Cleaning Old Glass Bottles

I picked up a lot of really cool old glass bottles at auction a few months ago and they have been sitting in my basement waiting to be cleaned. I have been avoiding it because I have never really had good luck cleaning these kinds of bottles. My good friend “Junkin’ June” told me to try using warm salt water and boy did it work great! There are tons of wacky chemical recipes online to clean old bottles, but I must say this is quick, easy, and I am happy with the results. They are not all CRYSTAL clear, but much clearer than when I started.

Here are the bottles I started with. Lots of grime and dirt…

My fave is this embossed giraffe bottle that was full of mud and muck…

I started by soaking them in a hot water & salt mixture for about a half hour. Mind you, this is all experimental. I am guessing that letting them soak longer would have made it even more easy to swish out the grime. Put in probably about a half cup of salt into this bowl.

I also have this little brush that came with a set of pastry frosting tubes (for cleaning them). Works great on old bottles with really skinny necks!

I found a similar one available at Walmart. Kind of expensive ($12 for this piece of wire…nice…) but if you are into old bottles, it might just be worth it.

After they soaked, I swished around the water inside the bottle and shook it really good. I added more salt to make a “salt sludge” supposedly the grittiness of the salt helps clean the inside. I also used the little wire brush to get even more gunk off. The giraffe bottle came out nice and shiny!

Some of the bottles had lots of cool bubbles, indicating their age. “A bubble is an air bubble that became trapped in the glass during the manufacturing process. Bubbles are not considered damage. In fact, bubbles usually add to the appeal of old glass. Glass made after about 1920 does not usually have bubbles.” –

This Dr. Ellis bottle came clean for the most part, but has some rusty discoloration that wouldn’t budge. It’s okay though. Love the design of the bottle. It’s not too valuable – maybe $5-10. It dates from the 30’s-40’s and is one of a series of Dr. Ellis hair product bottles.

A much cleaner Atwood’s Jaundice Bitters Bottle, valued at $10-$15

I did not soak this bottle because I did not to lose what is left of this beautiful old label. I did use the salt water to scrub the outside of the bottle around the label, and also swished it around inside to clean it out.

In other news, I picked up this frickin awesome, HEAVY reproduction cast iron bank at the Goodwill recently. Though it is a reproduction, I know I can make a few bucks off it. For bank collectors or golf enthusiasts, it would be a fun piece to have.

As far as my other picking lately, I got this really cool antique church pew on Craigslist. It is in great condition and has some nice detail. I love this look for a hallway or entryway.

And I also got a cute little garage sale telephone bench:

I have been doing a lot of picking and thrifting and not a lot of crafting lately. I just signed up for the annual craft show up in the North Country and my wheels are spinning trying to think of some new crafty ideas. It’s in early November this year instead of mid-December, so I will try to throw in a few FALLish crafts as well. Hmmmm….

Til next time! Have a great weekend! 🙂

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Junkin June
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 17:30:26

    LOVE the Bottles – and another tip from “Junkin June” – you have to make a PASTE inside the bottle and SWISH it around for the “crystal” clear glass – it’s gritty and takes a while swishing and shaking; but after 5 minutes – should be night and day difference. FABULOUS Benches too!! Hhhhmmm might have to think up some “crafty” fall stuff to help you out!!!! Love your BLOG!!


  2. Barbara Briggs Ward
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 19:24:00

    I have lots of dirty old grimy bottles that I love-and now I know how to clean them! I never knew that certain type of bottle is a giraffe bottle! You are a wealth of information Margaret!


  3. Angie Yeager
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 23:31:46

    Have you ever tried denture tablets? If you have a bottle with a small opening you can break the tablet in pieces with something before opening the package. You may need to use more then one tablet, but the bubbling action may help to loosen the residue stuck in the detailes of the glass.


  4. buggalcrafts
    Mar 25, 2012 @ 00:03:47

    Nice! I’ve heard that denture cleaning tablets can clean out old bottles. Maybe try that on the few that didn’t become cystal clear.


  5. BethM@Under A Pile of Scrap!
    Apr 16, 2012 @ 20:53:48

    I would love to find some pretty colored bottles like the ones you have here!

    I’ve tried denture tables with some old bottles and it didn’t work very well, but I used slightly diluted toilet bowl cleaner for a few minutes while swishing around good and that worked the best for me. I also have an old toothbrush that I use to clean them with, but it doesn’t get the bottom the cleanest. I do this first before using the toilet bowl cleaner.


  6. Trackback: BoTTle ChArMs « buggalcrafts
  7. thomas
    Aug 06, 2012 @ 22:20:43

    also using steel wool on glass works great with little effort and does not scratch or scuff.


  8. iamnotmychildsbehavior
    Jan 02, 2015 @ 20:51:42

    You should spray some clear acrylic over that label, so it won’t flake off any more.


  9. Kim Boyd
    Feb 14, 2015 @ 21:31:59

    I think the bottle with the giraffe on it was a sore throat medicine called “Tonseline”. I may not have it spelled properly.


  10. Paula
    Aug 14, 2015 @ 16:39:36

    It’s actually “Tonsiline” since, well. they’re tonsils. But thanks for that hint! I was able to find one on Etsy. Cool!


  11. John Boutwell
    Sep 13, 2016 @ 21:25:14

    to get the rust off use Muriatic Acid from a pool store, it’s cheap and works great
    you want to sell the giraffe bottle, my mom collects giraffes and it would make a great Christmas present for her?


  12. Sheila Shearouse
    Aug 13, 2020 @ 17:42:17

    I really appreciate your efforts and sharing this information with me and I have tried many things to clean my old jars and bottles and I have not found any other way that cleans up as well as the staple we all have in our pantry.


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