Cleaning and  Polishing Antique Bottles

Fortunately glass holds up fairly well, even after decades of submersion. Usually bottles dating from the early 1800's to the present, are found dirty and heavily encrusted but otherwise in relatively good condition. When intact bottles are found the first step is to remove the loose dirt. A little water and a bottle brush will do the job. For stubborn stains, all that is usually needed is a mixture of powdered dish washing detergent, water and a little elbow grease. For bottles that are stained on the inside, use a bottle brush with a mud-like solution of detergent and water. If you don't have a bottle brush, just shake the sloppy mixture around. It will usually have enough abrasiveness to remove most stains without damaging the glass. If stubborn stains are present, a 50% solution of muriatic acid and water can be used. Acid is especially useful in cleaning bottle that have been submerged in salt water and have marine growth. When using acid do it outside. Do not breath the vapors and remember to wear latex gloves. Its also important to rinse the artifact with fresh water after the acid bath.

As mentioned in previous chapters many bottles are dulled or sand blasted after being exposed to the effects of submersion in areas of surge or current. These bottles are less desirable to the serious collector. As a scuba diver I prefer to leave a few of these bottles alone. For some bottles my feeling is that the sand blasting or presence of coral or marine growth actually provides visual evidence that the bottle was recovered from the deep. If a crystal clear finish is desired soap and acid may just not do the trick. For these situations tumbling offers a great way to polish antique glass.


Some bottles may have a milky white stain that remains even after vigorous cleaning. According to Cindy Ray of Good Ole Bottles “The film is most likely glass oxidation. Glass oxidation is the breaking down of the silica in the glass. No cleaners or amount of elbow grease can remove this. The only way to remove it is to use cutting oxides on the glass effectively exposing the next good layer of glass. Contents or other chemicals that are found in the ground or the ocean - are the prime contributors to this reaction.” Other bottles, especially those found underwater will have been dulled by the sand blasting effect of sediment constantly being blown over the glass by tides and currents. Depending on the condition the effects of stains, scratches and sand blasting may be removed by having the bottle tumbled or polished. It is the individual collectors decision as to if a bottle should be left alone or professionally polished. As with many of my shipwreck artifacts I tend to clean but do not polish the majority of my bottles. My feeling is the blasted effect or presence of barnacles gives a visual reminder that this bottle had been recovered from underwater. On the other hand showcasing a hundred year old bottle that is crystal clear can be impressive.

Tumbling bottles involves rolling bottles by placing them inside a tube with cleaning or polishing oxides. As the tube is rolled the process slowly reveals a new surface on the glass. The process can take from several days to weeks but once the bottle is removed from the tube, and washed the results can be quite dramatic. My friend Mike McMeekin a local treasure hunter and bottle collector reports that “unlike most antiques and collectibles which should never be aggressively cleaned, bottle polishing can actually add value to the bottle. “ I would highly recommend a professional polishing service like Cindy Ray’s Good Ole Bottles. These professionals charge approximately 10-30 dollars per bottle. If you have a large number of bottles to polish you may even want to consider setting up or building your own tumbling machine. These machines and associated supplies can be quite expensive. Basically if you only want to clean your own collection its probably easier to pay the professionals.

As a side note, I recently wanted to build a ship in a bottle replica of the prohibition rumrunner Lizzie D. This is one of the popular shipwrecks we explore off Long Island, NY. I decided to insert it into a bottle I had recovered from the wreck. Only problem was no matter how hard a scrubbed I could not clean the interior stain. I arranged to have the bottle professionally tumbled and after only a few weeks received the polished bottle back. The results were nothing short of spectacular. The bottle was crystal clear! The finished ship in a bottle would not have been possible without tumbling.




Captain Dan Berg's
Build a Ship in a Bottle
The complete how to guide to the ancient mariners art of ship in a bottle building

only $9.95

This heavily illustrated ebook is
5.5 x 8.5, 64 pages, 6.5 MB and loaded with color photographs and sketches. This printable ebook is available for immediate download as a PDF file.


Unlike other books on the subject, that provide a diagram and step by step instructions Capt. Dan attempts to teach model builders to understand the basic principals involved. After reading this heavily illustrated text, readers should have a good understanding of how to design rig and build both square sailed as well as fore and aft rigged vessels. They will then be able to apply the basic principles and techniques and build any type of sailing ship they choose. Please note that there are many different techniques used by different builders in creating their ship models. Some use elaborate mast hinges while others contend with a maze of rigging lines which all run through and under the hull. This book teaches Capt. Dan's basic and the straight forward simple techniques that the authors uses on all of his ship in a bottle models. These basics can be enhanced and modified as model builders become more proficient. Capt. Dan has included a showcase of ship in bottle images from some of the best master model builders in the world. Often the best way to improve skills and technique is to examine the exquisite work and detail of these masters.

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Hunting Antique Bottles in the Marine Environment.
By Capt. Dan Berg


Softcover, 5.5x8.5", 98 pages
printed in full color. $19.95 +P&H

Hunting Antique Bottles in the Marine Environment is the complete field guide for finding and identifying antique bottles. Capt. Berg has been searching for antique bottles in local lakes, rivers and on shipwrecks for over thirty years. Learn not only how to find submerged antique bottles but also how to clean them and how to determine how old they are. This text is packed with historical information that shows how bottles were produced and how each manufacturing process left distinct marks which can be used to accurately estimate any bottles age. Capt. Dan has heavily illustrated this text with over 200 color images depicting the types of bottles that can be recovered by searching local waters. He also uses over 10 unique 3D diagrams designed to give a better understanding as to the time line of glass blowing and bottle manufacturing. These 3D mold images are combined with drawings of the bottles they produced and highlight the distinct mold seam marks each created. This informative text tells all the tricks of the trade that until now have only been learned through years of experience. Bottle collectors, scuba divers and anyone interested in exploring the marine environment for these historic treasurers will reference this text often as they search for and collect antique bottles.


 Antique Bottle Identification Guide  Sample Pages


Sample Pages



This title is also available as a downloadable ebook
click here for details on all of Capt. Dan's downloadable products.


Hunting Antique Bottles in the Marine Environment.
By Capt. Dan Berg

Softcover, 5.5x8.5", 98 pages
printed in full color. $19.95 +P&H


This book is also available as a downloadable ebook

only $9.95
5.7 MB instant download, printable  PDF file





Hunting Antique Bottles
in the Marine Environment

Bottle Collecting
Bottle Characteristics
How bottles were made
Bottle Value
Bottle Types
  Screw Top
  Crown Top
  Blob Top
  Bromo seltza

  Black Glass

  Coca Cola
  Round and Torpedo
Water Hunting
  Scuba Diving
  Ferry Piers
  Dump Sites

Scuba Diving
Cleaning Bottles

Estimating Age
  Mold Marks
  Mold Mark Chart
Patent Numbers
Makers Marks
Just how old
Age Estimating Chart
Glossary of Terms

Scuba Equipment 
 Training Agencies
Equip Manufacturers






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