A Tea Addict's Journal

This is how you clean an old pot

October 30, 2007 · 11 Comments

I went back to Fuxing (Fushen) today… and as usual, the owner talked and talked, interesting info spewing out during the tea session. Among other things, I asked — how do you clean an old, dirty pot?



“Yeah, bleach — stick the pot in bleach, cover it in bleach, leave it there for a day, and then take it out”

So, apparently, what you’re supposd to do is to bleach the damn thing, inside and out. Then, you take it out, rinse it a few times with water (I suppose cold is good enough?). Then, you use spent tea leaves — throw them in, fill the pot up, and fill it up with water. Leave it overnight. The next day, your leaves and the water will smell like bleach, but the bleach from the pot will be gone. If you feel queasy, repeat this a few times.

Sounds rather insane to me.

But… maybe not? After all… we use bleach on a lot of things.

Maybe that’s what I should do?

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11 responses so far ↓

  • iwii // October 30, 2007 at 12:43 pm | Reply

    I wouldn’t do that unless I would like to get rid of the patina…
    But if it is not a problem for you, why would it be nasty? If rinced properly (that is with boiling water, many times, and for a long time), it should be perfectly fine. (Also use it diluted if you want to be sure).
    I have already cleaned teapots the hard way and my rough palate does not notice any difference. Some would say your teapot will be lost forever, but it sounds a bit like saying using a strainer is ruining the taste of your tea or talking about an uncooked golden tribute mellon.

  • wyardley // October 30, 2007 at 1:01 pm | Reply

    I’ve read that before, at least one place – that’s the method recommended here:


    Danica swears by unflavored denture cleaner (hard to find in the US); I’ve used some and it doesn’t seem to have any bleachy smell; I believe the active ingredient in those is an “oxygen bleach” type stuff, which should have the same benefits but little to no bleachy smell.

    In reply to the other comment (why would it be nasty) – I think folks generally avoid using anything with a strong smell or flavor in Yixing under the theory that the porous clay will hold onto the bad smell / flavor, much as it (hopefully) holds onto the good flavors over time.

  • iwii // October 30, 2007 at 1:29 pm | Reply

    Of course, but tea particles are not reacting actively with water unlike bleach. So you can have end up with a tea deposit in your pot over time while bleach should disappear progressively with rinces.
    But indeed the idea of using toothpaste or fake teeth cleaning product is probably safetier, since it would be less hazardous to drink the tea afterwards even if not properly rinced.
    But either way, the patina will be lost, or half lost which is probably even worse…

  • wyardley // October 30, 2007 at 1:42 pm | Reply

    I think the reason for cleaning is that a lot of old pots haven’t been well taken care of, and even if they don’t have mold or something, they have an uneven patina or excessive tea stains inside. Some people may like this, but others may not. Also, if you believe that the type of tea used in a pot should be consistent, you might want to get rid of the old tea stains and old tea smell.

  • Anonymous // October 30, 2007 at 8:53 pm | Reply

    I’d pass on bleach (and other aids) ..Use hot water and tea, let it sit over-night .. boild in a large pan ..Change water and tea, repeat a few times. This should clean it up. john

    PS Cathay lounge better than JAL 🙁

  • MarshalN // October 30, 2007 at 11:46 pm | Reply

    Dude, Cathay is the best! 🙂

    Yeah, I’m a bit skeptical of the bleach thing, mostly because it might give me some second thoughts about using the pot afterwards, even if it leaves almost no traces.  It’s one thing if it’s a non-porous surface (like a porcelain dish) but it’s another if it’s porous clay.  I don’t know, it just doesn’t sound right.

    Where DO you find unflavoured denture cleaner?

  • Anonymous // October 31, 2007 at 1:05 am | Reply

    “If you feel queezy, repeat…”  lmao.

  • behhl // October 31, 2007 at 9:56 am | Reply

    hmmm  … sounds too queasy for me … I think I stick to the Steradent Method (if necessary to clean). Think twice, or three times. No harm try brushing and boiling and water soaking first – then if that doesn’t work you can try to anything as last resort.

  • Anonymous // October 31, 2007 at 12:20 pm | Reply

    I wouldn’t be too concerned about the bleach actually, as long as it’s really just plain chlorine bleach.

    Chlorine is a strong oxidizer, and in that respect is not much different than denture cleaners which usually use some kind of peroxide or something similar.

    Simply heating or leaving it around should evaporate the chlorine. That’s why you can’t use chlorine in a hot tub, since the heat causes it to evaporate, and instead you have to use bromine.

    I’m not saying that it’s the best way to clean a pot, just that I wouldnt worry about the chlorine hurting me.

    Personally I just scrub the pot with a sponge.

  • Dogma_l // October 31, 2007 at 4:37 pm | Reply

    Best way, IMO. been doing it for years. Bleach (as in sodium hypochlorite) is not only instantly fatal to all kinds of bacteria and molds, it’s the chemically perfect cocktail to break up polyphenol-type deposits. (Better for that purpose than denture cleaner perxides, though a little lye and some hair-bleach peroxide might work.) Doesn’t just loosen those crusts; breaks them right down to small molecules. Which means that if there really is anything to the porosity story, it will restore the virgin clay surface.

    As to toxicity, the stuff isn’t toxic – just corrosive. And since it reacts instantly with tea, any bleach remaining in the pores will be converted to ordinary salt as soon as the extract of those spent leaves gets in. And unlike most cosmetic-type bleaches, there is no added fragrance or taste.

    I hate to lose patina too. But the hard-to-get part is the selective rub-smoothing of the clay (which can also be enhanced – another story). The tea-oil deposits can be restored with a few rinsing sessions using scrap tea – I do it all the time.


  • MarshalN // November 1, 2007 at 12:24 am | Reply

    The chemist has spoken 🙂

    Ok, bleach it is!  Now I’ll go find some, stick it in the pan, and I think I’m in business.

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