Solvents on china?
December 5, 2014 2:46 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me get burnt plastic off fine china?

After Thanksgiving, all our nice china (Royal Doulton, if that's relevant) was washed and put in its storage (essentially this stuff), but we never got around to putting it away, so there it sat on the stove. Then last night as I was removing dinner from the oven, I inadvertently turned on a burner without noticing; we sat down for dinner, and a minute later my wife says "what's that smell?" and we look up to see a china storage container smoking and starting to melt.

Fortunately, we got to it before anything actually caught fire; I managed to get the smoke stains off most of the dishes pretty easily with soap and water. But the bottom dish, the one that was in contact with the burner, is a mess - there's burnt black melted plastic all over it.

I got a lot of it off with a razor blade, and I've been soaking it all day in soapy water and will go after it with a blade again this evening, but my question is, if that doesn't remove the charred black gunk, what will?

Is it safe to use a solvent like Goo Gone on fine china? The china's white, there's no pattern or inlay or design on the burned part except the logo, which I really don't care about - I mostly just want to erase my mistake. But I don't really have a way to test whether solvents will hurt the china, so I thought I'd ask the hivemind.
posted by pdb to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
Scraping the residue off is the best method. I would buff the thinnest part off with mild abrasive like Barkeeper's Friend or a baking soda. Look at the surface in raking light to make sure you are not scrubbing off more than need to.
posted by effluvia at 2:53 PM on December 5, 2014

Porcelain and glaze are pretty resistant to most solvents, but I would stay away from strong acids and bases.

Burn residues can be tough to lift chemically, as they are complex. Assuming this is a polyester fabric, I'd start with something like a denatured alcohol or mineral spirits. If that doesn't work, try toluene (from the paint thinner isle in your hardware store). Soaking can often help.

Acetone and Goo gone are less likely to work, though would be better for other kinds of plastics.

Just a warning: use gloves that are resistant to these solvents (Nitrile, not latex) and work in a well ventilated area. Note that with acetone, you need to use the clear plastic PE gloves that make your hands smell---nitrile is no bueno. Be careful as these are also all quite flammable.
posted by bonehead at 3:02 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Did you try to put it in the freezer to see if the plastic becomes more brittle and maybe pop off a bit more?

My hunch says Of any solvent I would try one of the goo gones made of citrus would be least likely to make more damage. But I have no evidence to support the hunch.

Olive oil might do something positive. Toothpaste is also a light abrasive. Baking soda is a step past toothpaste. Lemon juice or another light acid might be helpful.
posted by littlewater at 3:03 PM on December 5, 2014

My bet would be on the differential temperature shrinkage of each material. I would have left it and then placed it in the freezer. That might still work. Ceramics are really really hard and pretty much invincible to solvents, they are essentially rocks. I don't know the quality or composition of yours but they make knives and tiles and of course dishes from ceramics. Here is the Mohs hardness scale.

Piece of chalk 1
Plaster of Paris 2
Fingernail 2.5
Gold 2.5-3.0
Penny 3.5
Iron Nail 4
Window Glass 5.5
Steel File 6.5
Ceramic tile 7.0
Aluminum oxide 9.0
posted by vapidave at 3:16 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can also try contacting Royal Daulton's customer service department:

You are not the first person to have an issue of this type. Good luck!
posted by mosk at 5:10 PM on December 5, 2014

The primary active ingredient of Barkeeper's Friend is oxalic acid, which will etch glass, and has etched some of my own glassware, so I don't think you should use that.

I think the soapy water is a good idea, but I think the scraping will go better with the edge of an old silver plated spoon you don't care too much about; the trick is to start your scraping stroke on a clean part of the plate and move with firm pressure toward the edge of a blob of plastic, which should cause the blob to pop off cleanly once you've got the hang of it.

Be careful when working near the center of the plate -- some fine china has earned the descriptor 'eggshell'.
posted by jamjam at 8:00 PM on December 5, 2014

Response by poster: A combination of freezing and baking soda did the trick - it's not 100% gone, but what's left isn't much and isn't visible when the china is being used, so I'm happy. Thanks, all.
posted by pdb at 10:09 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

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