How to Clean Pewter using Traditional Methods

How to Clean Pewter using Traditional Methods

So, you have bought your special pewter gift and you want it to remain perfect. But now you are wondering how to clean pewter and take care of it.


Pewter is an everlasting, robust and elegant metal and if looked after correctly, can be timeless. It is a great gift as it doesn’t tend to tarnish like silver. However, over an extended period it can oxidise and lose its shine. A low-maintenance metal, pewter is a popular metal for vases, jewellery and picture frames.  Pewter tankards and sculptures are fantastic gifts but can sometimes easily be scratched or nicked, if not maintained properly. In this article we will explore all the best ways to clean pewter with some aftercare tips thrown in.


Before you start

It’s useful to know that there are three kinds of pewter as detailed below:

  • Polished pewter oozes class and elegance and is often used to make jewellery and mementoes.
  • Satin pewter has a grainy appearance and is usually found in more traditional items, such as tankards, crockery and doorknobs.
  • Oxidised pewter is the darkest type which should never be polished. Doing so will take away its darkness and devalue the piece.

So, as you can see it’s important, when you clean pewter, to know which type you have.


Traditional methods are best

Many years ago, the ancients didn’t have the luxury cleaning items we have today and you may be surprised to know that they didn’t need them. They found the best way to clean pewter was simply by dipping some cabbage leaves in vinegar and then salt and scrubbing the item with the mixture. They would rinse with a little soap and water and hey presto, there was a gleaming vase or bowl with little to no effort at all. This is still used to clean pewter today but it is not the best option for all types.


The more attention seeking pewter is the polished kind, and although it seems so, it is not tricky to clean. Most of the ingredients you need you will have in the house or can be purchased at a low cost from your corner shop, hardware store or local market.


Whatever kind of pewter you are trying to clean, items to have handy are:

  • Washing up liquid (mild)
  • Household Sponge
  • Lukewarm and hot water
  • Absorbent and soft cloth
  • Microfiber or soft towel
  • Washing up bowl
  • Plastic container
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Household Vinegar
  • Linseed oil
  • Rottenstone (a finer pumice stone powder)
  • Fine Steel wool (Use with extreme care)


How to clean pewter with everyday soap and water, regular cleaning and aftercare

  1. You should regularly dust and clean pewter to keep it looking as good as new. You want to remove all the dust and a microfiber or soft cloth is ideal for this. If you do this as part of your weekly dusting routine, it will safeguard the finish and mean you do not need to clean the item so frequently.
  2. Place the pewter item in a washing up bowl with some hot water. You can use warm water but hot water will help to remove those stubborn bits of grime much quicker.
  3. Add a mild washing up liquid to the water (don’t use anything too caustic), something like Fairy liquid is perfect for the job. You could even use baby shampoo.
  4. Use a sponge to wash the pieces. DO NOT use a scouring sponge as this will cause unwanted damage. Keep your cloth handy to help you work out any stains.
  5. Place smaller items under the tap to remove the excess grime and soap. Larger pieces can be dipped into a bucket of clean warm water, or the soap can be removed using a cloth.
  6. Ensure you dry your item thoroughly. A microfibre cloth will help you buff to a beautiful shine.


How to clean non-oxidised (satin) pewter

  1. Initially, you will mix flour and vinegar. You want to mix these equally and the best way to do this is grab a plastic container. Half a cup of each is sufficient. Mix them together until they form a paste.
  2. Add a little salt in with the paste. This acts as a mild abrasive and you only need about a teaspoon.
  3. Use a circular motion to apply the paste equally all over your pewter item.
  4. Leave the paste resting on the piece for approximately half an hour. Please note: NEVER use this form of cleaning for oxidised pewter. Not only will it damage the finish but it will also reduce its value.
  5. Polish with a microfibre cloth. Bear in mind that Satin pewter is not supposed to be shiny like silver, so don’t expect to achieve this outcome.
  6. Very gently, use your steel wool against the grain. DO NOT use this if the mixture has not been sitting on your item for 30 minutes. Don’t press too hard as you can damage the metal.
  7. Clean off the paste, either by running under a warm tap or by washing it off with a clean cloth.
  8. Dry the pewter with a soft cloth and ensure you have removed all traces of water and paste.


How to polish your Pewter

  1. Firstly, you need to boil some linseed oil. You don’t need to use a lot (a tablespoon or two), leave it in the pan until hot.
  2. Add your rottenstone to the mixture, again not too much as you are only trying to make enough to be able to cover your item.
  3. This will form a paste if you use equal amount of the oil and the powder. It is great for matte or dullish looking pewter, but DO NOT put this on oxidised pewter as it could damage it.
  4. You need to wait for the mixture to cool before using it. Make sure it is cool enough for you to work with. Using this paste whilst hot will damage the piece and will also burn your hands, so please be careful.
  5. Use a soft cloth to smear the pewter in equal amounts over the surface. It’s better to use a circular motion when applying the paste for even coverage..
  6. Make sure you rinse the mixture off straight away, either by running under a warm tap or by washing it off with a clean cloth.
  7. You must remove all the paste to avoid marking the metal or scratching it.
  8. Grab another clean but soft cloth to dry the piece ensuring you have removed all traces of water and paste.
  9. Buff with your microfibre cloth to a gleaming shine

Although the above methods to clean pewter may seem time consuming, they are worth the effort to transform a dull looking piece and bring it back to its elegant and eye catching authenticity. There are many pewter cleaning products on the market these days but they can be expensive and tricky to use. Pewter was first found in an Egyptian tomb in 1450 BC and was widely used for crockery and cutlery moving forward. This time period didn’t have the cleaning products we have today, so why use them now on this inexpensive but precious metal.  

Hopefully, this article has helped you with how to clean pewter and maintain it. However, if you have any concerns, or need more cleaning tips to help you in the future please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to help.


If you feel we have left a important fact out or incorrect please let us know in the comments box below .. Thank you

Posted on 08/09/2021 by Aftercare & Cleaning 0 1001

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