I didn’t always have a massive turquoise Pyrex collection in my kitchen:
I got my first piece of vintage Pyrex (a butterprint fridgie) when I was a teenager. My grandma and I were yard-saling and she scooped it up. Conspiratorially, she told me it was special. It was aqua, so I was sold! After that, I bought a few more pieces here and there, normally at yard sales for a really good price. In 2011, my vintage Pyrex collection was actually still pretty small:
I don’t know how I moved from just buying pieces we needed to starting an official “collection,” but by 2013, I had a lot more turquoise Pyrex in my collection, plus an overflow cupboard of other colours:
Now I have a kitchen designed around my collection, which has largely stopped growing. I have splurged on a few rare pieces online, largely because I can no longer find any vintage Pyrex in thrift stores or antique shops – it’s so rare to find any locally these days.
I started buying non-turquoise vintage Pyrex (like these) and I’ve even started buying imperfect pieces (something I never did before). I’ve begun experimenting with bringing dishwasher dead and filthy vintage Pyrex back to life. I’ve tried a number of tricks for cleaning vintage Pyrex, from Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (awesome!) to Coke
soaks (didn’t do a thing) and I thought I’d share my Pyrex cleaning results – for fellow Pyrex collectors. Even if you don’t collect Pyrex, I’ve got a trick for cleaning utensil marks off china – I made my worn-out cereal bowls look brand new again!
Getting Rid of Black/Grey Metal Marks on Vintage Pyrex
What causes these black marks on Pyrex? I see them often. I’ve read that they’re metal marks but it’s peculiar so many pieces have them on the outside. My best guess is that they’re from nesting bowls inside each other, shelf wear, or maybe from sitting inside of metal pots and pans. Utensils create similar grey/black striations, but they’re found inside bowls. In my experience, I’ve found that Bar Keeper’s Friend – the powder, not the liquid – gets most, if not all, of these black marks off Pyrex, but it can also take the finish off coloured Pyrex. I accidentally made a piece look a little dull by scrubbing too hard, but a gentle touch with the barkeeper’s friend can help remove what soap, scrubbing or even Magic Eraser cannot:
I’ve also used Bar Keeper’s Friend on my cereal bowls to remove utensils scratches and
within seconds of scrubbing they looked brand new. It took a little bit
of elbow grease, but all four bowls took me fewer than fifteen minutes
to clean! In this case, there was no wear to the finish at all but the utensil marks were 100% gone.
Restoring DWD (Dish Washer Dead) Vintage Pyrex Pieces
Dishwasher dead Pyrex pieces make me so sad. Sometimes the pattern has been washed clean off, other times the finish is gone and the piece looks dull and matte. I found a set of four turquoise mixing bowls at the thrift store and my heart leaped out of my chest when I spotted them. Then it fell to my toes when I saw the damage – and the outrageous Value Village price! I just couldn’t leave them behind (plus I had a coupon), so I took them home and worked some magic.
First I tackled the black marks. Each piece looked like this:
I let them soak for a good long time in hot, hot, hot soapy water. They were severely dishwashered and had lots of grey scratches so I went to town cleaning them with my Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, then Bar Keeper’s Friend. This combo took off not only the marks, but also some of the dull white residue making them look more dishwashered than they were.
Sometimes the opacity on DWD vintage pyrex is from a built on film (often from hard water), not actual damage. In this case, there was damage beneath the film but scrubbing still helped reveal the colour hidden beneath the grunge.
Once they were cleaned, although they were a little less dull and hazy, the dishwasher damage remained – it’s irreversible. Upon the advice of some fellow collectors, I grabbed some coconut oil and rubbed a tiny bit onto the surface and really worked it in with my fingers – much like I would work it into my skin. It worked like a charm to revive the dishwasher dead Pyrex bowls! The pieces are a tiny bit slick to the touch (but only barely so, because I really worked in the oil). Once they’re oiled, a Pyrex piece should no longer go in the oven but you can definitely use it for mixing, serving, or display. After a bunch of washings, the bowls could use another oil but I haven’t bothered because they still look leaps and bounds better than when I bought them.
