Having worked with Waterford Crystal Ireland, Lenox Crystal USA and in the hand cutting crystal business for over 36 years, I have had my fair share of breakage, through cutting, engraving, polishing and washing crystal and glassware. I want to bring to your attention the correct way to wash and care for your hand cut Waterford Crystal, so here are some basic rules and tips to protect your prized possessions.
RULE # 1 Wash Your Crystal By Hand
In the last few years various Dishwasher companies have come out with a cycle on some models, where they tell you that its safe to wash your hand-cut crystal in the machine, using a fine china and crystal setting. Well I am here to tell you that this is not a safe practice. I have heard numerous stories of breakage and chipping and have had to repair various pieces of all sizes. The number one complaint is where the crystal was placed too close together and chipping occurred. Now, you might think that this is an obvious thing not to do and it is, but here is the problem. The jet sprays from the dishwasher, in some models, are very temperamental and sudden bursts of water can be produced and for some reason it always seems to happen when you are washing your Waterford Crystal. Another complaint was that the crystal lost its brilliance and sparkle. So, play it safe and always wash your cut crystal by hand.
Using a double sink, wash each piece individually with soap and lukewarm water and a splash of ammonia to stop the pitting and spotting. Rinse thoroughly. While drying with a soft cloth hold the stem (if stemware, goblets, flutes, etc) in your left hand and with your right hand use a light circular motion to avoid scratching. Do not vigorously rub, as this will cause minor scratching.
For Ships Decanters, Fluted Vases and hard to reach crystal pieces you may use a half cup of uncooked rice with moderate hot water, a tablespoon of white vinegar and fill half way. Gently shake and swirl the mixture around, while turning upside down to see if the residue is moving. This may take about fifteen minutes to remove stubborn stains. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water and let dry upside down. Remember to let dry at room temperature and do not put hot or cold liquids in until completely dry, as sudden temp changes in the crystal causes stress fractures and breakage.
The Use of Denture Tabs
I have seen it mentioned on some other websites about using Denture Tabs to remove stubborn stains. I am concerned about this and do not recommend using a denture tab as this has been known to cause leeching of the lead content in the crystal. What happens is this, the composite of the crystal is made up of red lead and potash and the ingredient in this tab causes a reaction that releases some of the lead, which may linger later when filling with whisky or wine. So, you don’t want to be mixing fine wine or good whisky with lead extract.