Pewter is a malleable metal alloy that is used in everything from kitchen utensils to caskets. Because it doesn’t corrode or rust easily, the material remains popular among crafters and artisans. While pewter doesn’t tarnish like silver, the metal can begin to oxidize over time, resulting in a dull looking finish. When you know how to clean pewter properly and protect it from extreme temperatures, pewter pieces will keep their beauty for years.
Pewter is a low-maintenance material and has easy to clean requirements that make it the perfect material for picture frames, vases, jewelry, and sculptures. However, because pewter is such a soft metal, it is extremely susceptible to scratches and nicks.
If the pewter pieces are left unattended for too long, it can start to show holes. Cleaning your pewter pieces is essential for its overall care. Learn how to clean pewter with these easy cleaning tips and DIY pewter cleaning solutions.
Cleaning Pewter Pieces
Pewter is comprised mostly of tin, and after time may develop a dark patina. The method you use for cleaning your pewter items will depend on the kind of pewter you have. Generally, there are three kinds of pewter; antique pewter, which is oxidized, satin pewter, and polished pewter.
Cleaning Polished Pewter
Polished pewter is the most common kind of pewter and boasts a shiny finish. Both polished pewter and silver pewter require regular polishing. Before you can polish your pewter pieces, you need to wash the pewter in hot soapy water. Add several drops of mild dish soap to a sink or bucket full of hot water.
Use a clean sponge or soft cloth, dipped in the soapy water, and gently rub the item. Rinse the pieces with warm water, then dry with a clean, soft towel. Once the piece is dry, follow the directions for how to polish pewter below.
DIY Pewter Cleaner
The ingredients used in this pewter cleaning solution are quite similar to what we recommend as the best way to clean brass pieces, too. Look over our DIY brass cleaner recipe to take care of your brass so that it shines again.
Vinegar and salt are the base ingredients for many homemade metal cleaners, as well as for cleaning many different things around the home, like your stovetop and the interior of the oven.
Combine the salt, vinegar, and flour to form a paste. Apply the paste to the pewter. Using circular motions, gently rub it into the pewter. Leave the paste on for 30 minutes. Rinse the pewter thoroughly, then dry with a soft cloth.
How to Polish Pewter
After cleaning pewter, you can restore its luster by making the following homemade pewter polishing paste.
Polishing pewter is a simple process. Start by boiling the linseed oil in a small saucepan. When the boiled linseed oil is warm, but not hot, combine it with the Rottenstone and stir it to create a paste.
Apply the paste to the pewter. Using a polishing cloth, rub the polishing paste into the pewter using small, circular motions. Rinse thoroughly, ensuring you’ve removed all the residue, then dry with a soft towel.
Cleaning Satin Pewter
Unlike the polished pewter, satin pewter has a rougher appearance. Because of its grainy finish, it will need to be cleaned using a lighter cleaning method.
Start by washing the pewter in warm soapy water. Be sure to use mild dish soap to avoid damaging the pewter. Gently rub the surface of the pewter items with a damp sponge, then rinse the suds off with warm water.
Next, you can use fine steel wool to lightly buff the surface, making sure to rub in the direction of the grain and not pressing too hard. To avoid damaging the pewter, only buff it once every couple of years.
Cleaning Antique Pewter
Antique or oxidized pewter finish is much darker than that of polished or satin pewter. Since oxidized pewter is supposed to look antique, you never want to polish it. Instead, you can just wash it with warm water and mild soap. Doing this should keep your antique pewter looking its best.
How to Clean Pewter Jewelry
When it comes down to jewelry cleaning, due to the anti-tarnish feature of pewter, it can become an ideal metal to use when making jewelry. To keep its beauty and quality, you want to be sure to care for your pewter jewelry with gentle cleaning techniques.
Moisten a soft towel with water, wringing out the excess water, so the cloth is slightly damp. Apply a small drop of mild soap, working it into light suds. Gently rub the moistened cloth over the pewter jewelry or for how to clean tarnished costume jewelry made from another metal.
Pewter is a soft metal, so being too vigorous in your cleaning could result in the pewter bending or breaking. Rinse the cleaning cloth with water and wipe the jewelry down to remove the soap.
Finally use a clean, dry cloth to gently dry the pewter jewelry. Often soap and water are all you need to get your costume or pewter jewelry clean.
>> Home Cleaning Tip: Check out our homemade jewelry cleaner recipe
How to Polish Pewter Jewelry
You only want to polish pewter jewelry every so often, when you think that it is starting to look dull. Just like when cleaning silver, to polish pewter, place a small amount of pewter metal polish (see above recipe) on an old rag.
Apply the polish to the jewelry using gentle strokes along the grain of the pewter. Gently rub the polish into the pewter. With another cloth, rub the polish off the pewter jewelry. Use a soft fabric to buff the pewter to finish cleaning.
Does Pewter Tarnish?
Since pewter is a combination of tin and other complementary metal, it shouldn’t tarnish over time. However, if it contains lead, after a period you will notice it start to blacken.bIf this happens, you can use any of the cleaning methods mentioned above to clean the pewter items to remove the tarnish safely.
On the other hand, you may want to purposely tarnish pewter to give it character. You can learn how to patinate brass, pewter, and silver easily.
There are several mixtures you can use, but one of the most common is rubbing vinegar over the surface and letting it sit. Then, you just rinse off the vinegar. You are left with an antique-looking piece that is certain to impress your guests.
Does Pewter Rust?
Since pewter is an alloy of tin and iron, it will not rust, but you may experience a bit of oxidation after a period.
To restore its original luster, you’ll want to buff and polish the pewter now and again to bring back the beautiful pearlescent effect that pewter is known for.
Can You Ruin Pewter?
The quickest way to ruin your pewter products is to put them in the dishwasher. Pewter is an incredibly soft metal with a low melting point. The hot water in the dishwasher can warp the pewter pieces if you leave them for too long. Also, soaps that are alkaline, as well as acidic foods can also discolor pewter.
If you’ve run your pewter through the dishwasher, you can restore its finish using one of the methods listed above. Just be sure that you know what kind of pewter you have so you can utilize the correct cleaning method to avoid further damaging the pewter.
The easiest way to restore the finish on the pewter is to hand wash in a sink of warm, soapy water. To reduce the risk of the pieces warping while they are drying, stand them upright. This effective method for cleaning pewter and restoring its finish will keep your pewter pieces looking great without damaging them further.
If your pewter requires a bit more effort to restore its finish, you can use emery paper to restore the finish of the pieces. You can purchase fine grade emery paper at your local hardware store. However, this method may take a few applications to get your pewter looking like new.
Pewter is a blend of metals that lends its unique quality to dishware, jewelry, and household decorations. To keep your pewter looking great, it’s important to know how to clean it with the right cleaning methods for the type of pewter you own. Follow our tips and use the homemade cleaning and polishing solutions to keep your pewter items looking beautiful for years to come.
We hope you enjoyed learning how to clean pewter with simple ingredients and easy techniques. If you found the information in this article useful, please feel free to share it with everyone you know.