I think that, if I’m being honest, the oil is best for pieces on display or those that are rarely used, but it’s nice to see that dishwashered pieces can be somewhat revived.
Here’s the difference: on the left it’s oiled and on the right (toward the bottom), it’s still dull from the dishwasher.
The difference shows up more clearly on this piece, where the oil has been applied to the right:
Now my little thrifted set has been revived and looks awesome on my shelf. I’m eager to try the oil on some other dishwashered pieces, although part of me hopes I don’t come across any more of them.
One thing I noticed: the oil didn’t make a difference on white pieces with coloured pattern (like my butterprint fridgies) – the best results were on solid pieces or those with a lot of colour (like my bowl above).
I went a little nutty and, in a stroke of good luck, picked up a few more aqua mixing bowls (two from an antique shop and another thrifted one) and tried to revive them as well. Sadly, one lost its finish a bit, but the other two cleaned up perfectly. I really have to go easy with the Bar Keeper’s Friend – something I learned the hard way.
How to Clean Baked on Grease + Grime from Vintage Pyrex
I found a turquoise snowflake space saver at a local antique shop for a steal ($6!), but it was in rough shape with caked on grime that was burned into every nook and cranny.
I soaked it in hot soapy water a couple of times, for a few hours each soaking. I scrubbed with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser but it did little. I scrubbed gently with Bar Keeper’s Friend and some came off. I soaked some more. With these steps I was able to remove quite a bit of the goo, but there was still more to tackle:
I picked at parts with a toothpick and removed what I could that way. I opened up a pack of dishwasher liquid and let it soak in that, which helped a bit. Desperate, I soaked it in Coke, which seemed to do nothing, even though I’ve read rave reviews from other collectors.
Finally, I grabbed some glass stovetop clean and a soft scrub pad and that worked. The combination of the soaking, the Bar Keeper’s Friend, Magic Eraser, some picking and elbow grease, and the stove top cleaner worked to get most of the grease off, without damaging the finish at all (it had some paint loss when I bought it). I was lucky that after all that rubbing it stayed as shiny as when I bought it. I didn’t get 100% of the grime off (it had worked itself into the texture of the design), but it was at least 80% improved. It was a good way to experiment with different methods, and I’m happy to have scored such a pretty piece for such a good price (although I doubled the price in Coke, I’m sure).
I’m going to have to keep experimenting because buying imperfect Pyrex is totally new territory for me. I’d love to find a way to get off the black marks without jeopardizing the finish, but Bar Keeper’s friend seems to be popular among collectors (see more of it’s magic here). I’ve also read some other tips for getting the baked on grime off. I need to track down some more supplies, and muster up some more energy, and then maybe I’ll tackle the last bits of grime on the snowflake space saver.
UPDATE: After some fellow collectors and commenters (see below) suggested it, I tried oven cleaner for that really baked-on-won’t-scrub-off grime. Here are the details, but, long story short, it worked really well! I just popped the offending Pyrex into a bag, sprayed some cleaner on, let it soak and then rinsed it off before giving it a good, soapy wash. I did hear from one person who said oven cleaner left a hazy film on her Pyrex, so perhaps save it as a last resort or test on a small area first?
Please feel free to share your tips and tricks in the comments below! I love hearing advice and picking up tips from fellow collectors, so feel free to link to your own blog posts or Instagram pages so we can ogle your vintage Pyrex collection and soak up your vintage Pyrex cleaning advice!
Looking for more cleaning tips?
Here’s my tip for how to make chrome and stainless look (and stay looking!) brand new and gleaming.
This is how I clean lampshades without a vacuum (it takes two seconds).
Cleaning my glass fireplace doors used to be a nightmare, until I discovered a product that cleans brunt on soot in minutes!
And, if you’re updating a space, find out how I turned worn our lacquered brass into bright, brushed gold with one magical ingredient and two easy step!
Last but not least, here’s how I wash ( and de-pill) dry clean only cashmere and wool at home – great for laundering delicate vintage woolens and even pretty wool rugs from the thrift store (because who wants to spend $30 dry cleaning a $3 find?).