed up one scoopful with about a cup of hot water
and let the solution sit in the bowl all day.  About 12 hours.

And, voila.  Perfect!  

The solution seeped through the glaze and bleached
the porcelain underneath.  Thanks, Meg!


  1. Wow--that does look like coral--beautiful (and interesting). Can you display it/use it in its new form?

    The pillow is gorgeous and doesn't look dated at all. Patterns from the 60's and 70's are usually so obvious---maybe this is old enough that its new again? Ot the designer was way ahead of their time...

    Thanks to you and Meg for the Oxyclean tip!

  2. What a fascinating result from your inadvertent science experiment! Was the bowl salvageable?
    The Oxiclean did a great job on the other one. I've always used a solution of chlorine bleach and water to remove tea and coffee stains from my porcelain and pottery. (It works great on stainless flatware, too.) It only takes a few minutes - you can watch the stain fade and disappear. Then I just rinse it til there's no bleach smell left. Now I wonder if there's some reason I shouldn't be doing that?

    1. Apparently, there's something about the chemical make-up of the chlorine bleach that gets under the glaze and crystallizes and can crack the glaze even more or leach into the food.

      Because Oxy is hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, it's less harmful to pieces.

  3. That "coral" was so cool! I've used Oxiclean with great results. I will say though, that I had one piece of white ironstone that went from brown to white after soaking, but about a week later reverted back to being pretty brown. Isn't that weird?!

  4. I have cabinet upon cabinet full of antique china that needs that but, like organizing all of my photos, I think I'll get to it another day.

  5. Your faux coral is so cool. I'm assuming it will crumble - wouldn't it be great if it was hard? Congrats on getting the stain off the other bowl.

  6. Fabulous tip. I love picking pieces at estate sales and antique shops. I've already pinned it!

  7. That oxy is amazing isn't it? I have had great success on old linens and white shirts...but who would have thought that it would work on porcelain!

  8. That's all just crazy! if only you could save that "coral." I find the whole cracked glaze thing a bit scary -- if things can get under the glaze, what can get through it and into you when you use it (okay, not you right now, but the countless people in a piece's long history). Anyway, love that scalloped bowl.

  9. Ditto to what Carol said.
    Invisible cooties?
    Then again, maybe you aren't going to eat out of it.
    I've used bleach sometimes
    and other times baking soda,vinegar and a few drops of dish soap
    (I love how it foams up!)
    Now I will try Oxyiclean!
    Thanks for the tip.

  10. Wow, I can't believe what happened to that dish! Great tip on cleaning old food stains too!

  11. another one to try is hydrogen peroxide.
    It really does a fabulous job getting out old stains.
    My sister in law makes pottery and says to get rid of older pieces because of the "invisible" cracks in the glaze that allow buggy stuff to get in there. Yukk.
    Love the bowl and the faux coral!! xo marlis

  12. Steve it DOES look like coral and wow Meg's method does work perfectly!

    2013 Artists Series

  13. I've been dying to try the oxy trick on some of my stained lavender transferware (which would look fabulous against an antique Danish counter by the way) ever since I read it too. Thanks for being the guinea pig!
    :-) J

  14. That coral look is so symmetrical and I love the spontaneous reaction. Mimics nature and is a beautiful thing!
    Xo Nancy

  15. Great advice! I will try that on some old china I have. And this science teacher appreciates your fab and unexpected science experiment!

  16. Steve, we always learn something from your posts... this one in particular. Thanks for all the great info.

  17. scienceboy. Good find! I recently used oxyclean on a really burned (charred) le creuset enameled cast iron pan. Nothing else worked! It did.

  18. Careful, Bill Nye the Science Guy will be contacting you to be on his show! Cool post!

    1. Ah, the joys of chemistry! :)

      Thanks for the tip and must catch up on some reading here...!

      xo Terri

  19. Better living through chemistry. I love that coral effect, it's beautiful. I'm now off to buy some oxy clean.

  20. Thanks for the shout-out! One of the things about Oxyclean is that it s basically hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, along with something that makes it granular. There are a lot of recipes for soaking in HP, and baking it in a low oven afterwards, but it must be done in an electric oven, which I don't have. So figuring out what Oxy is, I tried it and it worked like a charm.

  21. That was sweet they sent you that gorgeous bowl! Bloggers are so giving...thanks for the tip!

  22. Steve,
    I saw this on your instagram and it totally looks like coral. How it occurred exactly is so interesting. Love that pillow...saw that on your instagram too! I bought a few pieces of white pottery in Sarasota today after reading your post last evening and will be trying your oxyclean method. I just read Pigtown *Designs comment....I guess I had better do it fast while I still have en electric oven.

  23. I appreciate the tip, but am even more interested by the "coral" structure that appeared on your china. It would be fascinating to know if a similar reaction was happening in our seas.

  24. Great post. You are always so generous with your knowledge. I have an old platter that was my grandmothers. I will defiantly try is tip out. Awesome!

  25. Who knew about the coral like texture that appeared on your china. that is so fascinating.

  26. Wow...great tip, and must say I love the "coral" texture on the china!!

  27. I hope you are keeping the 'coral' - have a bell jar handy?

  28. Well holy smokes...I can't believe how much it looked like coral! Love the pillow.....have I met a pillow I didn't like yet?