Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

How To Clean Pewter

how to clean pewter custom graphic

With its use found in jewellery, dishware, cutlery, and other places within one’s household, pewter clearly serves its purpose. Over time, however, the metal alloy can get stained and develop discolouration through oxidation. This tarnish, known as a patina, makes the surface of the pewter darken until it reaches a colour similar to charcoal. While some choose to maintain this patina for the antique look it offers, others prefer to find ways to clean pewter so that it looks as good as new again.

While cleaning pewter is actually a fairly simple process, knowing what type of finish your pewter has, will help you determine how to approach the cleaning process, and how much effort will be necessary to get the results you desire. 

3 Types of Pewter Finishes

an illustration of the different types of pewter finishes and how they look

Before you attempt to clean pewter, observe the surface to determine the finish. The information below will give you a better understanding of what type of finish you are dealing with.

Oxidised Finish

This finish is found on articles that are deliberately kept oxidised for a darker, richer, and more antique look. The key thing to remember with oxidised pewter is that it should never be polished as you can lose that darkening on the surface, and alter the look of your pewter in the process.

Satin Finish

Some pewter items have a matte finish where the texture or the grain of the pewter is visible. Similar to oxidised pewter, this too must not be polished to maintain its look.

Polished Finish

Lastly, with the polished finish, occasional repolishing will be necessary to maintain the almost-silver look that pewter can achieve. While even this type of pewter will eventually darken, it can still offer a lot of sheen if polished well.


Regardless of its finish, however, one thing that is mutually agreed upon for all types of pewter is the importance of keeping the articles clean. Regular and appropriate cleaning of pewter helps to delay the aging/discolouration that the metal is prone to over time.

So, if you want to learn how to clean pewter the right way, follow the instructions below.

How to Clean Pewter: Step-by-Step Guide

top view of dirty pewter cutlery and plates

If the pewter item is in use, it is necessary to dust and wash the article on a regular basis. On occasions when you are unable to do the latter, at the very least, we recommend dusting to keep your pewter relatively clean. 

Here are the steps to follow when washing pewter with dish soap:

Step 1: Dust the Pewter

Begin by thoroughly dusting the pewter pieces. Using a soft duster or a microfibre cloth, you can get rid of any dust on the surface of the pieces. Remember, the more often you dust, the less you will need to consider washing and polishing the pewter. 

Step Two: Heat Water

At this point you must heat some water for the washing process. Ensure that the water is hot, and not just warm when you begin; this is because heat helps to get rid of grime and dirt more effectively, and reduces the amount of elbow grease required to remove stubborn spots. Once you have heated the water, fill it into a bucket or a tub where you can wash the pewter comfortably.

Step 3: Add Dishwashing Soap

Take a mild, liquid-based dishwashing soap, add a few drops to the hot water, and mix it in. The key here is to ensure that you are using a mild dishwashing soap, and nothing too abrasive. Use a spoon to stir up the water so that the soap mixes in nicely. 

Step 4: Wash the Pewter

If the water is too hot to touch, wait for a little while before you begin scrubbing the article. Alternatively, you can put on a pair of long, thick kitchen rubber gloves and proceed. 

Use a soft sponge for this by dipping it into the soapy water, and squeezing out excess water; thereafter, begin wiping down the surface of the pewter to get rid of any dirt or grime. 

Step 5: Rinse Clean

Using clean, warm water, rinse the pewter thoroughly. Ensure the surface is absolutely clean and there is no residue left behind, especially when working with articles that are porous. If needed, increase the water pressure and give the pewter a final rinse.

Step 6: Dry Thoroughly

Finally, take a clean, lint-free cloth, and dry the item. It is also important to choose a soft, non-abrasive cloth to prevent the surface of the pewter from getting minor scratches. Once you can confirm that you've gotten rid of all dirt, soap, and moisture, you can move on to the next process of brushing or polishing the pewter.

How to Brush Satin Pewter

woman using steel wool to brush pewter plate

With Satin Pewter, since there is no polishing involved, one must brush the surface of the pewter gently to ensure the matte finish stays. 

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Make a Brushing Paste

A paste made from 2 parts white vinegar, 1 part white flour, and some salt, can be abrasive enough to brush the surface of the satin pewter, but not abrasive enough to damage the metal either.

Begin Brushing

Take a ball of steel wool, apply the paste to the pewter, and begin brushing the surface. Ensure that when you brush, you are moving with the grain of the pewter, and brushing very gently so that you do not damage the surface. With this process, you should get your satin pewter looking new again in a few minutes. 

How to Polish Pewter

woman using green microfibre cloth to polish pewter plate

With Polished Pewter, you could either use a commercial pewter polish that you can purchase from a hardware store, or the homemade polish recipe shared below. 

If you use a commercial polish, follow the instructions provided on the label for best results. If you wish to make your own, continue as directed below.

Make the Polish

With one part linseed oil, and one part rottenstone (powdered limestone), you can make a paste by boiling the linseed oil and adding the rottenstone to it. Allow the paste to cool before continuing. 

Polishing the Pewter

Once the paste has cooled, apply it to the pewter and, using a soft cloth, begin rubbing the paste into the pewter with circular motions. Continue this until you've covered the entire surface of the article. 

Rinse Clean

Once you've finished working the paste into the pewter, rinse it off well to ensure no residue is left behind.

Dry Thoroughly

With a clean, soft cloth, wipe away all moisture on the pewter. This will help reduce the possibility of the surface being tarnished or damaged by prolonged exposure to moisture. 

With that, you should now have no trouble cleaning and polishing any type of pewter you come across. Making sure the pewter is dusted well and kept clean goes a long way in preventing the need to thoroughly wash and/or polish your pewter every now and again. If cleaning pewter is too complex or laborious for your busy schedule, book our deep cleaning service and we'll do it for you. 

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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