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How Do You Clean Navajo Pottery | Palms Trading
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How Do You Clean Navajo Pottery?

If you enjoy collecting Navajo pottery to beautify your living space or give as meaningful gifts, knowing how to care for it properly will go a long way toward preserving your pieces for years to come. 

Navajo pottery goes through a very specific creation process, and you can’t clean it the same way you would with other types of pottery. Here, we will take a closer look at the tradition of Navajo pottery and provide you with details on how to keep it clean so it maintains its beauty and integrity.

The Significance of Pottery in Contemporary Navajo Culture

Navajo pottery has a long and proud history, which continues to this day. The art of pottery-making remains a crucial part of Navajo culture and offers a real connection to the identity and spirituality of the tribe. Pottery making is an activity that’s often passed down through generations, where elders teach younger members of the tribe the Navajo pottery designs, techniques, and cultural significance.

By sharing this skill and embracing the history of pottery-making, it helps preserve the tribe’s traditions and continually reinforces a sense of cultural identity. In modern Navajo culture, pottery has become a diverse art form, with many Navajo pottery artists experimenting with different techniques, new materials, and designs, all while showing the deepest respect for the tradition. 

Pottery making is an integral part of Navajo culture, as it serves as a visual representation of the tribe’s cultural heritage. Not only does the pottery-making tradition symbolize the Navajo people’s close relationship with nature and reliance on the earth’s resources, but it also represents the experiences and inspirations of individual artists.

Pottery also acts as a canvas for storytelling and passing down cultural narratives. The art form allows artists to contribute to their communities and support their families, while also serving as a testament to the strength and endurance of the Navajo community.

The Gentle Art of Cleaning Navajo Pottery

Cleaning authentic Navajo pots is not the same as cleaning other types of pottery. The historical and cultural significance of this type of pottery requires extra care when handling and cleaning these vessels. The things you shouldn’t do are probably more important than what you should.

Proper Preparation for Cleaning

When it’s time to clean Navajo clay pots, make sure your hands are clean before touching the vessel. If you have anything gritty on your hands, if they are wet, or if they are oily for some reason, it could damage the pottery. Always use two hands to move or carry the pot; if possible, use curator’s gloves whenever you handle your pottery. 

It’s also a good idea to place a mat, piece of soft cloth, or felt between the pot and the surface you’re setting it on. This will help protect the piece’s hallmark (the Navajo pottery artist’s signature).

Using the Right Tools & Techniques

At Palms Trading, we recommend cleaning your pottery gently with a feather duster. You should never submerge any Native American pottery in water or wipe it down with a wet cloth. Exposing Navajo pottery to moisture is never a good idea, which also means you should never fill your vessels with water. 

When cleaning your pots, don’t turn, spin, or slide it on its base, as you may end up scratching the bottom. If your pottery requires deeper cleaning, take the time to get in touch with an expert who can instruct you on how to best clean your specific piece.

Tips on Safely Preserving the Integrity & Beauty of Navajo Pottery

When you have beautiful pieces of Navajo clay pottery, you want to preserve their beauty and integrity for as long as possible. Following the recommended cleaning techniques mentioned here is a good place to start. 

Here are some additional tips that will help keep your pottery in great condition: 

  • Avoid excessive handling
  • Store in a stable environment with controlled temperature and humidity
  • Keep your pottery away from direct sunlight
  • Always use protective padding when transporting your pottery
  • Don’t display your pottery in high-traffic areas
  • Keep pieces away from any possible water sources
  • Dust your pottery regularly to avoid dirt buildup
  • Rotate your displays so they all receive even exposure to light

It’s important to keep in mind that most Navajo pottery bowls and other pieces are decorative and may not always be functional. Traditional Navajo pottery should be displayed proudly, but it’s not to be used as a water pitcher, flower vase, or for any other type of daily use unless otherwise specified.

When you care for your pottery properly, you can help ensure it remains in good condition and prevent deterioration over time. Keeping your pottery looking great and on display allows you to continue to appreciate the culture and history of the Navajo people and to pass that knowledge and beauty along to others.

If you’d like more information about how to keep your Navajo pottery clean and well-preserved, don’t hesitate to reach out to our knowledgeable team at Palm’s Trading today!