Sunday, March 31

Putting The Sparkle and Shine Back Into Your Silver

Silver has long been cherished as a precious metal. It is beautiful, versatile and lustrous, bringing elegance to any table setting or personal jewelry. Unfortunately, silver is rather fragile when compared to many of the more commonly used metals. It tarnishes with age and can easily stain and scratch. The thought of cleaning silver can be a bit intimidating, especially when polishing highly valued and cherished family heirlooms that have been passed from generation to generation. You REALLY don't want to be forever remembered as the individual in your family tree that ruined Grandma's silverware! However, fear not! You don’t have to use harsh chemicals or be an expert to clean silver. You can put that delightful sparkle back into your vintage silver platters, jewelry, tableware, bowls, candlesticks and coffeepots easier than you think. The secret of cleaning silver using household basic items may surprise you, but the techniques are easy, tried and true. Here are a few tips on keeping your silver shinning bright for generations to come. Be sure to pass on your 'silver secrets' to your children!

If you don't need to clean a set of silverware and you have a small job at hand, the best silver polish is white tooth paste. Toothpaste can also prove successful at removing tarnish from your more delicate silver items. Dab some on your finger, and rub into the tarnish, add a few drops of cold water and using your hands work the paste into a foam. Let it sit for a few minutes and rinse thoroughly with water. If you are cleaning something with an intricate pattern, like earrings, an extra-soft toothbrush can be used for the stubborn tarnish in small crevices. Rinse under warm water and dry with a soft cloth. I like to use my collection of James Avery cloths, they're just perfect for small items.

It sounds like a science experiment, but HURRAY for baking soda! It is such a heavyweight when it comes to uses around the home. This method of cleaning silver works wonders even for heavily tarnished pieces as long as they can stand up to a little heat.
*Not recommended for items set with precious stones or any metal other than silver.  
  1. First, bring a large pot of water to the boil on the stove top. Make sure that the pot is large enough to fit all of your tarnished silver items. Don’t overfill the pot, when you add your pieces the water could over flow.
  2. When the water boils, remove the pot from the heat. Place a piece of aluminum foil into the bottom of your pot, and place your silver items on top, immersed in the boiling water. Start shaking baking soda into the pot. It will foam and bubble, and you’ll notice a sulfuric smell, like rotten eggs. YUK!
  3. The chemical reaction will almost magically remove the tarnish from your silver, as the tarnish will become attracted to the aluminum foil instead of your silver piece. Keep sprinkling in more baking soda until your silver is shiny and clean or until the liquid no longer foams.
  4. When the tarnish is gone, carefully rinse the silver in warm water wash with gentle soap to remove the rest of the baking soda  dry and buff with a soft cloth.  
The water has to be really hot for this to be effective, but if you do it correctly, it works like a charm on tarnished silver. It even gets into the nooks and crannies where you wouldn’t be able to hand-polish the tarnish away. It's the best way to clean your vintage silver, as it is more effective than many silver polishes and you don't want to use harsh chemicals on family pieces.

For mild mineral spots or residue on your silver rubbing alcohol works well.

  1. Combine 1 part rubbing alcohol to 4 parts water in a bowl.
  2. Dip a clean cloth or rag into the mixture, and rub over silver.
  3. Rinse well with warm water.
  4. Wipe dry with a clean cloth.

If you have silver jewelry set with gemstones that need cleaning, I would hesitate to use the method above. It may cause damage to some gemstones. You might want to take your jewelry to a professional jeweler to have it cleaned. However, if you can't use boiling water, and you would like to clean it yourself, straight baking soda right out of the box is best. 
  1. Mix a tbsp. of baking soda with a small amount of water to make a thick paste. 
  2. Gently rub the paste onto the silver. 
  3. Sit aside for a few minutes.
  4. Rinse with warm water and polish dry with a soft cloth.

Once your beloved silver is shiny again, how do you keep is so? Store silver in anti-tarnish bags or wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and sealed in a zip-top bag. Also, do not wear rubber gloves or store anything rubber near the silver. Rubber corrodes silver. Who knew?

Taking care of your silver on a regular basis will keep your family heirlooms and cherished pieces beautiful for years to come. When it's time to 'pass it on' you'll be glad you kept it clean and tarnished free.



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