Sunday, April 29, 2012

How to Clean Seaglass and Beach Worn Pottery

So you've collected some gorgeous pieces of seaglass and/or beach worn pottery from the shore. I hope you gleaned some nicely frosted pieces in pretty colours!  Now you want to clean it to get rid of the smell of brine, the little bits of grit and sand and perhaps in some cases, evidence of pollution.

Cleaning beach glass and pottery is very straightforward. After all, this is simply glass, porcelain or earthenware that ended up tumbling in the sea for decades. So you can use mild detergent, washing up liquid or soap flakes in water. You could even use baby shampoo! 

First give the pieces a rinsing in plain water. Then fill a bowl or plastic basin with lukewarm water and add the mild soap or detergent, frothing it up a little. Forgive me please, I'm about to state the obvious...but it's best not to use a sink, basin or bath as you might lose your precious treasure down the plug hole.

Place the seaglass and/or pottery in the suds carefully to avoid scratching. Give each piece a gentle rub with your thumbs to help loosen the grit, then leave to soak for a couple of hours. 
seaglass and beach worn pottery from Ireland
Transfer to a sieve or colander and rinse under the tap or in a fresh bowl or plastic basin of clear water. Pat dry with either kitchen paper or a soft, lint-free cloth. Lay the pieces out flat on an old towel or cloth to dry for several hours, preferably overnight.

When thoroughly dry use a soft toothbrush or nailbrush to carefully brush away any remaining sand or dirt. Carefully avoid leaving scratch marks.

Rinse in water and again, pat dry and leave to dry again.
lavender oil is good for black marks on seaglass
You could also use a drop of baby oil or lavender oil on seaglass to remove stubborn dirty marks before rinsing and drying. Lavender oil has a pleasant fragrance but is also anti-bacterial.
wet-look achieved with baby oil or lavender oil

If you like your seaglass to have a wet-look sheen with a more intense colour, just blot the excess oil off with kitchen paper instead of rinsing.  Oil, however, is NOT recommended for sea pottery, especially terracotta as it can clog the pores.

A beach comber I know once told me he used diluted bleach on seashells etc and asked if it is OK to use on sea glass.
Unisex white seaglass pendant,'Water Bean'
 As a general rule, you should avoid using strong chemicals. But on very dirty, pieces, particularly white glass, I sometimes use a drop of Milton (baby bottle sterilising fluid) in plenty of water first before proceeding with my usual cleaning method. Milton is good for sanitising, but also getting rid of unwanted stains. (I regularly give my teacups and coffee mug a soaking with it.)
white seaglass Celtic ornament from Ireland
 However, Milton can lighten or bleach colours so I do not use this at all on porous, terracotta earthenware and preferably not, on any beach finds in rarer, or exceptional colours. Regrettably, a couple of years ago I faded a piece of terracotta pottery I found on a Normandy beach in France. Oops. However, I have used dilute Milton on common brown and beer-bottle-green glass as an experiment with no problem.  But on your own head be it if you want to try it on your beach finds. Mild detergent and patience is always best. 

You can now use your seaglass or pottery for art projects or to display simply in a bowl or dish. (Follow this blog for ideas!)

click HERE for seaglass jewellery, ornaments and accessories
click HERE to learn how to clean seaglass jewellery


  1. Really interesting and wonderful colours.

  2. Well i have enjoyed it throughly, great stuff and content. Hoping for same stuff in your future blogs also.

    Marcus White lisdoonvarna

  3. your stuff is amazing! thanks for the tips! feel free to join the sea pottery group i just started on facebook if you're on there!

  4. Fantastic information, and your pieces are beautiful! Would pieces of 120 to 140 year old glass bottles, that have been in a running creek for at least a decade, be cleaned in the same mannner? I believe the fogginess of some of it is scratched by sand and rocks and constant movement down the creek, can they be made clear again? Curious Creek Glass

    1. Glass that has been tumbling in fresh water a long time will have naturally frosted the same as sea glass - ie the water will have leeched some minerals (ie potassium and sodium) and given it that lovely etched or frosted appearance that makes it 'beach glass.' I'm not sure if this is the cloudiness you refer to? Clean the same way, by hand in warm soapy water, to remove grime and dirt. Any other 'fogginess' is part of its charm, and what makes it collectible :-)