5 Easy Steps to Caring for Your Crystalware
I don’t save my crystalware for “special occasions”. Life’s too short. Even the most average mid-week meal can be elevated when served in a crystal dish. Also, the queen hasn’t really travelled in the past year, so you never know when she might pop in. In short, any occasion is an opportunity to bring out the crystal.
Saying that, crystalware – no matter what you paid for it – is special. Every piece is a minor treasure, and can last generations if you take care of it. To preserve them, make sure that you wash and store them properly. As much as I love dishwashers (read my ode to this magical invention here), there are some things that should really just be washed with good old soap and water; crystalware being one of those things. Here are my five steps to keeping your crystalware shining and new:
Prevention is better than cure: it’s best to rinse your glassware as soon as possible after your dinner party. The final clean can wait until morning, don’t stress. As much as I love heady red wine, it can stain your glasses and decanters if left overnight. A bit of lukewarm water does the trick, and if you add a few drops of lemon juice, you’re sure to keep them sparkling. If you need to scrape leftovers off crystal serving dishes, be sure to use rubber or silicone materials, not silverware, to avoid scratching your precious items. After rinsing a decanter, you can absorb the trapped humidity by placing a long, thin cloth or some absorbent paper inside and leaving it in place for a few hours.
Most breakage occurs during the cleaning process and not around the table. Before setting off to do the washing up, make sure your sink is clean. It’s best to do the glass or crystalware first, before you tackle the greasy stuff. Lay a towel or rubber mat in the sink before you fill it with water. This creates a cushion for the glasses and dishes, and will break the fall if they accidentally escape your grip.
Fill your sink with warm water. The temperature test is easy: if the water is too hot for you to put your hands in, it’s too hot for the glassware. Crystal should never be exposed to rapid changes in temperature, as this can crack. For the same reason, avoid freezing cold water too.
Add a small amount of detergent to the warm water; not too much, otherwise you might ‘flavour’ the glassware (ew). You can also add a splash of vinegar to the water to prevent hard water spots from appearing.
Wash only one item at a time to prevent them knocking against each other. Use a soft sponge and cradle the bowl of the glass in one hand when you wash it to protect the stem from breakage. To clean the inside of a glass, use a stemware brush with soft-foam bristles. Another easy trick to get to those hard-to-reach spots (think narrow flutes), you can use a chopstick covered with a soft cloth or dishtowel.
After you’ve washed an item, rinse it with clear warm water (not cold, to avoid that difference in temperature I mentioned above).
It’s best to dry your crystalware directly after washing – using a linen or lint-free cloth – to avoid limescale and water marks caused by letting them airdry. The weakest part of stemware is the spot where the bowl and the stem meet, so be very careful when drying around this area. Same as with the washing process, cradle the bowl in the palm of your one hand when you dry the inside of the glass.
Crystal is much more permeable than other types of glass and therefore more likely to absorb odours from its surroundings. It’s best to store your crystalware away from your spice rack and cleaning supplies in a safe, dust-free space, or inside it’s original packaging. Never stack your crystalware, as this easily chips it. And finally, don’t store crystal glasses upside-down in the cupboard – the rim of the glass is very delicate and can crack under the weight of the glass.
By following these five steps, your crystalware can last for generations to come, and will be in tip-top shape when the queen comes to visit.