How To Care for Handmade Ceramics
Ever wonder how to best care for handmade ceramic items? While handmade pottery is actually very durable, there are a few differences in how to best care for them (versus industrially made ceramics) in order to keep them looking their best as they age over time into well-loved pieces and even family heirlooms.
As a quick aside: the pieces in my shop are microwave and dishwasher safe unless otherwise stated in the product description. The below guidance applies to items purchased from my shop as well as other handmade stoneware and porcelain goods that have been kiln fired. This does not apply to air-dry or other types of clay.
Hand-washing is always a good option, but we have to allow that in real life it isn't always going to happen. The only consideration before putting anything in the dishwasher is whether there's a delicate element, such as a thin handle that might get knocked off when things get jostled around during the wash cycle.
Un-glazed pieces can take on stains over time, particularly if the clay body is light (e.g. buff stoneware, porcelain). This is part of the character of the clay. You can slow this process down, however, by washing the piece as soon as you are done using it and not letting it sit, particularly if it was holding something dark such as coffee or red wine or highly pigmented such as anything with turmeric.
Glazes also may have hairline crackling running throughout as part of the texture. Sometimes this crackle texture is plainly visible and sometimes it isn't. Letting pigmented food or drink sit in hand glazed pottery will reveal whether this texture exists in your piece. As it ages with repeated use and washing, the crackling will become more visible and deepen in tone. I actually love the wabi-sabi nature of this, like fingerprints, that shows the special character of the piece. As with light colored unglazed clays, you can slow this process down by being diligent about washing it immediately after use. Hand washing will also slow this process down as many dishwashers use hot water cycles, steam disinfecting, hot air drying, or all of the above which will augment the crackle finish.
Microwaving is perfectly fine! The only caveat is that you should not microwave any pottery that has metallic glaze on it. I don't currently use gold or other metallic glazes on any of my pieces, but if you do have handmade or commercially made pottery with such detailing, make sure to keep them out of the microwave.
Handmade pottery should not be baked in the oven to avoid the expansion and contraction that may degrade the integrity of the glaze.