Traditional Culture of Japan - Portal site of traditional crafts and culture

How to handle and maintain lacquerware

 

Lacquerware that you purchase is something that you want to use with care for a long time. Lacquerware can be repaired, so even if it is damaged, with repair work, you can continue using it for decades.

 

However, you might want to be careful about inexpensive lacquerware. For cheaper items, lacquer might not have been used for its undercoats, so it might be difficult to perform restoration work.

 

Therefore, you should know how to handle and maintain lacquerware. If you understand how to prolong the life of lacquerware, you can keep the lacquerware for many years to come.

 

Materials of lacquerware
Lacquer is one of the strongest materials. There is no problem even if hot water is poured over it on a daily basis. It is also resistant to acid and alkali. It tolerates aqua regia, which dissolves gold, and even hydrogen fluoride, which dissolves ceramic and glass, cannot dissolve lacquer.

 

Additionally, because lacquer closely binds together with the material, it usually does not come off easily. And, as described earlier, even if it is damaged, it can be repaired.

 

However, depending on how you handle lacquerware, it can cause discoloration and scratches. For instance, lacquerware is vulnerable to dryness. So, if you put it in a refrigerator for many hours or leave it in intense dry conditions like in a dish washer, it may change color. Also, lacquer is susceptible to ultraviolet light so exposure to direct sunlight should be avoided.

 

The use of a microwave oven is also not appropriate. Unlike plastic, lacquer is an organic substance, so the lacquerer coated section will be at a high temperature if a microwave oven is used.

 

Once or twice might not bring about any changes, but if you heat it up in a microwave oven over and over, the lacquerware will undergo deformation and discoloration. Sometimes, the lacquer coated section might burn causing smoke. Because of these reasons, the use of a microwave oven should be avoided.

 

In order to avoid physical scratches when you wash them in a dishwasher, you should pay attention so that the lacquerware does not come in contact with knives and forks. The use of an abrading agent or bleaching agent should be avoided for the same reason. These are points of caution when handling lacquerware.

 

Using lacquerware that is created with a synthetic resin and synthetic coating material
What was described above is the way you should handle lacquerware that is made in a traditional way. These lacquerware are made of “natural wood” and “coated with layers of natural lacquer”. Lacquer crafts using natural materials retain heat and showcase distinctive warmth.

 

On the other hand, products that are made of synthetic resin, instead of natural wood, are readily available today. Also, some items use a synthetic coating material instead of natural lacquer.

 

In the cases of these products, without the use of natural materials, they can be safely heated up in a microwave oven and will not discolor or deform in a refrigerator, so you can use them without worrying about these potential problems.

 

As far as the ability to retain heat and its lightweight, products that are made of synthetic resin or synthetic coating materials are inferior to the ones made of natural materials. However, in terms of “easiness to handle in everyday life”, these products are much better. Additionally, affordability is another reason that they are easy to accept.

 

But, be aware that sometimes resin products cannot be restored when they are damaged. Only a lacquerware specialized store can tell whether the damage can be restored after they have had a chance to see the actual product.

 

If you insist on genuine articles, you can use lacquerware that use natural lacquer. But, the products made of natural materials might not be necessarily the best for some people. This is because there are many cases where a synthetic resin lacquerware is better when its maintenance is taken into consideration.

 

The more synthetic the products get, the less you need to worry about how to handle and maintain them. On the other hand, expensive products that are made of natural wood and natural lacquer have to be handled in a proper manner.


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