Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

5 Tips for Cleaning Antique Glass

Use the Least Aggressive Method First
You never know what you have until you uncover it's potential.
You never know what you have until you uncover it's potential.

OK, so you've found a beautiful perfume bottle that looks like it's been sitting at the bottom of a well since the Great Depression. You can see a tantalizing shade of lavender peeking through the grime and want to restore the bottle to its former glory. If you've made the decision to do the work yourself, start with the least potentially damaging cleaning method. If you decide that you can't get the bottle clean without the risk of damaging it, weigh your options before you try something risky. Don't make the mistake of scratching a nice piece of glass unnecessarily when a gentler cleaning strategy would have done the job just as well. Here's a handy list of glass cleaning techniques starting with milder options. For the best results, research your specific glass type before you begin work:

  • Rub the glass with a slightly damp, lint-free cloth.
  • Wipe with room-temperature water to which you've added a small amount of mild detergent or a few drops of ammonia.
  • Wipe with a solution of three parts water to one part vinegar.
  • Wipe with equal parts water and ethanol.
  • Soak glass in room-temperature water with mild detergent or ammonia.
  • Soak glass in denture cleanser.
  • Treat with lime removal products. (Use to get rid of mineral deposits.)

Always clean glass pieces one at a time, and watch them closely to make sure you aren't damaging any components, like painted rims, metal filigree, or decorative caps or bases made of materials other than glass. If you can't tell if your methods are working, wait for the piece to dry and take a look at your handiwork before proceeding.