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Cleaning old glass bottles

Posted by JustJude (My Page) on
Tue, May 18, 04 at 22:55

This is hardly your usual household cleaning query, but I didn't know where else to post it. If anyone can recommend a better site, I'm willing.

Here's the thing. We live in a 100 year old house with a large back yard, which was once obviously used for dumping trash. There's a lovely garden there now, but whenever we dig deeply (as we have been doing to put in a new walkway), we unearth all manner of unusual stuff.

Recently we have dug up quite a few intact glass bottles. I'd like to get them as clean as possible and use them as little vases, but I'm having trouble getting them clean. The insides have become etched from lying in the dirt for 100 years, and the dirt that is in the etched part just won't let go.

Here's what I have tried (all involving scrubbing with a toothbrush): Hot water, hot water and liquid detergent, hot water and liquid detergent and bleach, hot water and liquid detergent and bleach with marbles in the bottle to shake around.

What else might work? I know I can't remove the etching, but I would like to get the dirt out of it.

Judy


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

I would try hot water and white vineger. And if that doesn't work, then use hot water and baking soda. I bet they are pretty.


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

Try hot water, rice or salt and a little vinegar. If that doesn't work try laying the bottles out on a piece of tin in the sun. I know sounds wierd, but a friend of mine swears by that. I have never done it, but may try this in the near future. My friend tells me that the "old people" in her family would lay the bottles on the barn tin roof to clean them out and it works every time. Sounds like this may be an old wives tale, but you never know, some of the tales have worked for me.


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

False teeth cleaner......the kind you put in a glass, it fizzes and you put your teeth in....can't remember the name.
With old bottles, part of the charm is the etching and the irridescent look....but I don't think mud adds to the charm....
Linda C


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

I got an old bottle clean with automatic-dishwashing detergent and hot water once. Just shook it up a bit and it cleaned it very well.

Strange tip that our DS found once is "Tang" - the breakfast drink. He read that it cleaned the inside of a stained old dishwasher and we tried it and it really brightened up the inside of our old dishwasher! I'd give that a try, couldn't hurt!


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

"You'll wonder where the mud stuff went,
When you clean your jars with Polident!"
Works great...just break one up and drop it in!! Even the cheapy denture cleaning tablets from the dollar store work well!


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

That's what I was trying to remember!! Polident!
( it's hell to get old!)
Linda C


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

I put sand in them with soapy water and shake. Works pretty well. Vinegar and baking soda sometimes too.

That efferdent stuff is great on vintage linens.


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

The Polydent didn't work at all (maybe because ours was old--I found it under the sink, probably purchased for a similar but long-forgotten project).

Now I'm trying straight white vinegar. I'll keep you posted!

Judy


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

A glass worker once told me that the etching won't come off. I have a small really old, "sunburned" glass vase. It is a lovely very pale lavender, but is cloudy on the inside. The glass guy said that is from age, and it is there to stay.

BTW, denture tablets are great for cleaning drains too. It works better than the caustic stuff like Drano. Put 4 or 5 of them in a smelly drain at night, and it will be fine by morning.


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

I also have had no luck in cleaning out that cloudy, iridescent layer from inside some antique milk bottles. At one time or another I have tried most of the tips you have suggested.
I would love to know just exactly what is it that causes that iridescent layer to form in the first place. Anybody know?


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

It is a change in the chemistry of the glass, as I understand it. The glassworker who told me it was permanent said that glass gets a matte finish on it from age and the chemistry of whatever it contained. The only way it could be smoothed out would be to heat the glass in a kiln just enough to cause the surface to melt a little. In the case of my sunburned glass, it would also take the color out. Also, there is a danger that the shape of the object would change from the heat. I've decided to let mine be - at its age, it's entitled to some flaws. :-)


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

Thanks Greenlady.


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

I'd try sticking one in the dishwasher and see how it comes out.


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

The cloudy, irridescent look, nor the purpling on old glass can't be removed. That's what shows that it's old glass!
Remove the dirt and enjoy the lovely patina.
Linda C


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

If you are into collecting antiques, those sunburned glass items are GREAT finds!!!!!

I have washed a million old bottles - all the tricks mentioned have a time and place where they worked - but the amethyst color is lovely and permanent!

Vicki


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

I have had great success cleaning old bottles using masonry sand, the very fine type used for mortar, combined with vinegar. Agitate the mixture until the patina only remains. Works well in cleaning hard-to-scrub vases too.

Colleen


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

Tips from a bottle collector and digger: Be careful with sand since it can easily scratch glass - bottle collectors use bits of copper wire instead. (copper will not scratch glass) Soaking overnight in an ammonia solution is good for dirt and grime. Try also LimeAway or similar product in grocery store for certain types of whitish deposits although most iridescence or "stain" can only be removed with tumbling or polishing. Bottle brushes (often found at grocery or hardware stores) are invaluable for cleaning the insides of old bottles.

See also this antique bottle cleaning page.


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

Thanks a lot all of you. I will try everything until something works. I have a bottle that is 2 1/2 feet tall but only has a 1/2 inch mouth. Be pretty hard to find a bottle bruch for that! lol! Thanks again for the suggestions


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

Hi. All the methods you have posted here work to some extent, depending on the type of dirt, soiling or hazing, and the bottle itself.
Mineral hazing or mineral etching can never be removed unless you use drastic measures (ie) heating the glass to just below the melting point. This in itself causes many other problems, warping etc. I have over 1000 bottles from the 1600s to the 1950s. I do not clean them past just getting the dirt & grime off. Some embossed bottles that are clear I clean a bit more so they can be read.
But other than that. Enjoy your bottle with it's patina.
That is just one part of it that makes it old and desirable to most collectors


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

You might try looking for a birdfeeder brush to reach into the longer bottle. Though I have one I haven't used it for the purpose you are talking about. I bet it would work though!


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

Many bottle diggers, antique professionals and serious collectors have there own special ways to clean old bottles. If you dig up an old bottle or find a special treasure at a flea market or garage sale the first thing to do when you get it home is soak it in room temperature water and dish washing liquid. The temperature of the water is extremely important since water that is much hotter or colder than the bottle itself can cause it to crack. Allow the bottle to soak for a few hours or overnight if possible.


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

Just soak the bottle in ketchup for 1 week. YES YOU HAVE TO USE A LOT OF KETCHUP.


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RE: Cleaning old glass bottles

I tried a few different methods and when none worked to my satisfaction I had a thought, I want to use these old milk bottles I found under my grandmothers house as milk bottles again and if I can't then I will just sell them off so after many attempts and failures I tried spraying oven cleaner into them and letting them sit(carefully not to get any on the lettering) and to my surprise they look like brand new bottles soooo happy!!


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