How to take care of your vintage dishes

Create beautiful table settings, enjoy items from different eras & know how to care for your vintage dishes - Astialiisa’s vintage expert Tiina Westerlund will tell you how.


Colourful glassware on table

Can my Vintage Arabia dish handle the dishwasher? How can I get rid of difficult and stubborn stains? If your vintage dishes’ decoration is not glazed, machine washing and strong stain removal chemicals can dissolve or damage the pattern. Therefore before we start, we have to answer one question: is my vintage dishes’ decoration protected by glaze or not?

Examples of decorations typically printed under the glaze:

  • Single-colour copperplate designs like Arabia Maisema or Arabia Fasaani
  • Stripe decorations on biscuit fired surfaces like Arabia Pekka or Arabia Sinivalko
  • Single-colour glazes like Arabia Teema and Kilta
  • Stencil prints from the 60s and after
  • Most 70s (and some 60s) silkscreen designs like Arabia Paratiisi and Arabia Krokus
  • Stoneware dishes with hand-painted designs like Arabia Meri

The easiest way to check if the pattern is protected under the glazing is with a quick examination: A pattern protected by glaze will feel uniform to the touch and will have even gloss across the decorated and non-decorated area.

Check by feeling the surface of the vintage dish. Does the surface of the decoration feel rough, coarse or different compared to the undecorated areas? Can you feel the edges of the decoration? Does it feel like it is on top of the glazed surface? Does the decoration look less glossy/shiny than the rest of the dish when inspected under a light?

If you answered yes to these questions the decoration is probably not protected by a glaze and needs to be cleaned by hand. If you are not sure, always err on the side of caution or ask for help. Unglazed decorations also shouldn’t be treated with strong chemicals, bleaches, rough sponges or hard brushes.

Examples of decorations typically printed above the glaze:

  • Hand-painted colours added to monochrome prints, from late 1800s - early 1900s
  • 1920-1950s transfer prints or ‘decals’ such as Arabia Kesäkukka
  • Ceramics with gold stripes and other gold decorations such as Arabia Myrna
  • Many stripe decorations made before the 50s, or rubber stamped patterns
  • Mixed technique where outline is printed and colours hand-painted, like many designs by Esteri Tomula
  • Some 1950-1970s silkscreen prints, particularly red colours, such as Arabia Kirsikka

You can also check the Arabia factory stamps to help identify the decoration period. If you are still unsure how to care for your Astialiisa Vintage items, ask us for advice.

Glass cycle
Decoration above glazeNoNoYes
Decoration under glazeYesYesYes
Vintage GlassNoYesYes

Decorative items, vases & wall plates should always be hand-washed. Flower vases should always be properly washed with soap, just rinsing with water could result in dirt building up on the surface of your vase.

Vintage glass has varying thicknesses on the neck and base. These are sensitive to temperature changes and crack easily. Hand-washing is always the safest option. If you do use the dishwasher, put the glasses in the top tray (make sure that they don’t touch each other!) and use the glass program. Never stack hot glasses, wait till they cool.

Vintage enamel is made from iron and can rust where the metal is not covered. Therefore we recommend that you wash and dry these by hand. Modern enamel (stainless steel interior) can be machine washed and can handle tough stain cleaning.

Tiina’s washing tips !

  • Use less dishwasher detergent and run it on the glass cycle or rinse only cycle for your more delicate vintage items.
  • For hand-washing use a soft sponge, brush or microfibre cloth.
  • Store on shelves, dishwasher, and drying rack with minimal stacking to avoid dropping or chipping them! Avoid rinsing under a running tap, preferably rinse in the sink and in lukewarm water.
  • Use napkins between unglazed / hand-painted decorations to prevent the rough base ring from scratching the surface of the dish below.
  • Dark coloured patterns will show wear more easily, so it’s best to hand-wash decorations like Arabia Valencia even if they are protected by a glaze.

Difficult stains

Stained ceramic bottom

It’s always best to clean your vintage items as gently as possible, but what about when the usual washing methods don’t suffice? Try out Tiina’s special spot-cleaning tips to get rid of those difficult and deep-set stains!

