In 1783, the year the first Waterford factory opened in Ireland, a barely teenage Beethoven was composing his Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor. More than 230 years later, the delicate ring of Waterford's fine crystal is as unmistakable as the sound of a Beethoven sonata. Collectors prize the enhanced light refraction, brilliance and precisely cut facets of legendary Waterford artistry, whether they own a set of wine goblets, a commemorative bowl or a crystal figurine. Correct cleaning methods help preserve the beauty of the glass.
Consumer-Safe Decanters and Carafes
Lead crystal can leach minute amounts of lead into liquid or solids stored in it for long periods of time, so Waterford makes nonleaded decanters and carafes for storing and serving wine, liquors and other beverages. The company recommends washing the piece with warm, soapy water and rinsing it thoroughly before first using a container. Don't keep liquids in a decanter or carafe for extended periods of time, to prevent a buildup of film inside the vessel and head off chemical reactions that could etch the surface of the glass. Wash the decanters between uses with warm soapy water and rinse clear; then, dry the glass with a soft, clean cloth. Treat lead crystal carafes and decanters the same way you do nonleaded, but pour a half-and-half solution of white vinegar and water into the container before first use, and let the solution sit overnight before rinsing and drying the piece.
Lead Crystal Care
Always hand-wash lead crystal and glass piece by piece in warm soapy water; rinse each piece and dry it with a lint-free cloth. Warm water is key -- extremes of heat and cold could crack the glass. Never place fine crystal in the dishwasher; the heat, detergents and possible shifting could crack, chip, scratch or dull the glass. Avoid damage by drying or storing glass upright -- the rims are the most delicate part of any piece, and crystal should never rest on its rim. Be careful not to twist the bowl of a goblet and the stem in opposite directions when you are washing or drying them, because that puts pressure on the weak point of the piece and could break it.
Some Waterford crystal and glass is color-coated and the applied finish can be damaged with careless handling. Keep colored glass away from bleach, solvents, and the sharp edges of rings, knives or silverware. Crystalware and diamonds don't mix, especially colored glass. The coated glass shouldn't go in a dishwasher but should be hand-washed like other fine crystal -- in warm soapy water, followed by a rinse and drying with a soft cloth.
Lamps and Chandeliers
Each Waterford crystal chandelier comes with explicit instructions for installation and cleaning. In general, the chandelier should be dusted frequently to delay the need for more serious cleaning. Use lambswool, a feather duster or a soft-bristle make-up brush. Spray a crystal chandelier with all the pieces in place, using a dilute solution of hot soapy water, clear rinse and at least a cursory drying with a clean, lint-free soft cloth. Be careful when spraying a chandelier because what works for the crystal pendants may not agree with the metal finish. A major job that is more meticulous is to disassemble the chandelier, removing all the crystal pieces and hand-washing each one in soapy water, the same way you would clean a glass. Use the same precautions when cleaning a crystal lamp, ensuring that the lamp is unplugged before you clean it.
Figurines and Decorative Objects
Polish Waterford crystal figurines and other decorative objects with a clean, soft cloth. Frequent polishing and display in a glass-front cabinet will delay any need to wash the piece. When you need to wash a figurine, do not submerge it in water. Go over the piece with a clean cloth dipped in lukewarm water and dry it immediately. Never use glass cleaners or abrasive polishes or detergents. Handle the object with cotton curator's gloves, so you won't leave smudges or fingerprints on your carefully buffed brilliant finish.
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .