How do I clean this teapot?
July 31, 2011 2:47 PM   Subscribe

How do I clean this mysterious metal teapot?

Please help me be sanitary! I bought this cool, unmarked, mystery-metal teapot this morning and have no idea how to clean it properly. There seems to some staining/distortion/less oxidation/something on parts of the metal. What's the proper way to clean it?

warning: big pics!
pic 1
pic 2
pic 3 (no flash) - The flash makes the metal look a lot brighter than it normally is. Without flash it looks closer to its normal dark appearance.

posted by zidane to Grab Bag (17 answers total)
I'd start with Nevr-Dull. Your local hardware store may carry it.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:04 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think its silver plate. You'd clean it with silver polish and a cloth. I am unclear from photos 1 and 2 if part of the plate has worn off, in which case you'd have to get it replated or decide it's fine as is.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:05 PM on July 31, 2011

Longshot, but you might want to make sure it isn't pewter before you drink anything out of it.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:25 PM on July 31, 2011

My concern is that it might be pewter. Reason is, old pewter often had lead in it. (on preview, B1tr0t beat me to this...)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:27 PM on July 31, 2011

FWIW I believe that is a coffee or chocolate pot and not a teapot. If there is a hole in the lid, it's a chocolate pot. It may well be pewter but in any case, I don't use mine for beverages (although I do put flowers in them!)
posted by DarlingBri at 3:37 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Silversmith here. It cold be pewter, but it looks like it'd take too good of a shine. Silver plate seems most likely.

I've never heard of this Nevr-Dull stuff, which makes me wary of it. Doesn't mean it's bad, but lots of these miracle products are harmful to things like silver. If it's silver plate, you'll wanna be extra careful about avoiding abrasive cleaners.

It's hard to tell from the photos what the nature of the corrosion is. If it's all dark or sort of brownish, then it's sterling. If what I'm seeing there is a sort of whitish powdery surface, then it's fine silver. If it's fine silver (almost certainly plated, if it's not sell that bastard for weight right now) it's VERY SOFT DO NOT USE ANYTHING FROM THE HARDWARE STORE. Either way, try Windex on it first. The kind with ammonia. Use a soft toothbrush and go over it, cleaning up after yourself with a soft cloth. There's a good chance that's all you'll need to do to it.

If you end up using "silver polish" don't make a habit of it. The stuff is nasty anyway, and it's very slightly abrasive. Not for conservation. Using it once and then windexing thereafter would be fine.

Are there any marks on the bottom?
posted by cmoj at 4:40 PM on July 31, 2011

My momma always told me to clean my old metals with Glass Wax ... but upon a googling, it appears to be an outdated, hard-to-find product that that seems to now be called either Window Wax or NoStreek.

Anywho, if you can find some Glass Wax, get some; it does a great, gentle job on metals, and won't strip the finish off silver plate. I was always able to find it at the hardware shop or the dollar store, but I guess I haven't gotten any in about 10 years.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 4:40 PM on July 31, 2011

Good advice, cmoj. I grew up with Nevr-Dull, and it's been around for a while. I used to use it on thrift shop finds. I also have a hazy memory of polishing my mom's silver spoons with a soft cloth and a paste that was bubble-gum pink--it smelled awful--but cannot remember what it might have been.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:44 PM on July 31, 2011

MonkeyToes: That's Glass Wax! (I always liked the smell, but I do like weird smells.)
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 5:30 PM on July 31, 2011

The pink goopy stuff we used when I was a kid (and my mother still uses) is Gorham Silver Polish. This ad, while wonderful, in no way transmits the vomitous smell of that stuff. Windex for the win!
posted by DarlingBri at 6:50 PM on July 31, 2011

As someone who in a past life worked in a silver jewelry store, I'd second cmoj -- that does look like silver plate. Try gentle cleaners first. If you do go for a polish, be sure to use something nonabrasive that is specifically marked safe for silver plate.

Oh, and when you get to the third wish, don't forget to ask for more wishes!
posted by BlueJae at 7:30 PM on July 31, 2011

For an object like this I would use crumpled aluminum foil and baking soda in a large stainless steel vessel.

This will reduce the corroded silver back to silver metal in place without removing any material (I'd be very interested to hear cmoj's opinion of this procedure).

Then I'd polish it with toothpaste and a soft cloth.
posted by jamjam at 7:38 PM on July 31, 2011

I agree with DarlingBri that this looks like a coffee pot rather than a teapot, and like others I am guessing silver plate. Here are some care and polishing tips from the Society of American Silversmiths. Personally, I've always used Twinkle on my silver.
posted by gudrun at 8:38 PM on July 31, 2011

There are two with baking soda and foil (and salt in some methods) in this case. If it's plated, you really want to avoid removing material, but the baking soda is somewhat abrasive, and the galvanic reaction itself removes material and makes the surface itself more porous and therefore quicker to tarnish in the future.
posted by cmoj at 5:02 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

In the case of a silver coffee pot would you want to remove the built up coffee staining on the interior? Would the method of using denture cleaner in liquid be a hazard to the silver? I use this method for my teapots but they are all ceramic or ceramic interior glaze?
posted by jadepearl at 8:10 AM on August 1, 2011

I've never had to clean coffee stains out of silver, so I can't speak from experience about that or denture cleaner. gudrun's Society of American Silversmiths link looks to have solid info in it, and I'd trust the SAS anyway. They're the real deal.
posted by cmoj at 10:48 AM on August 1, 2011

Thanks cmoj the denture cleaner thing is listed as quite acceptable to cleaning tea and coffee stains for silver.
posted by jadepearl at 12:51 PM on August 1, 2011

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