Silver is certainly an eye-catching metal, making it ideal both as a standout feature and for elegant tableware. But its soft lustre can all too easily work against you: scratches and stains are common in silverware, and attempting to clean and/or polish them without proper care can cause the metal to tarnish or, worse still, scratch. It is therefore important that you clean silver carefully, or you run the risk of creating unsightly smears, removing the lustre and otherwise dulling the metal.
Regularly cleaning silverware is the best way to avoid tarnishes and stubborn dirt from appearing. For tableware, immediately wash and dry the pieces after use using warm water and a phosphate-free detergent. Avoid using rubber gloves; they contain sulphur which can cause the silver to tarnish.
Of note is that food continues to release sulphurs and acids onto metal, both of which are leading causes of tarnishing, so avoid allowing food to stick to your silverware for too long.
Cleaning Particularly Dirty or Tarnished Silver
For older pieces of silver such as jewellery or any other silverware that has become particularly dirty or tarnished, a more intensive clean may be required. Whilst there are a number of commercially available products designed to effectively clean silver, often any dirt or tarnish can be removed with some common household products, thus avoiding the need to resort to harsh cleaning chemicals.
For removing tarnishes, microfiber cloths are a good starting point; the fine, microscopic fibres effectively allow you to gently buff the silver without fear of scratching or the need for harsh cleaning materials. Simply buff the silver gently with the cloth until the tarnishing begins to dissipate.
For silverware that requires a more intensive clean and polish, many people turn to baking soda. It is worth mentioning, however, that while baking soda is a safe, non-toxic cleaning material, it can be quite abrasive; use it only on silver that you don’t consider valuable and when the above buffing technique has not removed any heavier tarnishing.
- Create a paste with the baking soda using warm water.
- Using a damp rag, gently rub the baking soda mix onto the metal using straight motions (avoid circular motions to reduce the likelihood of scratching). It is important that you apply the paste and rub it in gently; too hard, and you risk scratching the silver.
- Once polished, thoroughly rinse with warm water.
- Dry the silver thoroughly with a soft towel.
Things to Avoid
Compared to other metals, silver is particularly soft, making it susceptible to strong pressure and high heat. As such you should avoid the following:
- Using bristle brushes on any smooth sections (only use on bumpy, decorative parts).
- Putting silverware in the dishwasher.
- Placing silver-plated and stainless flatware together; this can cause the metal to discolour.
- Rubber gloves; they can cause your silver to tarnish.
- Allowing any food to remain on your silverware.