Although pewter doesn't tarnish like silver, pieces do tend to oxidize over time, usually resulting in a dull look or, when left unattended for long periods of time, holes. Cleaning pewter pieces is an essential part of its overall care, but running them through a cycle in the dishwasher can result in even more problems.
How Does Pewter Get Ruined?
The number one reason to keep your pewter out of the dishwasher? The heat! Pewter is an incredibly soft metal with a low melting point of about 400 degrees Fahrenheit, so the hot water of a dishwasher can warp pieces if they're left in there for too long. Alkaline soaps and acidic foods sometimes found in dishwashers can also discolor pewter, which is why it's always best to stick to handwashing these precious pieces.
How to Restore Finish
If you've already run your pewter piece through the dishwasher, you don't have to worry too much as there are a few methods to restoring its finish. The easiest way to clean your pewter is to hand-wash your pieces in warm, soapy water. Stand them upright to reduce the risk of warping while drying. This affordable and effective method is usually enough to keep most pewter pieces looking great without risking damage. For cases that require a little more effort, emery paper can restore pewter finishes, although this method will likely take a few sessions before you can expect to witness results. You can find emery paper at most hardware stores.
To brighten your pewter after cleaning, most pieces will do well with a buffing from a metal polishing cloth. If you're looking for a shinier surface, a store-bought polish, such as Brasso, is a tried-and-true method. A do-it-yourself metal polish can also be created at home with just a few inexpensive ingredients and a few minutes. To make your own, simply mix one part white flour with two parts white vinegar, throw in a pinch of salt and mix everything together, forming a paste. Apply this pasty polish to the surface of your pewter with a cloth and rub it in using circular motions for a few minutes. Let it sit for about 30 minutes before rinsing clean with warm water.
Things to Keep in Mind
Before you seek methods for restoring the look of your pewter, you'll want to be aware of what type of pewter finish you're working with to prevent further harm. Polished pewter can be polished, while satin pewter, which has a more matte appearance, can be washed with a mild scrub. Unpolished pewter should never be polished, so just stick to the occasional soapy bath to keep these pieces healthy and beautiful. For more extreme restoration needs, consider seeking the help of a professional in your area.