A cabinet filled with white milk glass makes an elegant statement, but only if the pieces are well cared for and loved. Keep this type of collectible looking bright by addressing its unique set of challenges. The fragility of age, a vulnerability to extreme changes in temperature and a pure-white hue that shows even the faintest layer of dust -- all combine to make white milk glass a higher-maintenance collectible than other types of glassware.
Though milk glass is still manufactured today by a few art-glass companies such as Fenton and Fostoria, much of the glass that collectors covet hails from the 1930s and earlier; some were made as early as the 1800s. Old glass is much more delicate than newer pieces, and it should be treated accordingly. Protect this type of white milk glass from extreme temperature changes by allowing it to acclimate when changing environments, keeping it out of the dishwasher, and displaying it out of direct sunlight.
Cleaning and Drying
To clean your delicate white milk glass, place a rubber mat in the bottom of your kitchen sink, and fill the sink full of tepid water and add a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Don't immerse your pieces completely in the water; instead, use a soft, non-abrasive cloth to gently wash them. Rinse with tepid water and wipe them dry using a second soft, dry cloth. Don't use abrasive powdered cleanser or put the piece in the dishwasher. If the milk glass is stained, use a weak solution of ammonia and water -- 5 parts water to 1 part ammonia -- to clean it.
Displaying the Pieces
For the best protection and least amount of cleaning, display your pieces inside an enclosed cabinet to prevent dust from rapidly accumulating. For those pieces stored on open shelving, wipe down the shelving with a solution of 1 part fabric softener to 4 parts water. Spray the shelves lightly and wipe them dry. This helps keeps your shelving from attracting dust. Then, use a soft-bristled paintbrush or your hands covered in fabric gloves to dust pieces intermittently.
Storage and Use
Never stack pieces of white milk glass inside or on top of one another without a soft, protective layer between them. Once your pieces become chipped or cracked, they're much more vulnerable to breakage. If you use your pieces as tableware, avoid filling them with foods that could stain them such as fresh berries or fruit juice. Also avoid using your white milk glass pieces to hold extremely hot or cold foods.