A simple search online on the best —or fastes--ways to clean silver and silverplate results in some VERY bad advice. This bad advice ranges from pouring boiling water with baking soda on top of your grandma’s heirloom silver teapot while it sits on aluminum foil, lemon and salt, toothpaste, cola, putting in a dishwasher and Tarn-X. All the above can result in the loss of silver plate, pitting, scratches or removing the natural patina leaving the items looking like dull pewter versus the shiny silver it should look like. I made the mistake of doing the aluminum foil trick on a gorgeous, antique, silverplated, sugar bowl. Sure, it removed the tarnish…right along with the plating! There was no way to fix it outside of getting it replated, which is a costly procedure I couldn’t afford.
Cleaning silver isn’t a fast procedure, but once it’s done, there are ways to keep tarnish at bay so you’re not always having to polish it, but we’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s discuss the proper way to clean tarnished silver…
Silversmiths and museums all seem to share the same method:
Cotton balls or pad because cotton won’t scratch the silver. I usually get the jumbo cotton balls because they’re thicker
Cotton swabs for getting in hard to reach crevices
A horse hair brush or boar hair paint brush to dust out any stuck polish residue
A good, gentle silver polish. I prefer Wright’s Silver Cream for removing most tarnish that hasn’t sat on an item for a century. When I need to get a little more aggressive, I use Blitz Silver Care Polish.
I usually put a little bit of the silver cream in a small plastic container and dab the cotton ball in it and start on a section at a time gently rubbing the cotton ball on the silver. You may go through several cotton balls depending on how much you have to polish.
Here is what a typical piece looks like when I first get it. This item took a few hours to fully clean and polish, but it looked stunning by the time I was finished.
There have been a few times where I’ve acquired an item that was not only tarnished but seemed to have layer of oil on it that I couldn’t wash out for anything. That’s when I’ll add a tiny bit of Bon Ami Original (not the new version that has baking soda) to a little bit of Wrights Silver Cream. Bon Ami Original is great because it doesn’t scratch.
If any polish dries and gets stuck in crevices, just lightly brush it out with the horsehair brush or paint brush.
To keep your silver looking tarnish free without having to polish it every time is to use a little bit of plain hand sanitizer on a cotton ball and give your item a quick once over every month or so.
There you have it! No loss of plating or dull silver. Just a gorgeous piece to enjoy. This is what I do on every single piece of silver and silverplated item that I sell in my store. The gorgeous tea urn you see in the before and after is available on my site if you click here
How do you like to polish your silver?