The best way to maintain clean teaware is not to stain it in the first place. But let’s face it.
Your teaware will get tea stains over time, especially if you love long tea sessions like me.
As I enjoy aged teas that brew many more times than other types of teas, I tend to leave my teaware with tea leaves and brewed tea awaiting for my next brew.
And sometimes, that next brew never happens, and I find myself spotting tea stains on my porcelain the next morning.
I’d hurriedly use some elbow grease along with warm water to get rid of the stains, but over time they would unfortunately accumulate.
As a tea sommelier who strives to help tea lovers enjoy tea, I tested out different stain removal methods during our weekly LIVE Tea Hour on Instagram to find and share the best way to clean teaware.
This experiment specifically focused on cleaning porcelain Gaiwans, but you can apply the same method to any porcelain teaware or dinnerware.
4 Different ways to remove tea stains from porcelain gaiwans
We surveyed our tea community to shortlist a few different cleaning methods.
The ones NOT included in the experiment are
- Denture tablets
- Lemon juice: 1 teaspoon of lemon juice + hot water
- Tea leaves
I do not have denture tablets and lemon juice at home 24/7, and I am planning on writing a separate article about different ways to reuse tea leaves, so they were not part of this experiment.
The following four methods are the ones I decided to test out as they use common household items and had the most votes.
1. Baking Soda
1 part baking soda, 2 part water
This is the most popular method within our tea community. I also frequently use baking soda myself as it is versatile and odor-free.
One modification I made to this method is making the baking soda and water mixture in advance instead of adding a random amount of baking soda directly on to my teaware.
1 part vinegar, 1 part water
Vinegar contains acetic acid, which is more acidic than lemon juice. Its exact percentage depends on the type of vinegar, but the one I used for this experiment is standard distilled vinegar (5%).
To give you a point of comparison, white vinegar is 7%, balsamic and red wine vinegar is 6%, and rice wine vinegar is 4.5%.
3. Baking Soda + Vinegar Mixture
2 cups of boiling water, ⅓ cup of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of baking soda
Maya, our Mansa Tea Society member, first suggested this method to me. The idea is very simple: you mix the two most popular ingredients.
This specific ratio was submitted by Andrea, a tea lover from Italy, and I cut his recipe in ⅓ to avoid making a large batch.
In theory, it should capture the best of both worlds, but it got me wondering, is it going to be that much better? It also takes a bit more time to boil the water and measure out the ingredients.
You may be already familiar with cleaning or polishing silver with toothpaste, but have you tried cleaning teaware with it?
Interestingly, the tea lovers who suggested this idea to me have not tried the method themselves.
So I decided to take the bullet for everyone and try it out on one of my Gaiwans.
The best way to clean porcelain teaware: The verdict
I had great results with all four methods! My porcelain Gaiwans came out sparkling clean, leaving me feeling I should have done this sooner.
So it came down to convenience and personal preference.
I am not a big fan of the smell of vinegar, so given a choice between baking soda and vinegar, I’d go for baking soda. Also, given that baking soda alone was satisfactory, I did not find the extra mile of adding vinegar into the mixture necessary.
Although I tried the toothpaste method, I would not recommend this method for the following reasons:
- If you are using a toothbrush along with the toothpaste, the toothbrush can scratch the surface of your teaware.
- Even if you are not using a toothbrush, toothpaste has abrasives that can scratch even gold.
Perhaps it is because we all intuitively know that toothpaste is abrasive that no one has tried using toothpaste on teaware!
What about soaking or submerging porcelain teaware in boiling water?
I often see tea farmers or tea houses in China submerge porcelain teaware in boiling water. The two main reasons are sanitization and heat.
Because we avoid using harsh chemicals to clean teaware, boiling water is frequently used to sanitize teaware between usages. Also, pre-heated teaware can avoid temperature shock during tea brewing.
How often do you wash your porcelain teaware with something other than water?
At least every few months. At around 2-3 month mark, I start to notice tea stains on my porcelain teaware. As I run a lot of tea workshops, I’d like to keep them sans stains!
Can I use baking soda or vinegar on other types of teaware, such as clay pots?
No, no, and no. Please do not use this method to clean unglazed teaware, such as Yixing teapots. I plan to cover that topic at another time as Yixing teapots need a very different treatment. For now, if you are unsure, stick to water.
What do you use to scrub the surface of the teaware?
I recommend using tea cloth or tea towels made from cotton or suede to avoid scratching the surface of your teaware. Even a kitchen sponge can damage the glaze of your teaware, so be careful when choosing the material you decide to use.
I hope I inspired you to clean your teaware this week, and have a lovely tea session with your newly sparkling teaware!
Don't have a porcelain Gaiwan?
If you don't have a Gaiwan, I strongly recommend one as it's the vessel that had the biggest impact on my tea journey. Without one, it's really hard to do a proper evaluation of high-quality tea, from carving out flavor notes to understanding the depth of flavor.
I went through 100+ Gaiwans to find the perfect one, our Everyday Porcelain Gaiwan, for both beginners and advanced tea drinkers.
If you are not sure whether you need one, read 6 Reasons to Brew with a Gaiwan (vs. Infuser, Yixing Claypot)