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Care of Glassware

Glassware is made in three main categories: crystal, soda glass, and borosilicate glass (Pyrex). Crystal is a luxury product composed of fine materials expensive to produce and replace, and hand care is recommended to retain its clarity and brilliance and inhibit damage. Soda glass and Pyrex are produced from ordinary materials, machine-made in seconds, and when haziness or damage occur, they can be replaced at a reasonable cost.

Caring for Crystal Glassware

  • Carry one piece of stemware in each hand. When cleaning up after a party, carry one glass in each hand, particularly if the rim flares outward. If the rim curves inward or is almost the same width as the widest part of the bowl, it is possible to carry several pieces at a time.
  • Hold stemware by the stem. Stemware is made in two or three pieces. Holding it by the bowl or the foot can create stress that may cause the part to detach.
  • Take your rings off before washing stemware. Crystal is softer than soda glass and Pyrex and the surface scratches easily.
  • The sulfur content in rubber darkens precious metals. Don't use a rubber pad to cushion a sink or a drainboard. Instead, before washing stemware ornamented with gold, silver, or platinum, pad the area with a folded towel.
  • Place each piece in the sink separately and wash it individually.
  • Hand-wash crystal in warm, soapy water. Crystal contains lead, a soft metal. Abrasive detergents may scratch the finish. Use soap if possible, or select a mild, nonabrasive detergent and reduce the amount by half.
  • Hand-wash crystal decorated with gold or silver. Precious metals are soft, and when subjected to hot water or the drying cycle in a dishwasher, they are easily scratched. To preclude damage, wash metal-decorated stemware in lukewarm water and allow it to cool before it is handled. Because the chemicals in detergent fade precious metals and leave a film on the surface, mild soap is recommended (but use as little as possible).
  • Wash the inside and outside of crystal separately. When the interior and exterior surfaces of crystal are washed together, the action creates pressure that eventually leads to cracks.
  • Dry crystal with a lint-free towel. Lint clogs engraved ornamentation. For best results use a tightly woven towel to dry crystal ornamented with cut decoration, a towel that will not scratch the surface of crystal.
  • Water leaved a permanent mark. Before crystal is put away, hold each piece to the light, check for water spots, and wipe them off immediately. Water spots can leave permanent marks.
  • Acid-based food and beverages are harmful to crystal. To protect crystal stemware from the acid in table wine, rinse crystal soon after use. Drinks low in fruit acid and high in alcohol-aperitifs, liqueurs, and brandy-are not harmful to crystal and store in decanters almost indefinitely. If table wine is left in a decanter overnight, remove the wine as soon as possible, fill the decanter with water, add 2 teaspoons of ammonia, leave the solution in the decanter for a day or two, and pray!
  • Heat causes condensation to form inside glass, etching the surface. When an empty decanter is left in direct sunlight, heat creates vapors that etch the surface and diminish the appearance.

The Care of Machine-Made Glassware

Although machine made glassware is thicker than handmade crystal and can withstand the heat, vibrations, and rigors of a dishwasher, a few words of caution are in order.

