Proper Care & Cleaning of Your Vintage Cookie Jars

Perhaps you have been collecting antique dishes, cookie jars and other vintage kitchen collectibles for awhile now or maybe you have just discovered to joy of collecting various types of pottery from times gone by. Regardless of how long you have been collecting every one needs a refresher course on the proper care and cleaning of your vintage dishes and cookie jars. Specifically cookie jars in this post.

Just recently I have pulled out all of my cookie jars to wash, photograph and prepare for selling. What I discovered was that I simply adore these wonderful jars. To me each one is special and although I might not have a story or reason for buying each one, every one of those jars has a place in my heart. I’ve often used my collection as part of my home decor. I’m not too fond of collecting something only to keep it locked away never to be seen. So many times throughout the year the cookie jars will be rotated in and out of a room.

For example; Cinderella’s Pumpkin by Brush Pottery Co. could always be found on my mantel once the seasons began to change from summer to fall.


Brush Pottery Co. Cinderella's Pumpkin

Cinderella's Pumpkin by Brush Pottery Co.


Throughout the fall season it would share the mantel with other pumpkins, Indian corn and fall foliage. American Bisque’s Toy Soldier and Hull’s Red Riding Hood were always amongst the Christmas decorations and Brush’s Raggedy Ann was always found on top of my china hutch surrounded by hearts and other Valentine decor.


Raggedy Ann by Brush Pottery Co.

Raggedy Ann by Brush Pottery Co.


There are many more examples but you see why I love them so, they have been a part of our family and our traditions for over twenty years.

In order to keep vintage dishes and cookie jars looking their best you need to keep them in a safe environment and keep them clean. This takes some work as many cannot be washed by emerging them in water. In fact, I’m no expert by far but it is my opinion and many years of experience that each jar has it’s own cleaning requirements depending on the age, glaze and if it has any cold painting on it or if it is damaged. If you are not storing your cookie jars and if they are out for display, each jar should be carefully cleaned thoroughly at least once a month to remove any dust. If your jars are in the kitchen area they will need to be cleaned to remove grease and dust build up caused by cooking.

Below are some cleaning suggestions I use to keep my cookie jars looking their best all the time.

Damaged: Cookie Jars with cracks or damage need to be wiped clean with a damp towel soaked in a solution of vinegar and warm water and the wiped to shine with a clean lint free towel. If you need to remove sticky grease residue you can add a few drops of Dawn dish liquid to your cleaning solution, but you will then need to rinse by wiping down with a water soaked towel that has been wrung out then proceed to dry with lint free towel. You don’t want to submerge your damaged pieces into water because if these pieces have been repaired and you risk loosening the glue and could result in breaking.

Glazed: It is important to know that most all glazed cookie jars will have small little glazing cracks, this is commonly referred to as “crazing”, this is not damage and should not be confused as such. But you still want to wash these cookie jars as describe above because if you submerge these jars in water it can cause the glaze to begin flaking.

Cold Paint: Cold painting is a process of painting over the glazed piece. This process was used by several of the well known companies that produced cookie jars in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. You can tell if a jar contains cold painting just by looking at it. While usually cold painting was done in small areas, some cookie jars were cold painted all over, mainly on the raised areas to highlight the definition.


Dutch Boy by McCoy

Dutch Boy by McCoy


Cold painted areas will look dull not shiny like the glaze. Unfortunately many of those jars that contained cold painting are hard to find in good condition because age and wear just took their toll on them. And sadly many people didn’t realize that you can’t wash cookie jars with cold paint because it will just wash off. And if used a lot these types of jars could get quite dirty as the greasy film that accumulates on things that sit on kitchen counters seems to build up real bad on the cold paint areas leaving a sticky residue that collects more dust. Not very attractive and difficult to clean but not impossible. Here’s what I do, I follow the before mentioned cleaning directions but paying particular attention to the delicate cold painted areas, avoid if possible rubbing, instead using a cotton swab, dip it into your cleaning solution of warm water and Dawn dish liquid, lightly dab the soiled areas loosening the dirt and grease. Do not rub, you will rub the paint off.


Dutch Boy w. Sailboat by American Bisque

Dutch Boy w. Sailboat by American Bisque


This will test your patience but your reward will the great when you retain the paint that gives your cookie jar its character and charm. This clown’s lips where painted red as was his nose, but no longer as the previous owner probably didn’t realize the paint would come off.


Happy Clown by PoppyTrail

Happy Clown by PoppyTrail


Still adorable but imagine what he looked like with big red lips and nose.

Grease stains: Unfortunately there are no cleaning tips that I know of to remove grease stains from vintage cookie jars. These stains are a result of usage, placing cookies in the cookie jar for storage. Over the years and dozens of cookies the oils from the cookies penetrated the glaze and left stains.


Hobby Horse by McCoy

Hobby Horse by McCoy


Now for some this is unsightly but for me, I just see it as part of the charm. I imagine the grandmother who baked all of those wonderful cookies and who she baked them for. Therefore those stains represent memories and although not attractive and the stains do take away from the value. If your selling jars with grease stains then this is just part of collecting and selling, but some true collectors don’t mind a few stains if the rest of the cookie jar is in good condition. Especially if the cookie jar is a hard one to find.

Hope this helps you when keeping your treasured cookie jars and vintage dishes clean and displayed.

Next post: Storing and Shipping Vintage Cookie Jars


2 thoughts on “Proper Care & Cleaning of Your Vintage Cookie Jars

  1. I recently found a cookie in a box of stuff. I researched and it looks to be the Happy Dutch boy, the paint is almost all gone off of him. I know it brings down values of cookie jars to repaint, but if I wanted to do so, can you give me advice? Thank you, Cindy

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