Is it safe to eat from the vintage enamelware bowls?

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Original Post


I have a customer who is wanting to know if it is safe to eat from these bowls.

Personally, I would eat from them, but as a seller I don't want to tell someone its ok, if its not. I don't how to answer her question. Do any of you have any helpful answers?

Thanks so much!

Posted at 7:58 am Jan 27, 2010 EST


I'm not 100% 100% sure, but I think that enamelware is safe if the particular line WAS originally intended for food use, (as opposed to the oversized decorative pieces).

I think that the enamel needs to be unchipped because the metal underneath may be questionable.

Would there be any way for you to do a generic google search or maybe scope out wikipedia to see if you can find literature about "enamelware/food safety"?

Posted at 8:05 am Jan 27, 2010 EST

pinque says

pretty bowls! I would eat out of them...hell I used to have some old ass enamelwear (the dark blue with the white specks!) to cook with from the time I was a teen to now (I am in my 30s...if anyone asks...I am 25!)

I personally would, but I am not sure if I would recommend it to anyone...especially if they are referring to allowing children to eat out of them.

Posted at 8:09 am Jan 27, 2010 EST

Thanks you two! I am searching on google right now, but not much luck.

Posted at 8:11 am Jan 27, 2010 EST

DGehman says

Do they have their country of origin on the bottom? (They don't seem to.) If they are not reproductions and truly out of the 50s, AND made in the US or Europe, the enamel is safe.

Many of the historical, western hemisphere enamel formulations involved lead-based frits, but, like lead crystal, if the enamel was formulated correctly and fired correctly, lead won't leach into foodstuffs.

If you don't know the country of origin, or if there is any possibility that they are more modern reproductions (especially from China, where lead is not regulated and customer poisoning is ignored), you can kind-of-sort-of test using vinegar.

Pick a spot on the bottom of one of the bowls, a spot that's pristine and shiny. Place a few drops of vinegar on the spot. Add drops as the vinegar evaporates over at least 8 hours. Then, wash off the vinegar. If the spot has become roughened, dulled or pitted, then they are not food safe for acidic foods (think tomato soup, Chinese hot-and-sour soup, pickles).

A second consideration is crazing of the enamel. Crazing is a network of tiny cracks, and bacteria can lodge in the cracks. If moderately crazed (or of course, uncrazed), they would be food safe if washed in very hot water with dish soap.

Alternatively, the buyer can soak them in a 200 degree oven for half an hour. Put them in a cold oven and let them warm up with the oven; leave them in the oven after you've shut it off and let them cool in the oven. The oven juggling is simply to prevent any problems from thermal expansion.


frankly, if it were me, I'd describe them for decoration only.

... a final consideration: if these were made before the 1940s, the yellow and the red could contain uranium oxide or other heavy (toxic) metals. See under the subheading "Brilliant red Fiesta" here:

Posted at 8:30 am Jan 27, 2010 EST

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