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How to Clean & Polish your Heirloom Silver

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During the holidays, we all love to gather our family and friends around our most beautifully set tables. Do you love to use your most beautiful, heirloom silver too?  I call it jewelry for your tabletop!

A table set with gleaming silver, glowing in the candlelight, brings so much history, personality and a welcoming, gracious touch to the table, doesn’t it?  I know lots of you have a love affair with silver like I do, and have been anxiously awaiting this latest post with tips on how to polish your heirloom silver.

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I am honored and excited to partner with Goddard’s, producer of the world’s finest silver polishes, on this post.  I’ll give you my best tips for taking care of your silver, what products I use, and how to polish silver to bring out its natural beauty.

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Goddard’s polishes are used exclusively to maintain priceless silver antiques in museums, fine hotels and private estates throughout the world, and it’s what we use here, at FrenchGardenHouse Antiques. 140 years ago, Joseph Goddard, a chemist, loved silver, and he was often asked to appraise silver for England’s wealthier families. He developed the world’s first patented silver polish that safely removed tarnish on sterling, and silver plate too.

 

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Before I share how to polish your silver, both the pieces you use often, as well as those larger serving bowls, tea sets and punch bowls you only use for the holidays, I want to answer this question which many of you have asked me about, namely what are the differences between sterling, silver plate and coin silver.

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What is the difference between sterling, silver plate, and coin silver?  

Sterling: Sterling Silver is 92.5% pure silver,  with a 7.5% additive, usually copper. Sterling is almost always marked,  especially for pieces made after the 1850’s, either with the word STERLING, 925/1000 or the Lion Passant. {You can find most sterling maker’s marks on the internet.} This is the most valuable form of silver for your table.

Silver Plate: Silver Plate has a thin layer of silver deposited on to a base metal of copper, brass, or nickel. Most commonly used in producing flatware or hollowware, the pieces are usually marked Silver Plate, EPNS, EP, or Silver on Copper. Most plated silver from the 1800’s is marked Quadruple Plated.

Coin Silver: In Colonial America, silver objects were made from melted down coins because there was little silver available to early American silversmiths. Most Coin Silver is 90% pure silver. It’s marked Coin.

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Like you, I have silver that I use or display on a daily basis, but also larger bowls, trays and tea sets that I bring “out” for special occasions and holidays.  Right about now, I take some time to plan my table settings, and “tea time settings” for the holidays.  It usually involves an afternoon of drinking tea, eating cookies, and maybe watching a holiday movie, while polishing silver.

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Here are my best SILVER POLISHING TIPS!

  • 1. Wash your Silver first. Line your sink with an old Towel, so you won’t scratch your pieces, and fill with hot water and a little dishwashing soap {non-lemon-scented phosphate-free.} Wash your piece, then dry off gently.
  • 2. Provide a Soft Place. I place old, folded towels on my table when polishing silver to protect the pieces from scratches.
  • 3. Use the Right Polish. Goddard’s Silver Polish dissolves tarnish, leaves a lasting shine, and provides a tarnish resistant barrier. For large or intricate pieces, I use Goddard’s Silver Foam, which easily sponges into tight little areas, and filigree.
  • 4. Use a Soft Clean Cloth. Apply the polish according to the instructions on the container with a soft, clean cloth. Turn the cloth around often, so you are using a clean, unsoiled surface to apply the polish.
  • 5. Rub the Right Way. Use straight, back and forth motions, not circular motions.
  • 6. Use Enough. Especially for ornate objects, use enough polish. Remove the excess with a soft, wet sponge.
  • 7. Dry. Buff. Once the polish has dried, buff the Silver to a soft luster, using a clean soft cloth and as little “elbow grease” as possible. Over-enthusiastic polishing can rub off hallmarks and remove the silverplate, revealing the base metal underneath.

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To get my silver ready for this post, I spent some time polishing these silver pieces to bring them back to their luminous, gorgeous best selves.  I tried to show you how beautiful your silver pieces will be after using the right polish. Literally just 3 minutes separate the two photos below. I used my Goddard’s silver polish, it dissolves tarnish so quickly, and I used just a small amount!

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I am not sure you can really see how brown, dirty and tarnished this antique biscuit barrel was before polishing…but I was amazed at how clean it got, and how fast!

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Here are a few other tips that will get or keep your silver occasion ready:

Wear the Right Gloves.  If you want to wear gloves to protect your hands or manicure, make sure they aren’t rubber or latex. You can wear disposable Nitrile gloves, or cotton gloves.

Avoid scratchy Things. Make sure you aren’t tempted to use steel wool, abrasive cleaners or steel wool. You will ruin your silver.

Use Cotton Swabs. One of my favorite tricks is to use cotton swabs to get into small tight areas. I put a handful of them in my silver polishing basket, use both ends, move on to another one once the end gets black.

Don’t Mix Your Metals.  Make sure you separate your silver from stainless steel if you insist on washing your flatware in the dishwasher. {I hand wash, lovingly!} A chemical reaction between the two of them can cause ugly black spots which are impossible to remove.

