Ugly, dirty ducklings

Or are they old ducks?

I love ugly pots. If you’re generous, you can call them rustic. Less generous souls will call them poorly potted, with bad craftsmanship and bad form. Either way, I love them.


Buying pots like these though entails some risks and problems. The most annoying and difficult to deal with are dirty pots. There are two kinds of dirts that you can encounter. The first is easy – just tea and other sundry dirt that can be easily cleaned. Then there’s another kind of dirt which is extremely difficult to clean. They appear as a sticky substance that clings strongly to the pot’s inner surface (always inner, never outer). Then on top, there’s often a white, limescale like substance. It’s nearly impossible to remove, with vigorous scrubbing necessary.

With bigger pots, scrubbing is at least possible. With small pots though, that’s really, really difficult. Both of these pots are infected with this unique brand of substance.





Keep in mind what you see here is already after three cleaning attempts – I’ve already removed a lot of the residue, but much remains. I honestly don’t know how anyone or anything can get that dirty. The spotted pot, especially, is puzzling. It’s part of a pair. The other pot in the pair is in great shape – stained, but doesn’t have this white stuff. This one, however, is covered in it.

I have some inkling of what this might be. I think water does eventually leave some residue in a pot. For example, my most often used young puerh pot has some of this white stuff too after years of use.


But it should really come with dark tea stains, like this


Not some sticky substance that clings tenaciously to the clay. Sigh, I just wish I can find that perfect chemical that will melt this stuff away.


Ugly, dirty ducklings — 24 Comments

    • I used some steel wool to brush off a lot of the residue, still some left.

      Been thinking about using white vinegar, but a little weary of the smell/taste it’ll leave behind.

      Haven’t used them yet, because they’re dirty!

      • I’ve seen strong citric acid being used to clean coffee machines, it might leave less aroma than spirit vinegar.

  1. I have noticed a white buildup around the lid of my pot also, I give it a good scrub with a tea towel and hot water, but that dosnt seem to do anything. You think I should worry about it or just let it go? You can see it on some of the pics on my blog.

    • Do you pour water over your pot constantly?

      That’s buildup from water, you can scrub it off with something harder than a towel. You can avoid it mostly by using a brush to brush away/out the water that pools around those areas.

  2. Hi! Somewhere I read about some interesting cleaning methods. You should try to take your teapots to some yewellery maker. They use the ultrasound for cleaning rings etc.. I can try to find that article if you would like

  3. It looks like it might be hard water build up, which I think is fro, m excess calcium –though I am not 100%. We drew water from a well where I grew up, which was hardl and presented that issue. if that is the case, the vinegar suggestion would work.

  4. What if you give them to your fellow potter for refiring? I know some people do that. All residue will just burn out.


  5. try calcium carbonate (use a toothbrush).
    You rinse the pot so as to have a humid surface, pour some dry calcium powder on the surface you want to clean and brush (the brush will preferably be dry).
    I would recommend a medium toothbrush at first, if it does not work well enough use a harder one.

    if no result sodium bicarbonate is a bit stronger. Or silica powder if you can find some.

    these are “mechanical”, nor chemical cleansers.
    they may not be able to clean inaccessible parts of the pot.

    If you happen to be friends with a dentist, he would gladly experiment his ultrasonic tool on your pots.

    if none of these prove satisfying of if you cannot convince a dentist :DD, citric acid is the answer. Maybe if you use naturally produced citric acid you may get less of that sour smell. or maybe 50% citric acid+ 50% hot water…

    anyway it is better to get rid of the deposit because you never know whether it may host some kind of bacteria

    good luck !

  6. Try muriatic acid. It evaporates completely, and doesn’t leave a residue, or smell. Wear gloves, and goggles.

      • What’s to fear? It’s commonly used as an industrial cleaner. It’s very potent. It won’t harm clay. It leaves no residue. Other than the potential for causing acid burns, it’s relatively safe. It won’t destroy the environment, unless you dump massive quantities of it into some body of water.

        Makes a great cleaner for certain types of buildup.

        • what’s to fear ? well, hydrochloric acid is highly corrosive by contact and exhalations are highly toxic.

          it is used industrially, with a high rate of accidents and damages -and yes it is also very destructive on the environment.

          will also destroy parts of the plumbing.

  7. Hello,
    These tea pots are not so ugly, they are quite charming in a certain way…
    Did you try to shake “big rough” sea salt, added with water in the pot. This is a very efficient method for glass, or porcelain, but for clay, I’m not so sure.

  8. i had the same thing with my extremely large yi xing pot that was sold as a kettle… i just used a very high concentrate of citric acid… i think i must have dumped at least 200 grams of it to about 2 liters of water… within an hour the nasty stuff was all gone

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