howtocareforsilver
 Taking care of your Antique and Vintage Silver is part of the pleasure of owning it. There is something satisfying about taking a piece of Silver with lots of tarnish {unless you Love tarnish!} and making it shine and glow again. And, contrary to popular opinion, it’s not difficult nor all that time consuming.
Here are the best tips For How to Care for & Polish Your Antique and Vintage Silver.

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Silver was created to be used every day, to keep it looking its best, using it reduces tarnish, and gives your Silver that patina* we all love and look for. Not only that, using your Silver is so much better than keeping it in a cabinet for “company” or holidays only.

 

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If you use your Silver Flatware every day, it will rarely need polishing, except for the forks, which tarnish quickly because the silver reacts to certain sulfur-containing foods such as Spinach, Eggs, and Onions. A quick rub with a gentle silver cream such as Twinkle will remove it. Don’t let your knives soak in water as the handles can loosen, plus the minerals in tap water aren’t all that good for Silver, so a quick wash is better.

 

If you have a large service, don’t forget to rotate the pieces so that they all get the same amount of wear, and patina over time.

 

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I hand wash all my Silver. I know that many people put it in the dishwasher, but it’s so worth the time to wash and dry by hand. The heat and harsh detergents will eventually whiten your Silver. If your Silver touches stainless steel while in your dishwasher, it can develop black spots that never come out.

For Silver Plated items, the dishwasher will wear down the plate. Instead, wash your Silver in hot water with {non-Lemon Scented} dish detergent. Rinse well with hot water and dry immediately with a soft kitchen towel. {Be sure to dry the inside of your pitchers, bowls, and teapots completely}

Do not allow Silver to air dry as water left on it can cause unattractive spotting or worse, corrosion if there is water in little areas that don’t dry quickly.

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STORAGE: Store your silver forks, knives, spoons and serving utensils in a cutlery chest lined with anti-tarnish silver cloth, or in a drawer lined with silver cloth. Hagerty and Pacific Silvercloth sell bags, rolls and cloth to use in storing your Silver correctly.

Silver bowls, trays etc. that are not on display should be wrapped in archival tissue paper and placed in silvercloth bags. Make sure you don’t let rubber bands, felt or newspapers touch stored silver, they contain chemicals that can make black marks on your pieces that will be impossible to get off. Plastic wrap can break down and produce moisture condensation that will attack your Silver, so it’s best not to wrap your pieces in that, either.

 

CLEANING: To keep 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 polish cloths. Impregnated with a gentle silver cleaner, these are kind of fun to use, and the polish inhibits the tarnish. The benefit of cleaning with the mitts is that when special dinners or holidays come along, it will take a lot less work and effort to clean these pieces.

 

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POLISHING SILVER:

Recommended Silver polishes include Goddard’s Long Shine Silver Polish, Wright’s Silver Polish, and Twinkle Silver Polish. These products are gentle, so many others, including the so-called all-purpose metal cleaners, are too abrasive and will scratch your pieces and strip a layer of silver off.

  • 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. Apply the polish according to the instructions on the container with a soft, clean cloth using a gentle, back and forth motion. Use cotton swabs or an old very soft toothbrush to clean applied ornamentation, but don’t overdo it as darkening around these areas really shows the design, and you want to keep that!
  • 3. Rinse the polish off with hot water and dry thoroughly. Buff the Silver to a soft luster, using a 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.
  • 4. Don’t wear rubber or latex gloves when cleaning and polishing silver – rubber and silver don’t mix.
  • 5. For pieces that can’t get wet, I use the Long Shine Silver Polish, because that just dries on the piece and you buff it to a shine that way.
  • 6. Optional, but this is what I do: Turn on a favorite cooking show, or some great music, and drink tea while polishing. This is a chore, but no one says you can’t enjoy it while you are doing it!

 

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DIPS & ELECTROLYTIC CLEANING METHODS:

I don’t recommend using the chemical dips such as Tarn-X, because they are much too harsh. Dips work by dissolving the tarnish on an object at an accelerated rate. Submerging the piece for long periods will remove factory-applied patinas and can cause pitting on the surface, which then causes your piece to tarnish more quickly. If the chemicals get into cracks and crevices, or the often hollow little feet on teapots and trays, they can stay there and eat away at the silver.

I have seen so many antique and vintage Silver treasures that now look like Stainless Steel, or Yellow, because the person who owned them, or was selling them, dipped them instead of polishing, removing all the gorgeous patina and luster we love. You can’t turn back the clock on patina.

Electrochemical Cleaning involves placing silver in a plastic bowl lined with aluminum foil and filled it with boiling water plus baking soda and salt. Silver cleaned this way also looks like stainless steel, loses its patina, and tarnishes far more quickly afterwards. Also, because you have to immerse your silver for the chemical reaction to work, any piece with hollow parts, joints or crevices could trap moisture, which would corrode the silver from the inside.

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Silver, taken care of right, is not only a joy to live with today, but also to pass on to your children and grandchildren. I have my Grandmama’s Silver teapot, I hope that one day, my daughters and grandchildren will remember tea and meals at our home fondly, and will cherish the silver pieces they inherit from us, with memories of love.

*PATINA: The patina that develops on well-loved Silver pieces results from the oxidization of Silver with the air, so keep your pieces out on display and enjoy them. This is actually a fine film that coats the surface of the Silver. It fills in all the tiny microscopic scratches that occur with use, and gives your Silver that lustrous, mellow and glorious sheen, and protects the Silver as well.

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