Have I mentioned I LOVE vintage Pyrex?
Ok, only like 8 million times. I am in my kitchen a lot, and nothing makes me happier than the bright cheerful colors of vintage Pyrex. I keep it out on display, but I also use it.
This pretty glassware has ties to Upstate New York. Pyrex was introduced in 1915 by the Corning Glass Works, now known as Corning Incorporated in Corning NY. Chemists at Corning Glass Works created a special borosilicate glass that was resistant expansion and contraction during changes in temperature. This new glass—branded as “Pyrex”—held up under quick, extreme temperature changes, which made it ideal for railroad lamps, laboratory glassware, and eventually, it was discovered the glassware is exceptional for cooking.
Pyrex is now a household name, and I’m willing to bet that you have at least one piece of Pyrex bakeware stashed somewhere in your kitchen. It might be your mother’s mixing bowl or a piece of your grandmother’s refrigerator set. The colorful kitchenware is a fun collectible. Don’t you just love collectibles you can actually use on a daily basis? I do, and even better if you want to add a splash of color to your kitchen with vintage Pyrex, it is not too hard to find. One of my favorite places to hunt down Pyrex is thrift stores. Yes, I did mention I only like to pay $10 for a Pyrex thrift shop find in that post, but I have also been known to pay a little more for a piece I have been wanting on eBay or Etsy. You can also find Pyrex in antique stores, be on the lookout for promotional or rarer pieces there.
When I do splurge on a vintage piece of Pyrex it is usually to complete a set. Nesting mixing bowls are among the most collectible and beloved vintage Pyrex kitchenware. The first set I completed was the solid “Primary Mixing Bowls”, and while I love a pink or teal Cinderella Pyrex Set, the Primary mixing bowls are still my fav.
Collecting Pyrex is pretty fun, and I always get a little excited when I spot a piece at a garage sale for a thrift shop. But I am pretty selective when it comes time to purchase.
If you happen to spot a piece while you are out shopping thoroughly examine it, before you pull out your wallet.
- Gently run your fingers along the edges to check for chips and cracks you may not be able to see.
- Hold it up to the light to check for scratches or wear in the pattern.
- What condition is the finish in? Is the dish still shiny? Is the color faded and cloudy?
- Is it loaded with stains? What kinds of stains are on it? If they are baked on brownish splatter and look like grease stains, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser should be able to handle them. Gray utensil marks are more difficult to deal with, but not impossible to get out.
- Did this piece originally come with a lid? Is it included?
A few other things to consider when shopping for Vintage Pyrex:
- Is this piece on my wish list? I am currently hunting down Autumn Harvest Pyrex Cinderella Bowls, Primary Colors Refrigerator Dishes, and Friendship Birds Mixing Bowls. So I am going to be pretty critical of any other vintage Pyrex I run across read: it better be in really good shape, at a really good price
- How rare is this piece? Some pieces of Pyrex were offered as a one-time promotional item or holiday special, and are harder to come by today. Others were a part of huge kitchenware sets, so that a homemaker could fill her kitchen with coordinating Pyrex pieces, like Green Crazy Daisy, and are fairly common.
- How much would I pay for a completed set? I usually collect with the intention of assembling a completed set. Knowing the going rate of a completed set helps me determine whether or not I am getting a deal on an individual piece.
- What flaws am I willing to tolerate? Since vintage Pyrex pieces have been around a while, you will probably run across more in “used condition” rather than “mint condition”. I really don’t like cloudy Pyrex, this is usually the result of running it through a dishwasher (a big no-no for vintage Pyrex), but I am fairly forgiving of utensil marks and scratches in the pattern. I picked up a teal Cinderella bowl at Goodwill that has a dull finish, and every time I look at it I wish it was in better condition. I probably should have left that one sitting on the shelf at Goodwill. Maybe I will give this DIY on restoring damaged Pyrex with coconut oil a try.
Care for Vintage Pyrex
Even though Pyrex was designed for and is durable enough for everyday use, there are a few things to keep in mind to keep it in good shape.
- Don’t put your Pyrex pieces in the dishwasher. EVER.
- Try cleaning your Pyrex in warm, soapy water with a non-abrasive sponge before moving onto any stronger methods of cleaning.
- Don’t clean the pattern on the outside of Pyrex with abrasive or strong cleansers or scouring pads (ex. Comet, Bon Ami, some Soft Scrub, oven cleaner, Scotch-Brite Heavy Duty Scouring pads, etc.) The white interior can handle a more thorough scrubbing, but the pretty colored pattern really just can’t.
- Test (in an inconspicuous spot!) any other types of cleaners and chemicals or abrasives before going to town.
- A Magic Eraser can safely be used to remove baked-on crud or stains from the outer pattern of your Pyrex. But be gentle! Not a lot of elbow grease is necessary, too much scrubbing will damage the finish.
- Use Bar Keeper’s Friend to get out stains on the inside or non-colored parts of your Pyrex.
- Clean your Pyrex regularly. It’s amazing how much dust and kitchen grease will find their way to your display of vintage Pyrex. Give pieces that haven’t been used in a while a quick wash with a gentle dish soap with water. I like to wash mine seasonally, it keeps my display bright and shiny.
Can’t get enough of Pyrex? Head to The Corning Museum of Glass this summer! The museum is celebrating the 100 year birthday of Pyrex with a special exhibit America’s Favorite Dish: Celebrating a Century of Pyrex from June 6, 2015 to March 17, 2016.
Make sure you check out the new limited edition 100 year anniversary glassware inspired by the vintage patterns. As soon as I am done writing this post I am buying everything turquoise 🙂
Have you been bitten by the Pyrex Bug? What’s your favorite pattern?
Tuesday 25th of September 2018
Just stumble down onto your site. I just purchased the primary color refrigerator set plus two (extra) smaller pieces; $52!! wanted to send you a pic not sure how. the is a slight chip in the lid of the bigger (yellow) piece, but i can live with it. looking to have it on display in my kitchen since my main “theme” is red chili peppers
Thursday 8th of November 2018
I love the primary set, and I think you got it at a great price! It will look great in your kitchen :-)
Monday 24th of July 2017
I realize I am a little late on this post – but I just found it – and I LOVE PYREX!!! I have a collection of my own, and I truly admire your willingness to pass up pieces because of what you’re looking for! I have yet to gain that much willpower LOL. I would love to connect and find out what other pieces you have in your collection! Thanks for sharing so I know I’m not alone in my addiction!