SoakSimmerSpot treatmentGlass cleanerAbrasive scrub
Decoration above glazeNoNoNoNoNo
Decoration under glazeYesNoYesYesYes
Vintage GlassYesNoNoYesNo
Unglazed bottomNoNoYesYesYes

Soaking - If you have surface staining or limescale try soaking it in lukewarm water with a little dishwasher liquid, vinegar or oxidizing laundry detergent for up to 1-2 days.

Simmering - A darkened enamel pot can be cleaned by either soaking or gently heating some water and dishwasher detergent and cooking on a low heat for 15 minutes and then cleaning the surface with a brush or sponge. Repeat process if necessary.

Spot treatment - very stubborn stains, like tea and coffee, can be cleaned by gently and quickly applying a small amount of whitening product (such as whitening laundry detergent powder) and rubbing with a soft sponge or brush.

Glass cleaner - for cloudy, stained and dirty glass and decorative glass objects, try window cleaning liquid and a microfiber cloth.

Abrasive scrub - Even with tough stains, it is always best to avoid a hard brush. Try using a kaolin clay soap or a melamine foam sponge “magic eraser” for tough stains. These work great for darkened base rings on ceramic dishes.

Tiina’s stain cleaning tips !

  • If the surface of your vintage dishes have crackling/crazing do not use them for eating, as dirt and grease sink into the cracks. If you wish to repair a dish with a damaged surface you can take the items to be reglazed.
  • When using strong cleaners always do a patch test on a small area, to be sure that the dish won’t be damaged by the cleaner. Afterwards thoroughly rinse off the dishes.
  • Remember to use gloves and follow the cleaning product instructions.
  • Never use steel wool or wire sponges as they will make your dishes prone to more stains.

Heating & Cooling

Cooking and serving dishes

Arabia Ceramics before the 50s were designed for table settings only. Only faience dishes with the Arabia Oven logo can be heated, like Arabia Kilta ovenware. Never heat Faience Tableware or Old Porcelain dishes. When exposed to one-sided heat or fast temperature changes the surface can crackle. Stoneware dishes developed in the 60s can withstand large temperature changes both in the oven and microwave. Vintage Arabia ceramics safe for stove are marked with the Arabia Flame logo, like Arabia Liekki.

Vintage enamel dishes have handles manufactured from bakelite, which should not be put in the oven. Modern enamel is made from stainless steel suitable for stove and oven, as well as for cold storage.

Glass is very sensitive to temperature changes. It should not be put into the microwave or oven unless there is a special label indicating that they are safe to heat. For example Iittala Hot&Cold series and some Iittala Tsaikka glasses are suitable for heating.

Gold or other metal decorations should not be put in the microwave as sparks will fly!

FaienceWarning Oven
logo only
StonewareYesWarning Flame logo onlyYesYes
Vitro PorcelainYesNoYesYes
Glass &
Vintage Porcelain

Tiina’s heating tips !

  • Don’t place a hot oven dish on top of a wet or cool metal surface (such as the sink), it will cool too fast and crack !
  • Let dishes cool fully before transferring them into the fridge or freezer !

Source materials


Aav, Marianne (ed.), et al. Arabia: Ceramics, Art, Industry. Helsinki: Designmuseo, 2009.
Aav, Marianne, et al. Kaj Franck: Universal Forms. Helsinki: Designmuseo, 2011.
Blåfield, Marja et al. Arabian Lumoava Posliini (trans. Arabia’s alluring porcelain). Helsinki: Wsoy, 2010.
Lehtola, Katri. & Leppänen, Helena. Arabian kahvikupit: 1916-2016 (trans. Arabia coffee cups :1916-2016). Helsinki: WSOY, 2016.
Kumela, Marjut, et al. The Arabia porcelain factory. Helsinki: Uudenmaan Kirjapaino Oy, 1987.

Annual product catalogs and retailer catalogs:

Arabian Hinnasto vuodelta 1936 (trans. Arabia product price catalog 1936). Raasepori: Suomen Antiikki- ja Taidekirjat Oy, 1994 reprint.
Arabia: Talousposliini ja –Fajanssi (trans. Domestic porcelain and faience). Raasepori: Suomen Antiikki- ja Taidekirjat Oy, 2005.
Arabia Taideteollisuusosaston esineet (trans. Works from Arabia art ceramics department). Raasepori: Suomen Antiikki- ja Taidekirjat Oy, 2004
Ceramics & Glass. Arabia Oy.
The expert. Hackman Designor Oy.
IN. Iittala Group.

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