Put Your Mitts On. To keep your Silver Bowls, Trays, Candlesticks and other decorative pieces gleaming, all they really need is a brief buffing, maybe once a week, using a pair of special silver mitts or special polish cloths. I love these!  The benefit of cleaning with mitts or a polish cloth is that when those special holiday dinners sneak up on you are almost there, it takes a lot less work to clean and polish your silver.

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Silver, when taken care of correctly, is such a luminous ornament to your home. It’s a joy to share your gleaming treasures with your guests. I hope these polishing tips makes you want to take out the silver pieces you have, grand or simple, shine them up, and use them at home to celebrate this joyous season.

Be sure to pin this to your Pinterest  boards for future reference.

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Learn more about GODDARD’S SILVER PRODUCTS & purchase them to make your own silver happy!  Just a click and you can have some sent to you…so easy! Your silver will thank you!

*This post was sponsored by Goddards, but all opinions, tips, and crazy love of silver are my own.

76 Responses to How to Clean & Polish your Heirloom Silver

  1. Beautiful! It’s a messy job, but so worth it when complete. I’ve never used Goddard’s, only Maas, but certainly your opinion and will consider it in future. An informative post, Lidy.

  2. Thank you for all the great tips, Lidy. I wasn’t aware of the reaction between stainless and silver. . .I’ll remember that when people are helping to clean up after Thanksgiving dinner. Never used Goddard’s, but I see it’s sold at my local Ace Hardware store, so I’ll plan on picking it up to use. Love all your pretty photos!

  3. Very interesting. Enjoyed learning the difference between sterling, silver plate and coin silver. I never did up down before just circular. I’m looking forward to cleaning my pieces for the holidays and will try Goddard’s. I haven’t seen here but may order online.

  4. Lidy, your silver collection is one of the finest I’ve seen. Gorgeous!!! I too have a passion for beautiful silver. I’ve heard many of the shortcuts are bad for silver and that you should only use a quality silver polish.

    I love Goddard’s silver polish and have used it quite a bit. Why do we live so far apart???

  5. I love all these tips! I have silverware from my grandmother that is sitting in a drawer bc I have no clue how to polish it and bring it back to life. I need to look for this product and get to work! Enjoy your day!

  6. Thanks so much for the tips Lidy!!! I have some gorgeous pieces of Silver and am always afraid to ruin their value if I polish them incorrectly and now I know how to do it properly!! THANK YOU!! 🙂

  7. You have beautiful silver, Lidy, and I can picture you having tea and lovingly polishing your silver. My mother-in-law used to see and talk to me over tea while polishing her silverware and silver trays and teapots. It was a nice ritual and memory of her!

  8. Lidy – This information is so helpful! I have always used Goddards on my silver, but these tips will help me to polish my silver properly. I have always rinsed my sterling silverware after polishing both before using for meals and then before storing. Did I read that part correctly that you do not rinse silver after polishing? Thank you.

  9. Thank you so much, Nancy, for taking the time to leave a comment on this post.
    Goddard’s polish is meant to be buffed out to a beautiful shine, so they don’t recommend that you rinse the polish off.

    Be sure that when you rinse your pieces after using, that you allow enough time to dry…thoroughly….{lids open on tea and coffee pots, for instance}
    as it’s moisture that does most damage on silver.

    Wishing you a happy Tuesday!

  10. Lidy these are wonderful tips and what a useful post! I have a box full of my grandma’s tarnished silver that I need to put to use. Posts like this help encourage to get it done, but even better, I now know how to do it well!

  11. Annie, thank you for your visiting…I hope that you DO use your grandma’s silver, it won’t take long before it’s gorgeous, and you can think of her every time you see her pieces!

  12. Perfect timing Lidy, right before the holidays! Thanks for the silver polishing tips, and the beautiful photos!

  13. Catherine, thank you for visiting. I know, right about now we are all thinking about polishing our silver…Goddard’s makes it super easy with beautiful results! xo

  14. Can’t wait to order some, I hate cleaning my silver, so it stays in the cupboard! Have always used Hagerty’s and I can never get it all off…

  15. What a perfectly wonderful post & just in time for the Holidays! I’ve always wondered exactly how to clean & use my silver properly & now I feel confident I can clean & use it without worry or concern! I can’t wait to get my silver out & Shine! Shine! Shine!

  16. Thank you Terri! I hope that, if you are not familiar with Goddard’s, you will give their exceptional products a try for this holiday season!

  17. Thank you for your tips using Goddard’s. It’s now on the shopping list! Great post as always Lidy.
    Ginger

  18. You will LOVE Goddard’s, Lisa! It is so easy and quick to use, you don’t need a lot, and it makes every piece shine so beautifully! Happy Holidays to your silver. xo

  19. Very timely post, Lidy. I need to get polishing in time for the holidays! I’ll check our stores for Goddard. Thanks also for the tip on using the cotton swabs.

    Jane

  20. My mother taught me to use Goddard polish years ago. One of my first jobs, to help get ready for the Holidays, was to polish the family silver. I felt honored and mom and I would laugh and remember other special occasions, as I polished.My mom is gone now, but I think of her and our “girl time” as I bring my silver back to it’s shiny glory.Good memories and an excellent product.

