How to care for handmade ceramics and pottery

care handmade pottery

This is a question that often haunts my mailbox so here’s all you need to know about handmade pottery care, from a potter and collector of ceramics. This list of care recos is based on what my work would sustain, it will fit most potters’ work in the same price range. If unsure, ask your potter what they recommend.

Decorative vs. Tableware

First of all, there are many types of handmade ceramics. To name a few that I usually make, handmade ceramics can range from porcelain jewelry to desktop décor and figurine and go all the way to everyday use tabelware. Each type of handmade ceramics will have its own care instructions.

capybara and fruit tumbler
red clay tumblers are very sturdy

Caring for Porcelain Jewelry

Porcelain jewelry will be the most delicate type of handmade ceramics most of the time. A porcelain pendant will not get as dirty as a plate for example but you will need to clean it out from time to time.

My advice would be :

  • Don’t wear it while sleeping
  • Remove porcelain jewelry before getting in the water (shower, swimming pool, spa etc.)
  • Clean it from time to time with soapy water and a soft cloth

I know some people like to sleep with their jewelry on, it’s ok. For a porcelain pendant though, it can be an issue depending on the shape of the pendant. If it’s a compact shape like my owls for example, it’ll be fine. For small animals with details like tiny ears or tails or legs, chances are you could chip them in your sleep. Some have pointy ends to and you wouldn’t want to sleep on them ^^ I’d simply put them in a cute jewelry dish instead.

Technically, water won’t hurt your pendant but soap, detergent, swimming pool chemicals and spa essential oils for example can make your mother of pearl, gold or white gold deteriorate. I did not experience this personally but I wouldn’t try it.

cute triceratops pendant handmade porcelain by kness
I wouldn’t sleep with this triceratops on, put it safely in a cute jewelry dish instead ^^

Cleaning time with a little bit of soapy water and a soft cloth should be quick and easy, I use black soap and microfiber cloth. If your piece is intricate, you can brush it with a used soft toothbrush.

Caring for Porcelain Figurines

Porcelain figurines usually sit still so their main issue will be dust gathering on top of them. You’ll avoid sweeping the whole shelf and tip them, they could easily break (how to repair a chipped figurine)

I usually bring each piece down and dust them with a cloth or a soft brush, for tiny pieces I use a dry paint brush. Then I dust the shelf and put them back safely.

One thing I like is putting the figurines in a cabinet to avoid dust gathering and because it’s pretty ^^

cute opossum family porcelain sculpture
a porcelain figurine needs a simple dusting from time to time

Caring for Handmade Tableware

Handmade tableware usually doesn’t need very special care in my opinion. It mostly depends on the artist who created your piece, some will use very specific clays and techniques requiring hand washing and oiling etc.

For my pottery though, it’s pretty straightforward.

  • Dishwasher is ok
  • Microwave is ok for white clay
  • Oven is ok for all clays with care

Handmade pottery in the Dishwasher

So Dishwasher ! It’s ok to use your tableware in the dishwasher, I put mine in the dishwasher every day. Just make sure that everything is secured and you’ll be good to go. One thing ceramics (handmade or industrial) doesn’t like is thermal shock. So if you use a hot washing cycle, just don’t put hot tableware in a bath of cold water. Let it go back to room temperature and it’ll just be fine.

Ceramics are very sturdy and can withstand almost anything, temperature is fine as long as the rise and fall of temperatures is slow.

As with everything that goes into the dishwasher, there’s always a risk of two pieces bumping into each other or someone dropping something. Use with care 🙂

cute mug potter kness raccoon family
white clay mug, dishwasher safe, microwave ok and oven use with care

Handmade Pottery in the Microwave

If your tableware is made with white clay, you can definitely use it in the microwave.

Black clay and red clay tend to overheat in the microwave so I usually don’t recommend it. It’s mostly to avoid burning your hands as you retrieve your mug, otherwise it’s fine. Please use a towel if you absolutely need to microwave a black or red mug.

I usually don’t apply metallic luster to tableware but if your piece has metal on it, gold, or white gold included, Microwave is banned. I use true gold and white gold so it’s real metal and it will spark and possibly ruin both your appliance and ceramic piece.

jackalope bowl
black clay bowl, dishwasher safe, microwave not advised

Handmade Ceramic in the Kitchen Oven

You want to make a mug cake in your handmade mug ? Ok ! Feel free to do so but avoid thermal shock. Don’t use the broil or higher temperatures recipes, and never fast cool your mug by putting it in cold water for example.

cute otter tumbler handmade in red clay kness
red clay should avoid the microwave

Ceramics can last a lifetime or a thousand

That’s it for this article about handmade pottery care. In my opinion, pottery is made to be used and will sometime eventually break. It might be under your watch, or your grand children when your piece has passed onto them. Ceramics is extremely durable, so a vessel can get a lifetime of use, or it can sit on a shelf for life. It all depends on what brings you joy 🙂

greek pottery -4000 -2000 BC
Ancient Greek Pottery, -4000 to -2000 BC – Intact pieces