Care of Silver
- Silver will tarnish whenever it is exposed to oxygen or sulphur; keeping it in enclosed spaces like display cabinets or flatware storage chests will vastly reduce the rate at which it tarnishes. If you place Hagerty or 3M Protection Strips in your display cabinet (or any enclosed space) the rate of tarnish will be reduced further still.
- Keep your silver dry whenever possible. Tap water and food residue can cause tarnish and stains if left in contact with your silver for a significant length of time. Resist the temptation to leave the dishes for the morning after a dinner party and definitely do not leave your silver to “soak” overnight. If you want to reduce cleaning frequency it is critical that your silver is completely dry before you put it away.
- Salt is the most common food that is corrosive to silver. Silver should never have direct contact with salt and whenever possible you should avoid prolonged contact with salty foods (overnight for example). Eggs and other foods that contain sulphur will cause silver to tarnish on contact. Also avoid direct contact with bleach, plastic wrap, plastic bags and especially rubber bands.
- For long-term storage, you should make sure your silver is clean and dry. Then pack it in clean tissue or cloth and put it inside a sealed plastic bag.
You can cut the cleaning time of your silver significantly by following these tips:
- For your sideboard, coffee table and other display silver, Silver Polishing Gloves or Cloths will quickly and easily remove light tarnish. If you do this regularly you really can go months without getting out the polish.
- Use a quality silver polish containing a tarnish preventive ingredient for cleaning antique silver, such as Goddard’s. The preventive ingredient slows down the tarnishing process so your silver will stay clean longer.
- Use Goddard’s Silver Dip for the tips of fork tines and other stubborn stains (it is important to use this sparingly as it is a very strong cleaner).
- TO CLEAN HEAVILY TARNISHED SILVER ONLY: First, wash the items in a strong detergent to degrease them. (Polishes are water-soluble and can’t cut through grease). Next, line your sink (or bathtub for large pieces) with aluminum foil. Fill with hot water, add a handful of washing soda (not baking soda) and make sure it is fully dissolved. Place your silver on the foil – each piece must have direct contact – and leave for 1 or 2 minutes. Repeat if necessary but do not leave the silver in for longer than a couple of minutes at one time. Your silver should come out dull but clean (completely black silver will turn to yellow or brown). To restore the luster, apply some silver polish with a damp sponge or soft cloth (never paper towels – they’ll scratch). Let the polish dry. Wipe off with a damp sponge, soft cloth or even under running water and your silver will be gleaming – with minimal elbow grease needed. The same effect can be achieved with Goddard’s Silver Dip which is convenient for small articles. Please note: while this process is the best way to clean highly tarnished silver, we do not recommend it for regular cleaning as it is very aggressive and can be harmful to the sheen of your silver. This method should never be used to clean antique silver as it will damage the patina.
- Dishwashers can be tough on sterling flatware, prolonged use can damage the surface and cause it to loose its sheen. We recommend hand washing (particularly for antique silver), but if you can’t live without the convenience here are a couple of suggestions: use a small amount of liquid soap with no chlorine bleach and select the delicate cycle. Do not put sterling and stainless together on the rack where they can touch. This can cause a chemical reaction that will harm your silver. Remove your flatware before the heated drying cycle and dry by hand if possible. Dishwashers can be particularly tough on knives. Depending on the type of construction used, pre-war knife handles can become loose after a single cycle. Good steel knife blades that have “folded” construction will become pitted over time.
With these silver cleaning tips, living with silver should be enjoyable, even fun. The smallest piece can add a touch of luxury to everyday life, a sparkle to the dullest day. However, if the time comes to downsize or you wish to winnow out and upgrade, do remember J.H. Tee Antiques buys silver as well as sells it.