Cleaning Coloured Pyrex

At my last flea market, one of the other vendors (a lovely lady selling the most fabulous knitwear) asked me how I get my Pyrex so clean and shiny. She’d had some issues keeping hers looking its best, and was wondering if I had any tips or tricks. I kind of brushed it off with an, “Oh, I just wash it!” But later I thought about it and realized that I really do have a process that I use. I thought I would share it here so that I can help other collectors.

For the purpose of demonstration, I’ll use the two pieces that came into my possession recently. The top one is a JAJ Pyrex casserole in the Market Garden pattern from 1971. (James A. Jobling’s company produced Pyrex in England from 1921 through 1973, when the patent rights reverted to Corning; after this point, the “Pyrex England” backstamp was used.) The bottom is a rectangular casserole from 1956 by the American Pyrex division in the Snowflake pattern, which is the very first pattern that was ever screen printed onto Pyrex. Given the age and condition of these pieces, I really want to keep the designs intact. Most importantly, when I got them there were no chips or nicks, which is something even the best cleaning can’t fix!

To be honest, these dishes aren’t in the worst condition of the ones that have come into my collection; some good examples of how bad it can get are in my old Cleaning Glass post. As is quite common, the inside of the casseroles were in pretty good shape, since people are most picky about keeping the parts that touch their food in the best shape, but the bottoms were worse off. But do not despair if you see this brown residue on a dish that you want, since it will totally come off with a bit of work!

One of the most important things I can say about cleaning old coloured Pyrex, whether it be solid-colour or screen-printed, is not to put it in the dishwasher. They won’t warp or chip in there — after all, they’re meant for the oven and even the oldest are safe for the microwave if there’s no metallic trim. However, the harsh chemicals and high heat of the dishwasher can fade or even completely erase the beautiful colours over time, so I really would recommend avoiding it! Of course, modern Pyrex and Corningware are dishwasher-safe, so if you’re not sure of the age of a piece, look for the stamp on the bottom that labels it as such.

On the Market Garden piece, the worse part was where food debris had collected in the edge around the rim. This is usually really hard to get out, but I have a technique for that which works for most dishes.

When cleaning coloured Pyrex, one of the things you want to avoid the most is heavy-duty scrubbing. So, no highly abrasive cleaning powders or scouring pads! (Although I’m quite enamoured of Lee Valley’s stainless-steel chain mail scrubber, which is great for cast iron, it would utterly ruin a Pyrex dish.) So your best bet is to fill up a sink with hot water and a generous helping of dish soap, and then let that sit overnight. Yes, the same technique for tackling the roasting pan from the Christmas turkey works with Pyrex, but why wouldn’t it?

When it comes time to scrub the dishes in the soapy water, I like to use the double-sided cleaning sponges with the green scrubber. I find that they’re generally abrasive enough to get rid of stains, yet not abrasive enough to remove designs (unless you scrub for a really long time — always be careful!).

And here you can see my secret weapon: bamboo skewers. They’re perfect for getting into tiny little areas that accumulate grime, but because they’re so breakable it’s really difficult to scratch the finish with them. The wide end of the skewer can even be used to concentrate your effort on areas with a thick layer of baked-on grease; I used them to great effect on my enameled cast-iron pan. As a bonus, they’re not strong enough to go through the enamel on cast-iron either (on which you also don’t want to use anything too abrasive lest you damage the finish).

I was lucky this time in that the Snowflake dish came completely clean with this treatment, even though it looked like it was in the worst shape. So I only had to do the next step on the Market Garden piece: a paste of baking soda and lemon or lime juice. The juice is acidic and the baking soda is slightly abrasive, which makes for a perfect cleaning combination. I left the past on overnight to dry, then added more lemon juice to scrub off the stains the next morning. Then, for a super-shiny finish, I gave it one more good wash in dish soap and water.

Sometimes, with dishes in really rough shape, you have to repeat these steps a few times. One other thing you can try, although only as a last resort, is a sink full of hot water and a single dishwasher detergent packet, left to sit overnight. I only do this when the dishes have resisted every other cleaning method, because the detergent is really harsh and concentrated. But I much prefer using one of the packets instead of giving up altogether! However, this time I didn’t have to resort to such drastic measures.