  • Glass is sensitive to changes in temperature. To avoid shattering, don't immerse cold glass in hot water. For example, a goblet that has held ice cubes should be allowed to come to room temperature.
  • Metal defrays heat away from glass. Before pouring hot liquid into cold glass, defray the heat by placing a metal utensil, such as a spoon, in the glass.
  • Partially fill a glass with room-temperature water before adding ice cubes. This will allow the glass to adjust to the temperature of the ice cubes and prevent the possibility of cracks.
  • Heat does not transfer evenly throughout large masses of glass. When a sizable piece of glass is placed in warm water, such as a large bowl, the uneven transfer of heat causes internal stress that may lead to cracks. To foster the even transfer of heat, adjust the temperature of the glass article to the water by placing it in the water sideways.
  • Wipe large glass objects clean with a damp cloth wrung dry. Massive objects are awkward to hold and wash with soap and water but are easy to wipe clean with a cleaning solution.
  • Release glasses stuck together. Glass expands and contracts with heat. To release two glasses stuck together, fill the top glass with cool water and submerge the bottom glass in warm water. The cool water causes the upper glass to contract and the warm water expands the lower glass. After a few minutes the glasses should separate. If not, wrap the glasses in a warm towel.
  • Direct the heat from a burning candle away from stemware. To protect stemware from the heat generated by a burning candle, do not allow the candle to burn lower than 3 inches from the top of the candleholder.
  • In a dishwasher stack glassware well apart. The force of water causes vibration that may cause tightly packed glassware to hit one another and chip.
  • The mineral deposits in water affect the clarity of glass. Minerals are found in hard water or in chemicals used to treat water, notably in Florida and some parts of the Northwest. When the minerals combine with the chemicals in detergent and the heat of a dishwasher, a reaction occurs that leaves a permanent film on glass. To promote clarity and retard haziness, stop the dishwasher before the drying cycle or reduce the temperature of the drying cycle to 60°C (140°F).
  • To prevent glass from hitting the spout, us a rubber nozzle or turn the tap to the side.
  • Flowers change water chemically. To avoid permanent damage to glass vases, change the water daily.

Homemade Cleaning Solutions for Glassware

Although homemade cleaning solutions are not always guaranteed, they are worth a try.

  • To enhance the sparkle of crystal, add a few drops of bluing to the water.
  • For extremely cloudy glass, prepare a mixture of fine sand and denatured alcohol, and swish it around inside the article.
  • To make large pieces of crystal glisten, dampen a cloth in four parts water; two parts ammonia, and one part alcohol: Wring out the cloth until almost dry, wipe the article clean, and leave it to air dry.
  • To clean the grooves of cut crystal or pressed glass, dip a soft brush, like an old toothbrush, in the solution of water, amonia, and alcohol.
  • Spots, haziness, and iridescence are removed or diminished when white vinegar is added to the rinse water. Or try soaking the article in water and white vinegar, or rub the spot with half a lemon. If all fails, and the piece is valuable, take it to a glasshouse for an acid bath.
  • Toothpaste is a gentle cleaner of stained glass.
  • Alcohol causes the evaporation of condensation. To remove condensation from inside a bottle, when the bottle is cool, pour alcohol inside.
  • Wrap several paper towel around a pencil or straightened wire hanger and use this "stick" to dry the interior of a decanter.
  • To remove a glass stopper stuck in the neck of a bottle, gently tap it with a pencil, or loosen the stopper by running warm water or warm soapy water into the neck of the bottle.
  • To smooth glass nicks, use a fine sanding file available at hardware stores. Or take the chipped piece to a glasshouse for professional grinding.

Storing Glassware

Proper storage is important to the longevity of glassware and requires only a few simple precautions.

  • Store seldom-used glassware in a covered, zippered case fitted with adjustable plastic dividers. Or store glassware in a cabinet located away from kitchen grease.
  • Pollution is inherent in the air. To keep glass grease-free, rotate use.
  • Moisture-absorbing material, such as newspaper or excelsior, absorbs the sodium oxide in glass and can cause haze. Such materials are not recom­mended for storage of glass.
  • Store crystal after it is cool and completely dry. When glass is damp or warm, moisture collects on the surface and a film forms that is impossible to remove.
  • Glass can stick to glass. Do not store crystal directly on a glass shelf.
  • Store stemware with the bowl facing upward. The rim is the weakest part of stemware and when the bowl is stored downward, moisture collects inside, along with shelf odors. When glass is exposed to excessive moisture and repeated changes in temperature, it is subject to deterioration.
  • Store glass away from direct sunlight, heating outlets, or air conditioner vents. Because glass conducts sunlight, storage in direct sun creates stress that leads to cracks. Moreover, glass can transfer heat to another glass object, such as a glass shelf, and cause stress.
  • Temperature changes cause glass to expand and contract. To avoid chips, leave enough space between the rims of stemware to allow for expansion and contraction. Make sure the bases do not touch. Provide space between glassware and the walls of the storage cabinet.

- , Editor, Etiquette Scholar

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