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Cleaning Antique Bottles

Bottles are worth more when they are clean and in at least near mint condition. Many old bottles are called "dug" because they were dug up after having been underground for many years. Being underground for a long time exposes the bottles to water which stains them on the inside and outside (the chemicals in the water do the staining). A good scrubbing with a brush and warm soapy water does a good job in removing most dirt, but is usually ineffective in removing stains. While chemicals like muriatic acid (dangerous), Lime Away, Efferdent, or Dexters can provide some help in removing this water stain, these chemicals usually do not work to completely remove the stain. Tumbling the bottles with copper shot for many days is usually the best way to remove most of this stain. Professional bottle cleaners use tumblers and usually charge about $15 per bottle.

Here is some help on how to clean your antique bottles.
Note that a separate page has been created for Digging Antique Bottles.

  1. See Glenn Pochs' articles on cleaning bottles.


  3. Jar Doctor cleans bottles and sells cleaning supplies like machines, canisters, oxides and accessories.
    Contact: Jar Doctor, c/o R. Wayne Lowry, 401 Johnston CT, Raymore, MO 64083.
    Voice: 816-318-0161, Fax: 816-318-0162, Email:

  4. Bottle Repair Service, James Eldridge, 4836 W. Commonwealth Place, Chandler, AZ 85226 Phone (480) 785-2353, Email:
    Note: because liquid plastic resin needs at least 70 degrees in order to cure properly, and the plastic resin is highly toxic requiring outdoor ventilation, James can only do repairs between the months of May and Sep.

  5. Bottle Tumbling Service by Rick Kern

  6. Gunnell's Bottle Cleaning & Polishing. We clean embossed and painted label bottles, jars and jugs. Call (336) 969-9643 in Rural Hall, NC.

  7. Learn how to clean and restore antique bottles in hours, not weeks, without using tumbling or acid. You can expect a 90% improvement rate every time. Specific instructions, full page color before-after pictures. Send check or money order for $15 (includes postage inside USA) to Suzanne Petersen, 12349-95th Avenue, Blue Grass, IA 52726. Questions, Email:

  8. Good Ole' Bottles bottle cleaning service.

  9. Bokrosh Glass Restoration /Glass Repair Studio restores bottles, glass collectables, and glass art. Website:

  10. Facets Glass and Antique Restoration is a London-based antique glass repair firm. They repair and replace a variety of antique and modern glass as well as blowing our own glass in a range of colours. They also perform other specialist repair services such as rebristling antique brushes, silver replating and engraving.

  11. Bottle Cleaning Machines by Bob Roberts, 166 Zeb Cline Road, Shelby, NC 28150, phone: (704) 482-7200 (call between 8-11pm EST), Email:

  12. Deadwood Doug's custom antique bottle polishing

  13. Cleaning Antique Bottles is a helpful page published by Digger Odell.

  14. Bottle Brushes For Sale by Digger Odell.

  15. Professional Bottle Cleaning $15 for single bottle, discount for more than 2. Jerry Stokes, Email: phone (412) 274-6438, address: 11 Wilson Ave, Cheswick, PA 15024.

  16. Bottle Cleaning by Jennrog Collectables, 99 Lawrence St., Pepperell, MA 01463, phone: (978) 433-8274. The Northeast Distributer for Jar Doctor machines and supplies.

  17. Spring Steel Probes (5/16" or 3/8" size) for $25 each. Replacement tips are $5 each.
    Raybrite Tumbling Powder for $5.25/lb.
    Contact Chip Cable, Email:, Address: 235 Main Entrance Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15228, Phone: 412-343-4955.

  18. Bottle Doctor specializes in cleaning rare sick bottles. Dr. Allen in NV (702) 776-2511.

  19. CLR stands for Calcium, Lime, and Rust remover and it works pretty well, but usually does not remove all stain. CLR works better than Dexters. CLR probably works the same as Lime Away. CLR is available in most grocery stores in the cleaning section (along with Comet and 409).

  20. A product called "the Works toilet bowl cleaner" contains a dilluted (but not much) solution of hydrochloric acid. It is the only Hydro I have ever found on the store shelf. It totaly eats rust and other stains right off. Use with ventilation!!! It doesnt touch the magnesium leaching stains but nothing does. Info courtesy of Eddie, Email:

  21. Dexter's Stain Remover advertised as "a cure & remedy for sick glass ... for all stained antique glass ... mineral, rust, and calcium deposits". Send inquiries with SASE to 15140 Washington St., Riverside, CA 92506

  22. Bottle Brushes assortment of 15 (7 nylon bristles, 8 hog-bristles) can be ordered by mailing $25 to:
    Russ Butler
    P.O. Box 264
    Havana, FL 32333
    Send 50 cents (stamps okay) for illustrated booklet.

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