Tips for Polishing Silverware
Want to keep your silver in tip-top shape? Follow these helpful silver polishing tips from the editors of Yankee Magazine.
- To clean silver, make a paste of baking soda and water. Rub it on with a soft cloth, rinse and buff till it shines. A soft toothbrush or cotton swab can help you get into crevices. Wash the silver well to get all the cleaner off.
- An alternative recipe for homemade silver polish starts with 2 tablespoons of powdered alum and ½ cup of talcum powder stirred into 1 cup of cold water. Add ¼ cup of ammonia and ¼ cup of turpentine, then shake well. This mixture can be bottled, corked and stored for future cleanings. Be sure to shake it before each use.
- Remove egg stains from silver by rubbing on salt with your fingertips, then washing in dishwashing liquid and rinsing well. Don’t skip the washing and rinsing stages, or you’ll get new stains from the salt.
- The best way to keep silver clean is to use it regularly. After each use, simply wash it with a mild dishwashing liquid, rinse and wipe dry. Every time you polish silver, you wear off a fine layer of the metal, so polish only when you have to, and do it as gently as you can.
- Always use plastic gloves-not rubber ones-when polishing silver. Rubber can make silver tarnish faster, and the gloves will leave fingerprints that are hard to remove.
- Never put a rubber band around a piece of silver. Over time, it will leave a brown stain that will be nearly impossible to remove.
- Drain your freshly washed silver on paper or cloth towels-never on rubber mats, which will make the pieces tarnish faster.
- The easiest approach to cleaning silver is the electrolytic method, which works by means of ion exchange. Put silver items on a sheet of aluminum foil in a glass or other non-aluminum dish and cover them with 1 quart of hot water mixed with 1 tablespoon of baking soda. The chemical reaction between the foil and the silver will remove tarnish. Don’t try this method on pieces with raised designs, however, or you’ll lose the dark accents that have built up over time. And don’t try it on cemented pieces. The soaking process may loosen the cement.
Here’s an approach to ion exchange that’s convenient enough to use every day: Put a good-size piece of aluminum foil in a large mason jar, add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and fill the jar with cold water. Cover the jar and place it near your kitchen sink. When you have a piece of stained cutlery, dip it into the jar and leave it there for two minutes, then rinse.
These May Be Hazardous to Your Silver
- Check the label to make sure the soap you use to clean your silver doesn’t contain phosphorus or sulfur compounds, as these will cause staining.
- Be sure to wash silver immediately after it’s come in contact with eggs, brussels sprouts, vinegar or salt. All of these foods contain sulfur compounds, which cause silver to tarnish.
- If you live in an area with hard water (water that contains a lot of minerals), use distilled water to clean your silver. Hard water may leave mineral deposits that can cause pitting.
- Avoid letting your silver come in contact with mustard, mayonnaise or plastic wrap. At best, they’ll tarnish the silver; at worst, they’ll pit it beyond repair.