Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Melmac (a.k.a. Melamine) Dishes

Grandmother’sMelmac dishes were the rainbow in her kitchen. How fun and playful these dishes were; no one would yell at you for touching them and you could have as many tea parties as you wanted.

Melamine dishes are a wonderfulcollectible, two very well-known brands are Melmac and Boontonware. They hold their color if cared for, they have the most deep hues found, and if they are from an early period they have a wonderful feeling when you lift them. They are just the right weight when you go to take that sip of coffee or tea in the morning. The thing that has made them so obsolete to people is that you cannot microwave in them and I strongly suggest not to use a dishwasher either. But sometimes you find that hand washing dishes can be a time for thought and reflection.

Melamine was a substance that was first discovered by German scientists in the 1830s. It wasn’t until 100 years later that people started looking at this compound as a moldable plastic resin for “modern” household use. After World War II Russel Wright and the company Branchell based in St. Louis began creating the dinnerware that is so famously known as Melmac. In the 50’s the popularity boomed giving the American public many designs and brands to choose from.

Sets were given names; “Flair”, “Fortiflex" and "Color-Flyte”, my favorite is "Mallo-Ware" (maybe the name reminds me of marshmallow.) These beautiful (some maybe not so beautiful) modern marvels began showing up on every American table.

Later other brands came out from companies like Lenox, who called their melamine product, Lenotex.

These ultra-hip dishes were unbreakable!!! Modern!!! …But they scratched, scorched, and can get dingy looking…so in the 70’s the popularity started to fade away. By the dawn of the microwave they were a distant memory; Goodbye Melmac, Hello Tupperware… until now. Although Melmac has its issues it is a fun collection that is easy to maintain and find.

To clean melamine dishes simply wash with warm sudsy water as you would any dish the old fashioned way. I suggest using a rubber mat (dish mat) at the bottom of your sink prior to filling to protect them from chipping against the hard surface. Do not use any kind of chlorine bleach product because this may cause fading. Also do not use abrasives since this will leave fine scratches in your dishes which will attract stains that will eventual dull the color. Make sure that they are dry prior to storage to prevent mildew damage.

Storing melamine is one of the more simple collections to store. Cardinal rule is to keep it away from high heat that could get to hot and scorch your dishes. This happens when the melamine gets to hot and it will leave an ugly black or dark brown stain that is not removable. So do not store on top of your stove, next to candles or any surface that gets hot. Also, do not store with metals (silverware, utensils, etc.) and as with almost all things we store, keep them dry.


Susannah said...

Can I store these dishes in an attic in Oklahoma safely? Or will this damage them- scorch etc? I have a collection that I don't use on a regular basis and want to store it...

Butterfly In The Attic said...

Good Morning Susannah, You should be able to safely store your dishes in Oklahoma provided they are in a dry, clean storage area that is away from extreme heat (meaning don't store it next to the fire place or anything that would be a heating source.)

I have stored mine for at least a three years in Fresno CA which has consistent summer temps >98 even >100 degrees for many months. In fact mine were stored in an attached garage that wasn't nearly as cool as my house and I have never had problems. It would be ideal to store anything in cooler temps but if it isn't possible they should be just fine.

The main thing is not to have them sitting on top of a range top or something that would go well above normal air temperature.

I hope this helps and thanks for posting the question.