So here are my cleaning results:

Pristine bottom surfaces.

Edges like new.

And interiors from which you’d be happy to serve any guest.

So next time you see an old Pyrex piece that’s a bit worse for wear, don’t automatically discard it because of the amount of work that’d be involved bringing it up to snuff. It may take a couple of rounds of soaking, but it can look like new again without all that much elbow grease!

Felting with Vintage Tupperware

When I’m at the flea market, one of my most consistent sellers is vintage Tupperware pitchers. I hear so may people exclaim that they remember them fondly from their childhoods, generally filled with Kool-Aid and paired with bell tumblers. I have to admit that they were a consistent part of my childhood as well, even though at our house they were filled instead with juice that came out of a can in the freezer.

However, this past weekend I learned that these days they have an alternate use. One lady came to my booth and was absolutely thrilled to learn that I had one vintage pitcher left because she uses the lid for wet felting. For those not into such things, wet felting is a craft that uses layers of wool roving or yarn, agitated together with hot soapy water until it all sticks together as a single piece of fabric. If you’ve ever accidentally thrown a piece of woolen clothing in the washing machine and had it come out shrunken, stuck together, and unwearable, you’re familiar with the process. However, wet-felting is when it’s done on purpose to create pieces of art. The end results can range from absolutely gorgeous to terribly cute.

What makes these pitchers such great finds for wet felters is the ridged undersides of the vintage lids. (The lady I spoke with told me that the lids of new Tupperware pitchers have been redesigned so that they’re smooth on the bottom.) The ridges are perfect for gently agitating the layers of wool so that they stick together. And the handle makes for an easy grip. Apparently the pitchers are considered to be great finds by this crafting community, not only because they don’t make them that way any more, but also because they’re generally snapped up so fast.

Who knew?

613flea Saturday November 17th

We’re getting down to the Christmas crunch, which means more flea markets for me! This coming Saturday is 613flea at Lansdowne Park. It’s not technically the Christmas market (that’s in two weeks on December 1st), but a lot of vendors will be bringing out their holiday wares because people like to shop early — especially if they’re shipping presents to family, or are planning on traveling themselves. Considering that the local Christmas craft fairs started up the Saturday after Halloween, I don’t really think it’s too early.

Once again, I’ve managed to narrow down my social media pictures to two, and I can’t choose between them. Which do you like best, this one:

Or this one:

I mean, they couldn’t be more different, but I like them both. It’s very hard to be objective when each one holds some pretty happy memories for me.

I’m also really excited this week because I have found some absolutely fabulous new pieces that I’ll be including at my booth. Once again I have warm colours:

Versus cool:

I honestly love them all and would be happy to keep them in my kitchen, but if I kept every piece that I like I wouldn’t have anything for my booth.

Hope to see you there!

613flea Saturday July 7th

This coming Saturday I’ll be bringing my vintage kitchenware booth to 613flea at Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park. You’ll be able to find me in the northwest side of the building, one row north of center. As there will be 110 vendors there and the amount of sights to see can sometimes become a bit overwhelming, here’s a handy map:

The organizers of the market have started a contest among the vendors for most creative social media post. The winner receives their booth rental at the next event for free! I would love to win this prize, but I’m really not a graphic artist like Carabara Designs or Scatterbee. I had to make do with my photography editing skills. I worked on this for hours, and in the end I came up with two designs that I thought had promise. The first featured some my my colourful vintage Tupperware:

And the second a selection of my Blue Cornflower CorningWare coffee pots and percolators:

I’m honestly at a loss for which one I prefer, although I rather like how the high contrast makes the CorningWare one look like a vintage magazine advertisement.

Which one do you prefer?

Russell Flea Saturday June 16th

So it looks like tomorrow will be the last Russell Flea of the season! Originally there was supposed to be one more on June 30th, but the school where it’s held couldn’t get a janitor to work that day (not surprising, as it’s the holiday weekend), so it had to be cancelled. I’m not terribly upset, since this means I’ll get to spend all of Canada Day weekend with my family. That being said, this means I have to cram all of the new-to-me summer items into my stall tomorrow! I’ve been doing some serious hunting for vintage housewares, so there’s all kinds of new things to see. Given the beautiful weather today and the completion of my new deck, I had to head out to my back yard to take some pictures.

