Care and Cleaning of Melmac or Melamine Dinnerware
Care and Cleaning of Your Vintage Melamine Dinnerware
Many people find sets of Melmac Dinnerware that are visibly scratched, have sticker residue or stains. They want to know what and how to clean these sets, or if they can be saved from their eternal demise in a landfill. Sure they can, I'm here to tell you how to clean those melmac dishes the right way!
Here we will discuss what you can do to remedy common problems with your melmac, and discuss overall care tips.
General Tips for Melmac Care
Clean Melmac with warm soapy water.
Use Dawn dish detergent, which takes grease build up off the dishes.
Avoid use of knives, and if you must use a knife defer to a butter knife.
Subject melmac to the dishwasher.
Scour with Brillo pads, SOS's, or metal scubbies.
Subject to industrial chemicals.
Subject to liquid bleach..
Use serrated or steak knives.
Put in microwave.
Put on the hot stove.
Get near open flame.
Although newer melamine may say that it's dishwasher safe, hand cleaning your dishes will elongate their lives
Most melmac can withstand temperatures up to 225 degrees. This means eating a normal dinner on it, such as a hot steak and potato will be fine. Usually steak is fully cooked (well done) at 165 degrees internal temperature. A steak fresh out of the broiler, may read only 185 or 200 degrees external temperature and internally much less. There has been much debate whether melmac "releases harmful chemicals" when heated, and the answer is at these recommended temperatures(under 200 degrees) there is no harm to you.
Once the melamine rises above 225 degrees, or microwaving it, will make it break, shatter, burn, or scorch, all of which is not good. Putting it in the microwave is also not good.
Problem #1: Knife Marks
Over time knife marks have cut down into the melamine of the dishes. Often these knife marks are discolored with dirt, grime, and black gunk. This is not sanitary and can be unsightly. There are two options for this.
IF YOU ARE USING THE DISHES:
You can only clean the knife marks to remove the dirt, grime, and bacteria from the deep grooves. Do this first by using a soft to medium toothbrush, and warm soapy water. Scrub the knife marks with Dawn. If the marks are mainly grease, they will come out. If they are more stubborn and have built up over the years, you will want to try a small paste of baking soda and shoving it into the groove--scrub with the toothbrush to make sure you have gotten it down into the knife marks.. Wait 5 to 7 minutes, then scrub under very warm to semi hot water. If they marks still won't disappear, you will then have to use a gel based bleach, making sure to only squirt it in the knife mark areas. It is recommended to find Comet Gel, though it is hard to find. I first prepare the plate under hot water, then squirt the gel only into the knife marks. Scrub gently with the toothbrush, and wait 5 to 7 minutes. The dirty part of the knife marks will be gone. Surprisingly, on white dishes they will come up nicely. On maroon dishes, like the above, they will simply be white now and not black.
IF YOU ONLY DISPLAYING THE DISHES:
Repeat the above steps to clean the knife marks so they are free of dirt and grime build up. Then use a polish like Pledge has a similar version. Lemon Furniture Oil will also work. I want to reiterate this is not safe to eat off of at this point, since you have applied chemicals. Here is what the chemical looks like.
Have you ever passed up buying melmac because it was scratched?
Problem #2 : Sticker Residue (Light to Moderate) - How to get Stickers off your Melmac and Melamine dishes.
There are three ways to combat sticker residue.
HOT WATER METHOD
Running scalding hot water on just the sticker area will loosen it enough for you to rub gently with a fingernail or a scrubbie. If using a scrubbie use only the green side of a 3M or Scotch Brite Sponge- do not use metal Brillo pads! The idea is to loosen the sticker residue so you can scrub or rub it into a ball and remove it. This works best for old stickers.
For more extreme cases, go to Problem #3.
In the scenario that you have a very sticky-sticker residue, often times using a piece of Scotch tape, and sticking it to the sticky residue and removing it, and repeating, will remove the remaining parts of the sticker. I have even used clear packing tape and it works fine.
PEANUT BUTTER METHOD
This method takes me forever, but it will work. Creamy peanut butter on a rag or paper towel, rubbed slowly and gently will eventually loosen the sticker or tape to a mucky film that you can then gently scrape off with a fingernail. I am unsure if it's something special in the oil, but it does work if you have the patience for doing this.
Problem #3 : Heavy Tape or Duct Tape Residue (Heavy to Extreme) - How to get the sticky off your dishes!
