How to Clean Crystal

Crystal glasses.

There are far too many people out there who choose not to use their nice crystal glassware simply because they do not know how to properly clean it and are afraid they will end up damaging it. It’s quite understandable. Crystal is as expensive as it is delicate. It’s also a damn shame. Things of such beauty should not be shut up in a cupboard and forgotten about. They should be used and enjoyed. I think everyone, on occasion, should treat themselves to a little crystalline luxury.

The most important thing to know about cleaning crystal is to always wash it by hand and never ever put it in the dishwasher. Because of the delicate nature of crystal, dramatic changes in temperature, such as those caused by extremely hot jets of dishwasher water, can cause the crystal to expand and crack. Aside from that, those water jets have more than enough force to cause lightweight crystal stemware to jostle around, bump against each other, and chip, break, or scratch. Finally, most dishwasher detergent is pretty abrasive and can cause crystal to become cloudy. So, if you’ve finally convinced yourself to break it out for use and now need to know how to clean crystal, read on. If it’s not crystal glassware that you’re looking to clean, the bottom section of this article covers cleaning crystal chandeliers, and the right sidebar will cover the cleaning of a few other crystal products.

Steps for Cleaning Crystal Glassware

  1. Gather all supplies. Before it actually becomes time to clean crystal, it’s best if you have all your gear out and readily accessible. This way there will be no rushing about and confusion while you’re trying to do the deed and will therefore lessen your chances of breaking things. Luckily, you don’t need much. Gather together the following: white vinegar, mild dish detergent, 3 or 4 soft towels, a thin microfiber wash rag, a large plastic mixing bowl, a gallon of room temperature distilled water, and several thin, lint-free cotton towels.
  2. Prepare your sink for washing crystal. Since crystal is so delicate, it’s important to protect it even from your sink. First, put the plug in the sink and fill it with about five inches of tap water that is as close to room temperature as possible. Next, squirt in about two tablespoons of your mild dish detergent (I recommend using either Seventh Generation (you can order it from Amazon) or Method), pour in about two cups of white vinegar, and stir it all around with your hand. Now, line the bottom of your sink with a couple of those soft cotton towels you gathered earlier. If you have a divided sink, you’ll also want to drape a towel over the divider and down into your crystal cleaning water.
  3. Start washing crystal. Now that your sink resembles a padded room, it’s time to wash crystal. Toss your microfiber cloth in the sink and grab your first piece of dirty crystal. Fully submerge it and allow it to sit in the soapy water for about a minute. Pick it up and gently wipe it down with the same method you would use to wash any other glass. The only difference is that you will need to be at least 837 times more careful. It is safest to wash crystal one piece at a time. That being said, ignore the other dirty pieces for now and continue on with the piece of crystal you just washed.
  4. Rinsing your crystal. In the previous step, I mentioned soaking your crystal for a minute. While your first piece is soaking, you’ll want to prepare your rinse water before returning to finish washing. This is done by taking a large stable bowl (preferably a plastic mixing bowl) and lining it with a large cotton towel. Fill the bowl with a gallon or two of room temperature distilled water and very carefully dip the crystal in and out of it a of couple times. Using distilled water for rinsing crystal makes water spotting far less likely.
  5. Now to dry crystal. Sorry to say it, but there’s no spectacular or magical way to dry crystal. There are, however, a few things you should know. First of all, make sure that you hand dry it and put it away right away. This is because, unless you used distilled water for rinsing, crystal will water spot something vicious if left to air dry. Not only that, but by air drying you will end up leaving your crystal out for extended periods of time. This will drastically increase the chances of something bad happening to your crystal. Finally, you should always use a clean, lint-free cotton or microfiber towel for drying crystal.
  6. Proper crystal storage. Always store crystal stemware upright. The edges are very delicate and you don’t want to apply any undue stress to them. Also, make sure to give them a little room (at least a centimeter all they way around) so they won’t rub up against each other and get scratched when someone stomps through the house. Giving them extra room also allows them to expand during periods of warmer weather without pressing against each other. Finally, I strongly recommend that you pick up a wine glass storage box. Not only do they add some protection from physical damage, they also help to keep dust from collecting on your crystal.

To Clean Crystal Chandeliers

It seems that many people are inclined to believe that a simple spray down with a mixture of 1 part isopropyl alcohol and 3 parts water is sufficient for cleaning crystal chandeliers. It also seems that an equal number of people feel that this is a seriously half-assed, ineffective, and dangerous way to do it. However, if you feel you want to give it a try and judge the outcome for yourself, this is what you should do:

  1. Shut off all power to the chandelier. This will include turning the switch off and making damn certain that the corresponding breaker is switched off or that the proper fuse is removed.
  2. Cover all light bulbs by wrapping plastic baggies (or plastic wrap) around them and securing them with rubber bands.
  3. Place towels, blankets, or some other type of drip cloth on the floor or table under the chandelier to catch any drips.
  4. In a clean spray bottle, make a 3:1 mixture of room temperature water and rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol.
  5. Spray down all crystals front and back. While doing this, try as hard as possible to avoid spraying structural pieces and electrical components.
  6. Keep electricity to the chandelier switched off for 24–48 hours. The longer you let it dry before restoring power, the better (and safer).

So that’s one method. The die hards, however, will always tell you to remove every piece of crystal and wash them individually by hand. Should you choose to do so, make certain you have the trim diagram for your chandelier so that you will be able to properly reassemble it. I would also advise you to take a bunch of digital photos of your chandelier prior to cleaning. These photos will be very valuable reference tools for reassembly.

How To Clean Other Crystal Objects

Cleaning crystal jewelry. Soak crystal jewelry in a mixture of lukewarm water and mild dish soap for five minutes. If it’s very dirty and you need to wipe it down, use a soft cotton cloth. Once clean, rinse your crystal jewelry with clean, lukewarm water and dry it immediately with a microfiber towel.

Cleaning crystal bowls. If your crystal bowl has stubborn rings of goo or mineral deposits on the inside that were leftover from the evaporation of whatever you had in it, fill it to just above the ring line with plain white vinegar and allow it to soak for 5 minutes. Then dump the vinegar into a separate bowl in case you need to use it again, rinse the bowl with lukewarm water, and check your progress. If the rings remain, repeat the process until they are gone. Once clean, dry immediately with a soft, lint-free cotton or microfiber towel.

Cleaning crystal vases. Crystal vases are notorious for developing thick rings of scaly mineral deposits from evaporated water. To remedy this, fill your crystal vase to just above the rings with white vinegar, let it sit for 5 minutes, dump in a half cup of plain white rice, cover the top with your hand, and shake. Do this until the rings are gone, and dry the vase with a soft, lint-free cotton or microfiber cloth.

Cleaning crystal figurines. Soak your crystal figurine in a plastic bowl with lukewarm water and some mild dish detergent for five minutes. Carefully remove the figurine and wipe down the large surfaces with a microfiber cloth. Get into the little crevices with a new, soft makeup brush, a photo lens brush, or a soft auto detail brush. Rinse with lukewarm water and dry with a microfiber towel or a soft, lint-free cotton towel.