How to clean silver
Many of us have treasured items of silverware in our cupboards for special occasions or on display for household guests. But, have you ever thought that they could do with sprucing up?
Silver is one of the most beautiful and highly-prized metals in the world, but it can lose its lustre as the years wear on. Unfortunately, silver is not the easiest material to clean without accidentally damaging it, which is why we’ve put together a guide to help you quickly polish your silver and keep it safe from harm!
Silver polishing methods
You don’t want to run the risk of spoiling your precious silver jewellery or antique silverware, so follow these easy household methods to restore shine, beauty and life to your silver. Just remember to wear cotton gloves throughout to prevent marking your silver with your fingertips.
One of the most common household items, many people don’t know how versatile vinegar is when it comes to cleaning and restoring items. From your computer mouse to your window blinds, vinegar solutions are fast and effective in sprucing up nearly anything you have around the house — and that includes your precious silverware.
To polish silver using vinegar, make a solution of half a cup of white vinegar and two tablespoons of baking soda. Then, immerse your silverware in it for no more than three hours. Wash the silver in cold water before drying to get that freshly polished gleam.
Bicarbonate of soda
Only use this silver cleaning method on sterling silver. To start, you might want to get together everything you need:
- Boiling water.
- Bicarbonate of soda.
- Aluminium foil.
- Large plastic bowl or container.
Firstly, line your bowl or container with the aluminium foil (dull side facing down). Then, bring your water to the boil and carefully fill the container before adding two tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda. Generally, you should use two tablespoons per litre of boiling water to make sure that the solution does the trick. Now, place your silverware inside the container and ensure that it touches the foil.
As soon as you immerse your silverware, you’ll notice that the solution starts fizzing — don’t panic, this is the tarnish being removed from your silver. After time, silver sulphide gives the precious metal its dull look, so this homemade solution helps transfer the sulphur atoms from the silver to the foil around it. Leave your silverware for a couple of minutes before carefully removing it and drying it with a smooth cloth.
For keeping your hands clean and preventing the spread of harmful germs and bacteria, hand sanitiser is a cheap and effective answer. However, it’s also excellent for polishing tarnished silver.
To clean your silverware using hand sanitiser, simply squirt a small amount on a soft cloth or cotton wool ball and start rubbing the silver. Once you’re finished, rinse your silverware with warm water and dry with a cotton towel or smooth cloth to prevent spotting.
There are plenty of quality silver polishes available to restore shine and lustre to your silverware. After you’ve researched and chosen the cleaner for you, use a soft-bristled brush to dust dirt particles off your silver — if left, these might scratch it when rubbing on your cleaner.
Now, use a very soft cloth to apply your cleaner and adopt circular movements to gently polish your metal. As soon as you’re happy with how your silver looks, rinse it in warm water and carefully dry it with a paper towel.
This is more to protect your newly cleaned silverware than polish it. You’ve probably not used chalk since you were young, but did you know that it can help protect your silverware, too?
Chalk is an effective absorbent of air moisture. Dampness speeds up the process of tarnishing, which means you have to clean and polish your silverware more frequently. The solution? Place a few pieces of chalk in the cupboard, drawer or wherever you keep your silverware to help maintain shine for longer.
If your silver is more sticky than tarnished, try using acetone and cotton wool to gently wipe away the residue, and remember to use soft cloths and gentle rubbing methods to prevent accidental damage to your precious silver.
Although these methods are effective, it’s worth bearing in mind that not all are suitable on every type of silver (e.g. antique and sterling), so double-check before starting any of the above procedures.
How not to clean your silver
Cleaning silver isn’t always easy and you have to be especially careful when it comes to antique silver, which is much more susceptible to abrasion damage. Here are a few methods and products you should avoid when polishing your silverware:
- Toothpaste: can be too abrasive on silver plating and damage it.
- Dishwasher: never put silverware in the dishwasher — the temperature and detergent can turn your silver dark grey or even white.
- Chlorine or bleach: these will tarnish your silverware.
- Polishers that work on multiple metals: any solution that is suitable for other metals will be too harsh for silver.
- Plastic or cling film: place something between the plastic and the silver if you must wrap it to avoid staining. However, tissue or paper are fine.
Try one of these silver cleaning methods to bring your beautiful silverware back to life!
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