I’ve found a lovely handmade pottery bowl set from 1978, which includes six salad bowls and a larger serving bowl. Perfect for hosting summer barbecues!

There are some fun metal 1970’s canisters that would protect your coffee, tea, and sugar from insects and rodents at the cottage or camp.

Lots of melamine picnicware up for grabs, including cups, mugs, plates, and bowls. They’re lightweight, hard-wearing, and great for camping or just lounging near the pool.

And of course I always have classic Tupperware! I grew up with this style of colourful bell tumbler and juice jug. At my house, they were mainstays of the kids’ table.

Of course there is a lot more that I haven’t taken photos of (yet)! You can see it all at Russell Flea tomorrow. Hope to see you there!

613Flea on Saturday

I’m very happy to say that I’ll be at 613Flea in the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park tomorrow, Saturday April 21st, from 10:00am to 5:00pm. I’ve been to 613Flea many times before as a shopper, and I absolutely love all of the interesting vintage items and fabulous handmade creations that I have found (and bought) there. I’m really looking forward to exhibiting there this weekend for the first time. It’s a really big event for this neck of the woods, with over a hundred vendors!

Of course, since I’ve never set up a booth there before, I don’t have any pictures of my stall at this particular market. However, I do have some from a few weeks ago at Russell Flea. I experimented a bit and tried a new layout; I’m still on the fence as to the pros and cons.

This layout allows for more items packed into the same space, but I’m not sure that it makes it any more approachable.

Depending on the layout of the space I’m assigned, I may go with the same setup, or just one long table, or an L-shape… I’m still not sure. But I’m well-signed and pretty visible no matter what shape my tables take.

I’ll be at booth 100, in the northwest corner of the building.


Image via Google Maps.

If you’re not sure about cardinal directions, the map above has been nicely labeled by the 613Flea organizers. Basically, if you come in the door closest to Bank Street, I’m on your far left.

And I’ll be bringing all kinds of treasures!


Shabby chic candle holders and vintage Tupperware jugs.


1950’s coloured Pyrex.


1970’s Pyrex from England.


1980’s blue glass Pyrex.


All kinds of little vintage kitchen gadgets.


Corningware Spice of Life bakeware and kitchen accessories.


1970’s enameled cookware.


Casserole dishes & apple bakers.


A vintage Sadler teapot…


…or two.


Snowflake-printed Pyrex from 1956-1960, one of the first patterned dishes released using the screen-printing process.


1960’s Canadian Meladur Rainboware (essentially Melmac).


Vintage Tupperware.


And more Sadler teapots, this one with matching cream and sugar!

And a whole lot more!

Hope to see you there!

My First Market!

Tomorrow will be my first ever flea market as a vendor, and I am so excited! It doesn’t matter that I’ve worked retail off and on since I was old enough to get a job, or that I’ve worked in a second-hand shop, or that I’ve put together what seems like dozens of successful garage sales. This is the first time I’ve run what is essentially my own little shop. I’m both excited and nervous, as if I’m prepping for a really important job interview. I really, really hope I don’t mess it up!

I’ve set up a trial run of my booth in my half-finished basement so that I can be sure that I have everything together that I’ll need. At the same time, I have to make sure I don’t take more than I need (although I’ll need a bit of overstock to replenish the table as the day goes on), since I have to cram everything in my little hatchback. It’s really a balancing act.

My first market is at Russell Flea, which runs this Saturday, March 24th from 9:00am to 3:00pm at Russell High School (982 N Russell Rd, Russell, ON). I’ll be in the atrium this week, straight down the hall from the main entrance, on the right (in an classy spot directly across from the bathrooms).

Basically, I’ll be taking my passion for found, free, and flea, and turning it on its head to work behind the counter. I’ll even be bringing a few upcycled creations of my own to put on the floor. (No pics of those yet, since they’re small furniture and I don’t have an appropriately large area to photograph them at home free at the moment.) So please wish me luck!