OIL BASED FOODS METHOD
One of my old plastics friends now passed, Robin Ptacek told me his secret. Here is what he wrote me, "Peanut butter or mayonnaise works well. I use a small portion of creamy peanut butter or real mayonnaise (about what will fit on the tip of your index finger) and rub it into the sticker residue. The oils in these food products will soften and loosen up the residue. A soft toothbrush rubbed over the residue usually then removes it. For tougher residue you may have to repeat the process several times. The piece should then be washed in hot water and Dawn to remove the peanut butter or mayonnaise. Cooking oil applied with a paper towel can also work. If you don't clean it immediately then you will have a grease stain to deal with!"
Francesca, a reader writes in, " My favorite tip for removing all kinds of tape, no matter how ancient and dried on or gooey, is WD-40. I keep spray WD-40 in my cleaning caddy to remove tape from metal, china, melmac, and vinyl. Sometimes it takes several applications, or leave it on for several minutes and gently scrub it with your fingernail to get the WD-40 soaked into the adhesive. On items you plan to eat or serve food on, be sure to wash with soapy water after removing the adhesive." Hey, thanks to Francesca for telling me this great information!
GOO GONE METHOD
For extreme problems Goo-Gone will work. One or two drops is all it takes to remove the most stubborn sticker residue.
I'm Hooked on Peanut Butter!
I found a gluten free version at Whole Foods that seems to be 'more greasy" than the normal PB's on the market. I paid a little more for this jar but it's removing everything.
Using the Peanut Butter Step by Step - This will remove sticker residue from Melmac.
Imagine my shock when a bit of peanut butter removed thirty year old sticker goop! Love it! Safe and effective.
Removal of Residue Recipe
Time required: 5-15 minutes
- Peanut Butter
- Paper Towels
1. Apply peanut butter in a dime sized glob on the sticker or glue residue spot on your melmac dish. I find the more greasy the brand of Peanut Butter, the better.
2. Scrub gently with a paper towel in a round motion applying some pressure. The peanut butter will absorb into your paper towel, but no worries. You will keep using it.
3. Continue to scrub in a circular motion, but use your fingernail to loosen the residue.
4. You should see the sticker start to be removed, If not, continue all steps, possibly leaving Step #1 on the problem area for a few hours to soak in.
Grandmas's House - Pick the one that pops in your head first...
Does melamine or melmac bring back a memory in your life?
Problem #4 : Caked on Grease - Photo is dramatized for impact.
Believe it or not, caked on grease is found often when buying melmac and in most cases deters people from buying it. Grease is nothing more than caked up baking oils, and can easily be removed with some elbow grease, hot water, and soaking in Dawn dish detergent. Grease can discolor the entire dish, and is especially noticeable on the edges of the dinnerware. Often times the base will show the grease around the foot of the plate as well. After you soak in hot water for 20 minutes, scrub with the green side of a 3M or Scotch Brite Pad, gently, not hard, and never use metal or Brillo. The idea is to penetrate the grease, and once penetrated it should clean up well. I often defer to my toothbrush when dealing with the small ledges around the underside, or even the backstamp, which often gets grease in it. I would estimate thoroughly cleaning a set like the one above could take 15 minutes or more. The results however are worth it.
Problem #5 : Stains in Cups - There is some hope for these guys!
There are two types of stains in cups.
Brown stains are years of coffee or tea build up. These cups can be cleaned up to 90% by several methods. The quickest and easiest is using which ironically has been around since the 50's and works well on removing coffee stains. A small box normally can be found for under $4. Or, you may wish to use hot water, fill and scrub with a mixture of Dawn dish soap and baking soda and your toothbrush. Dip-it Cleaner, the same kind shown here,
White stains aren't coming out. This unfortunately represents years of housewives who have used bleach or harsh chemicals in their cups trying to remove the coffee stains. The white stain is actually bleach or years of use that has eventually eroded the finish of the dishes.
Melmac After CleaningClick thumbnail to view full-size
Checklist for Melmac Cleaning:
- Dawn Dish Soap
- Toothbrush (Soft to Medium)
- 3M Scotch Brite Sponge (yellow on one side, green on reverse.)
- Baking Soda
- Comet Gel
- Novus #2 Fine Scratch Remover
- Orange Glo Spray or Lemon Oil
- Chamois or Swiffer Pad
- Dip-it Stain Remover
- Peanut Butter or Mayonnaise!
Do you collect vintage melmac or melamine?
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Tell The Truth
Will you be more apt to buy or purchase old melmac now you know how to clean it?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer