If you’re like me, you have several fabulous artisan vases, shaped in every which way that makes everything about fresh flowers or collecting more enjoyable — except the cleaning!  Recently, I found myself questioning when faced with a particularly difficult vase — one with such a narrow opening that only single stems fit into the vase, but one with a large bulbous base covered in geometric creases.  How do I get all of the white water residue out?  More importantly, how do I guarantee that mildew or mold doesn’t continue to fester in the vase’s interior between flowers?  

I tried simply soaking in soapy water for a few hours, but found that I could still detect the white hard water stains when holding the blue glass vase to the light.  I also still noticed a greenish film on the bottom of the vase, and stuck in a few of the nooks in between the vase’s architectural design elements.  Not very attractive.

I thought maybe rolling a paper towel really thin might do it.  No luck.  The paper towel, once wet, tore in half.  So now, I had not only white hard water stains and green film in my antique collectible, I was forced to showcase a $.02 paper towel as well.  Well, shoot.  Not my idea of a premiere shelf piece.

I even tried an old toothbrush.  Of course, it wasn’t near slender enough.

Like you, I then decided to consult the internet (which I should have done to begin with).  Amongst the vast web, I stumbled upon all kinds of interesting blogs and suggestions.  I will compile my favorites for you below.  I also found this article that gave me some great tips, but here’s what I’ve found worked for me:

1) Ice and Kosher Salt.  Throw them both in the bottom of the vase (crush the ice under a kitchen towel with a hammer and use it if your vase opening is as narrow as mine is).  Swirl and swish.  The coarse salt and hard surfaces of the ice will break up gunk and dissolve the yucky film.  Be forewarned though — this can be a bit abrasive for smooth, very expensive glass.  You might want to employ another means of cleaning, like…

2) Coca-Cola.  Seriously.  Have you ever heard the urban myth about soft drinks?  I’ve seen “experiments” where a steak marinated in coke actually breaks apart and partially disintegrates after a few weeks.  Whether or not you believe this is true, using soda pop (sugared or diet) and its carbonation to clean the crud from your vase’s insides worked for me!  Make sure you rinse WELL — especially if you use high-octane (meaning non-diet) pop.  The last thing you want is to feed the mold or mildew some sugar!  A few sources also said that denture tablets worked in the same way (the effervescence almost oxidizes the surfaces).  Truly, though, I’d rather be caught buying the soda (which, if “properly used”, could later lead to the denture tablets I suppose, but I digress…).

3) Another less abrasive mixture is a hot, soapy sink spiked with bleach.  Soak and swirl and re-soak.  Rinse well.  A fellow vase lover suggested this!

4) Remember building clay volcanos for middle school science class, and combining baking soda and vinegar for the all-important “eruption”?  The chemical reaction between these two household regulars seems to help dissolve and break down the interior sludge.  Bonus — feeling like a kid again.  I suggest gathering a few kiddos (or your friends!) and showing off your art deco vase with a volcanic show!  Oh — and no harsh chemicals and no bleaching your favorite green dishtowel (not saying that this happened to me, but wait, it did).

No matter the method, leaving gunk in the bottom or crannies of an expensive antique vase (whether glass or pottery) might pose a risk to any other living plant-like creature that enters its walls.  Do you have a favorite vase cleaning secret?  Please share!

Thanks, and happy cleaning!

-Diva Fiore