I often show off my ironstone collection and when I do, I almost always receive questions about how to remove stains. I’ve never actually whitened my ironstone, because I love when a piece shows its age. I understand that some people want their ironstone bright white or might want to remove a stain if it is unsightly. So, I got some advice from Kim of Truffle Pig Treasures (she’s an avid ironstone collector) as well as tips from the WICA (White Ironstone China Association…my kind of people!)
This advice from the WICA seems like the safest, easiest way…
“The only relatively safe chemical that we know of to clean white ironstone china is hydrogen peroxide, and it is used frequently. Its chemical formula (H2O2) is very similar to water (H2O), but it has an extra oxygen atom. This gives hydrogen peroxide the ability to oxidize organic and inorganic materials, producing water as a reaction byproduct. This makes it useful as an agent to both whiten the stain and make the stain easier to be flushed from the china.
If you want to try cleaning a piece with hydrogen peroxide, buy the regular 3% hydrogen peroxide in the grocery or drug store. Buy enough to cover your piece as you soak it. Put the peroxide in a tightly lidded plastic container. After several days, take the piece out and put it in strong sunlight, so the hydrogen peroxide vaporizes from the heat. You can also try to bake the piece in an electric oven, at the lowest possible temperature, not to exceed 200 degrees. Using a gas oven could cause a fire or an explosion when the hydrogen peroxide is heated. Heating in an electric oven is safe to you, but your dishes could very well break. Heating in sunlight takes longer, but is safer for the dishes. You can repeat this process until the piece is clean.
WARNING!! Using a stronger solution of peroxide is extremely dangerous. It can burn the skin off your hands and cause permanent damage to mucous membranes, and unless you know chemistry very well you could have an explosion. Leave the work with stronger hydrogen peroxide to the professionals.
After you have cleaned your white ironstone piece, wash it thoroughly, as any cleaning chemicals that remain can migrate into your food.”
Kim uses peroxide solution used by hair stylists, but that’s not as readily available as 3% hydrogen peroxide. It might be better to use for darker stains, though. Just make sure you follow all of the directions and use common sense when working with these chemicals.
I have a gas stove, so I would definitely use the sunlight method (and I’m just skittish about fire anyway.) Let’s face it, it’s not worth blowing up your kitchen to remove a stain from a piece of ironstone.
I hope you agree.
Lastly, don’t ever use bleach to clean ironstone. Bleach will destroy the piece.
Check out Ironstone 101 for more information about what ironstone is and how to spot it.