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by Regan Stephens

After hours of browsing antique shops and sifting through under-appreciated flea market finds, you’ve scored your perfect plates. Whether they’ll be the new star of the dinner table or they’re just for show, here’s how to get them looking their best.

the basic dos and don’ts of cleaning your antique dishes

Do: -Line the sink with a rubber mat or towel to prevent chips as you wash. -Use warm water — hot water can damage the finish. -Use a soft cloth or sponge. Use a mild detergent. -Stay away from anything containing lemon, it’s too acidic.

Don’t: -Use the dishwasher. -Use bleach, it’s too harsh and can cause the piece to deteriorate. -Procrastinate on washing the dishes after dinner — the quicker you wash them, the less chance they’ll develop new stains. -Let them air dry — use a dish towel or soft cloth to dry them by hand.

remove small spots or stains

Don’t let a small stain stop you from nabbing the dishes you love — try one of these gentle techniques to get rid of it:

Make a paste of baking soda and water or use a dab a toothpaste and rub the spot. If that doesn’t work, mix a little white vinegar and salt together and scrub gently.

remove larger stains, like coffee or tea from cups

After years of use, tableware can develop larger stains beneath the crazing (the tiny cracks in the surface of the glaze) from coffee, tea, or food. To dissolve the stains and really brighten up the pieces, you’ll need 3% hydrogen peroxide and a plastic tub with a lid.

Place your pieces inside the tub and pour in enough peroxide so that everything is submerged — you may have to buy several bottles. Cover with the lid. Let them soak for about 2 days, and then carefully remove each piece and place it in direct sunlight to dry. Once everything is completely dry, hand wash to clean off the peroxide.

clean gold trimmed or embellished dishes

It should go without saying, but never use a harsh scrub on gilded dishes. Instead go with a mild cleanser and, if they need a little extra help, use a baking soda and water paste with a soft sponge or cloth.

other things to know

If the dish has any chips or cracks, even if they’re small, don’t use it for eating or drinking as food can stain it further. If you love them anyway (because you’re not superficial like that) consider hanging them on a wall or using them to store or display trinkets on a side table or dresser.