How To Handle & Store Your Glass & China

How To Handle & Store Your Glass & China
Q: How should I handle glass or china?

A: Very carefully! Glass and china are fragile and breakable, so it is important to exercise great caution when handling or moving pieces. Handle only ONE piece at a time and hold it with BOTH hands. Never pick up a piece by its handle or neck alone, because that area could be compromised from repeated use. Pick it up at its strongest part.

Q: Should I wear gloves?

A: Usually curators wear white cotton gloves when handling artifacts, but we don't when handling glass or china. Wearing gloves can increase the chance of the piece slipping out of your hands, although gloves with a non-skid surface are available. You should always wash your hands before touching glass or china. If a piece is painted, especially over the glaze, avoid touching that part of the piece.

Q: How should I store my glass and china?

A: Ideally, pieces should be stored on open shelves (rather than packed in boxes) and handled as infrequently as possible. Keeping them inside a cabinet with glass doors will allow you to display and store your collection safely, as well as minimize damage from dusting, pets, and general household activities. Leave ample space between each piece, in the event that vibrations move the piece, or to keep you from knocking over one piece when reaching for another. Be sure each is securely placed on the shelf. It is best never to stack pieces if possible. But if you must stack them, place a soft cloth between each piece to protect them from abrasion. You can purchase ready made circles of various sizes, or you can buy fabric in bulk and cut them to size yourself.

Q: What if I need to move my collection, or put it away for awhile?

A: We believe a collection of any kind should be displayed whenever possible for people to enjoy. But if you need to pack your glass and china away, or transport it someplace else, you should pack each piece individually with bubble wrap. Place them inside a sturdy box, facing the same way the piece would normally sit. If they are all placed in the same way, you are less likely to pick up a piece in an awkward position and risk breaking it. Remember to remove teapot, sugar bowl, and candy dish tops and wrap them separately. Exercise extreme caution when unpacking the box. Pay attention to each piece, and unwrap it as close to the base surface (table, floor, etc.) on which you are unpacking it to reduce the distance a piece will fall if you happen to drop it.

Q: What should I do if I break a piece?

A: Be sure to collect all the broken pieces, no matter how small. Place them individually in a soft container, such as an egg carton, to prevent further breakage. If the piece is severely broken, it will be necessary to call a professional conservator to repair the damage. Research adhesives very carefully before attempting any repair yourself.

Q: How do I clean my glass?

A: As with cleaning all artifacts, it is best to use a mild, non-abrasive method to clean glass. A diluted solution of laundry water softener and a mild detergent should be good enough to clean most deposits left inside glassware. To dry the inside of a narrow necked bottle or vase, insert a long "wick" of paper towel, and within a day or two all of the water should be sucked up and out of the piece. If the surface of the glass is painted, you should consult a conservator. Glass is too smooth to hold paint to its surface, and over time it can flake away. Do not agitate the paint by cleaning it.

Q: How do I clean my china?

A: China can be cleaned with a damp (but not wet) cotton cloth, only if it is undamaged and has some kind of glaze on it to protect the decoration. Dust undamaged china with a soft dry cloth. If your dirt or stain is more severe, and requires additional cleaning, consult a conservator. DO NOT wipe anything over gold decoration, which is very thin and only lightly fired onto the surface and may flake off with even the slightest friction.

Q: Should I hang my plate collection on the wall?

A: Only display your collection where you think it will be safe. Be sure that the system you are using to hang your plates is secure before you attach your plate. Be sure that you hang them in a place where you are not likely to bump into them, perhaps high up on the wall or above a piece of furniture so no one can get too close to them.

You Should Also Read:
Identifying Glass and China Patterns
BOOK REVIEW -- If Dishes Could Talk
Identifying Glass and China Makers Marks

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This content was written by Kim Kenney. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Kim Kenney for details.