Let's look at some of the more delicate items that may be found in the kitchen.
Always hand-clean delicate and expensive fine china using experienced, responsible (perhaps supervisory) personnel. The risk and liability for the company is too great to entrust this responsibility to anyone else. Extreme caution on your part is wholly justified. China patterns are routinely discontinued, meaning a single broken piece may be quite difficult to replace; when an accident occurs, insureds frequently want to discuss purchasing eight to 12 new place settings, plus serving pieces.
It is a good idea to pad sinks, counter tops and drying areas before processing begins, and then be sure to consider the following recommendations:
Use caution when working with china with metal trim. Additional cleaning and time are required here. Test, evaluate and clean the china with the least-aggressive solution required to do the job. When metal trims or paints are present, minimize their exposure to highly alkaline presoaks to avoid discoloration or damage. Simply place these particular items in the presoak solution for two to three minutes, then hand-clean and rinse.
Before restoring delicate and expensive crystal, be sure to evaluate pre-existing damage caused by wear and tear (e.g. chipped edges), and carefully consider the position of storage cabinets relative to the fire's origin. Crystal stored in upper cabinets over stoves where fires originate is always suspect, even when it appears fine on the surface.
When heavy damage from smoke and heat is sustained, before removing the crystal from cabinets, always brief insureds (and adjusters if possible) and make notes about that briefing in writing. Be sure they understand that baked-on, oily smoke residue may be the only thing that is keeping the crystal from falling apart, and when you presoak it, damage sustained from rapid heating and cooling (i.e. hairline cracks) may become apparent as those soils dissolve. Generally, the thicker the glass, the less damage will occur due to the crystal having undergone slower, more uniform heating and cooling. However, because of the possibility of acid etching, try and clean crystal as soon as practical using the following procedures:
Begin by carefully evaluating the piece to determine if it is solid silver or silver plate. Check for "sagging" handles or spouts where solder may have been softened by the heat. Next, evaluate cleaning options, keeping the delicacy of silver plate in mind. Remember, when silver is exposed to acidic soot residues (nitrogen and chlorine dioxide), tarnishing occurs rapidly. For this reason, inventory silver and remove it from the damaged premises, clean it and store it until structural restoration is completed.
When silverware and serving pieces have been lightly soot damaged, they may be hand cleaned with mild dishwashing detergents followed by light polishing for complete restoration. Some jewelers even provide an electrostatic bath in which silver pieces may be dipped to make cleaning faster and easier. However, when heavy soot damage is present, there is no substitute for meticulous cleaning by hand, following these guidelines: