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Clean and Bleach Your Antique Ceramics to Good Health! (Part 1)

Caring for antiques,how to clean antique,ceramic molds, bleach solution

The easiest way to destroy your valuable antique porcelain and pottery is to allow plenty of grime to collect on them! With the dirt reaching all nooks and crannies, the structural (appearance) as well as the chemical (internal composition) stability is bound to be disturbed. That is why regular cleaning is essential. Now, surface dirt can be removed by varied methods; if it does not work, we go in for bleaching.

In the conservation arena, bleach refers to Household Chlorine Bleach (Sodium Hypochlorite or NaoCl)) or Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). To put it briefly, these agents work this way—they get rid of color stains via the process of oxidation. Thus, the original color of the object is restored. While the “white” comes back, the foreign matter remains on the ceramic piece. That is why surface cleaning is attempted before going in for bleaching.

Now, since one process follows the other, it is advisable to use two sinks in the same area for both. One large sink serves as the “wash area”, while the other one is meant to hold the plastic containers for soaking or bleaching the items. There should be a drainage system in place to get rid of excess water. Ceramics can fall due to mishandling. To cushion their falls, a removable rubber mat should be placed on the bottom of each sink.

Okay, now that everything is ready, let’s get to work! It is advisable to don an apron to prevent any liquid falling onto your clothes, as well as rubber gloves for protection of the hands. To remove loose dirt and dust from the surface of a completely dry object, fine brushes or airbrushes can be used. Even photographic cans of air come in useful.

The next step involves preparing a mixture of sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium hexa-meta-phosphate. These are detergents that can get rid of grease and dirt. Now, combine them with warm water. In case you already have the solution prepared beforehand, store it in a squeeze bottle. The bottle has to be shaken well before every use.

Clean the object with this solution. Gentle rubbing after application of the detergent solution is possible with the aid of sponges or old toothbrushes or brushes. Where bisque objects are concerned, they tend to have Matte finishes. Use your hands or a soft sponge to clean the surface.

Done? Check the surface area? Does it still appear dirty? Well, let us go in for a liquid oven cleaner such as sodium hydroxide then. Apply it, and scrub with a soft toothbrush or a soft brush. Now, rinse the ceramic piece thoroughly. Let it soak in water for 24 hours—you would like all the remaining traces of the oven cleaner as well as grime to be removed. Of course, it helps to keep changing the water several times; this will ensure that what has been discarded does not get attached to the item again.


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