  21. Oh Mar, what a wonderful memory! Thank you for sharing that with all of us…and how great that you have always used Goddard’s polish! It’s been around for a long time, and remains the top product used by museums etc. Thank you for your comment, it’s always great to have you join us here! xo

  22. Terrific tips and post Lidy! I love Goddards polish, and have trusted it for years and years. Thanks for sharing all your pro tips with us, now our treasures will sparkle during the holidays!

  23. So nice to see you today, Laura! And so happy that you are a fellow Goddard’s Polish fan! I hope you are having a beautiful week, friend. xo

  24. Lidy, what perfect timing with this post. We have quite a few pieces of silver that have been passed to us by family members. Although we are casual people, they mean the world to us. I would love to sit on a winter day and polish the silver. That would make my husband beam! 🙂

  25. I love my silver and I have been very happy using Goddard’s polish. This was a very nice post about silver. I look forward to the holidays and using my silver pieces.

  26. Hi Lidy,

    I enjoy shopping for antiques and have a few nice silver pieces. I’m so glad I read through this and now have the tips and products to keep my treasures looking great.

  27. I have a few pieces of family silver that I love and use all the time. I’ve never tried this polish but will definitely give it a go! Your photos are stunning Lidy…happy holidays!

  28. I needed this! I have to say that I have probably ruined some of my good silver by washing it with stainless … but when I had four kids in the house, we went through a lot of silverware during a day and I made it a point not to “save” my good silver, but to use it … Happy I did … but now I am trying to save what I can! Thanks Lidy!

  29. Carolann, thank you so much for visiting and leaving a comment. Thanks, too, for loving the tips, and Goddard’s!

  30. I’ve just hired someone to assist with my mom’s house…but her silver is another story. That is for me to clean. And I’ve been wondering the best polish to use. Thanks Lidy for the information, it was very timely for me!

  31. Tammie, you will LOVE using the Goddard’s because you use very little, and it really takes the tarnish OFF. Happy polishing!!

  32. You have beautiful silver pieces,Lidy! I’ve heard of Goddard’s and now know that it’s the best. I have a few pieces myself that need some tarnish removal. And I have a set of silver-plate flatware that I found at an estate sale that I love. Such a pretty luster on these pieces!

  33. Lidy –
    Thank you for this great advice and a recommendation for the best product for the job! I desperately need to get after a few pieces and now you’ve motivated me! Very thorough article and you’ve obviously got some lovely pieces.

  34. You are so funny, Debbie…it’s how I ended up with my own antique shop, although FrenchGardenHouse is online only. I fell in love with too many silver pieces! Thank you for your visit..xo

  35. Great information.
    This post made me smile as it brings back such memories of polishing silver ( with Goddards) at the table with my Mum ( who sadly died when I was only 23)
    We would chat and catch up as we polished and brought the silver back to its proper state, usually in time for the holidays or special events.
    Thanks for the great information and visuals. Lovely to look at such pretty pieces.

  36. Great tips Lidy!….love the idea about the foam….and using your tip about the cotton swabs….and I am guilty about rubbing in a circular motion….I must say that this has been a most informative post!…and your silver pieces are magnificent!!!….off to get some Goddard’s polish!

  37. My mom used Goddard’s and so do I. My silver trays that I use daily (and the time spent polishing them) are a special treat for me. Thanks for the tips, Lidy!

  38. Thanks so much for posting this Lidy. It’s a reminder to use that beautiful silver we have put away. I’ll be bringing it out for the Holidays. I’d better go get a fresh supply of Goddards Silver polish. They do make a great product.
    Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

  39. Goddard’a has always been THE polish to use. Wonderful article and photos, Lidy!
    Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  40. Great article! Thank you very much, Lidy. I have a lot of silver to clean and I don’t want to do any damage. I will order all the Goddard’s products today. About the nitrile gloves, are those the blue ones? Also what do you think about putting the 3M anti-tarnish strips in silver cabinets and silver chests?Can they do damage? Also, I just purchased a yard of the silver cloth and plan to make new bags for some items. Some of my bags are from the 1930s-1950s and look pretty ratty. Thanks for any advice!

  41. Thanks, Susan! I used to use the strips, and have never heard that they are not good. Nitrile gloves come in blue, purple and sometimes black (although I think those are industrial strength} they are allergy safe and safe for silver.

  42. Hi! loved your article! Very helpful with the family teasures.
    I’ve received a Webster & Son silver-plate over copper cocktail server. What would be the best way to clean the tarnish, or is it better to just leave the “patina”/tarnish alone?
    Also, I wondered about the silver paper you refer to. I have several rolls of a dark blue tissue paper from clearing out my aunt’s home. Could that be silver paper?
    Thank you for any advice you could share!

  43. Cynde, you should be able to polish with care. Unless you prefer the patina look! The silver paper mentioned is a tarnish prevention paper, usually sold in small strips, not on a roll. Hope this helps.

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