Caring for Your Silver – Tips from David Friedman
For the past 40 years, I have had the pleasure to discuss with my clients how to care for and maintain their household silver. Maintaining your silverware can be simple and basic and I hope to give you a few tips to make that care much easier.
Silver flatware that is regularly used, gently washed in warm soapy water, immediately rinsed dried, and then stored properly will pretty much remain tarnish free. The lesson here? Use your silver.
• Only wash with soft sponges or cotton rags (no steel wool or scratchy scrubbers).
• Only dry with soft cotton or flannel cloths.
• Do not let your silver air dry as spots will appear.
• Do not put your silver in the dishwasher as it can cause a dull finish.
• Do not soak your hollow-handled knives as it may loosen the cement.
How to Clean Silver
The easiest way to clean your silver and to keep it tarnish free is by staying one step ahead of the tarnish. The truth is that silver should not be cleaned more than absolutely necessary and should not require ‘constant’ cleaning to maintain the proper shine.
At the first sign that your silver is losing its luster and taking on a dull or slightly yellowish tone, any good silver polish will remove the tarnish. We prefer Hagerty foam or liquid polish for flatware; Hagerty Spray Polish for hollowware or decorative items. Hagerty products are easy to use and have a tarnish preventative property imbued into the polish.
Silver Cleaning Tips:
• Use a soft cotton or flannel cloth to polish. My favorite polishing cloth is a very old cotton T-Shirt.
• Work in a well-ventilated area.
• Use a Q-tip dipped in polish as a tool for pieces with intricate decoration.
• DO NOT EVER USE A SILVER DIP ON YOUR SILVER.
To remove candle wax from silver:
Simply run hot water over the area containing the wax. The soft wax should remove easily. Never use a sharp knife or tool to remove wax.
Black spots on sterling silver are ‘corrosion’ in the metal. These will probably require a ‘professional’ polish. If your silver is very dark because the tarnish has advanced, we turn to a product called Flitz Metal Polish. It is a formula that works fast and is extremely efficient. It does take ‘elbow grease’ to get all that dark tarnish removed but this product makes quick work of that problem.
Tips for Tarnished Silver: A silver piece which is severely tarnished may need the services of a professional for cleaning, buffing or even silver re-plating. It is important to recognize your limitations or the limitations of the piece.
Silver Repair and Restoration
If you have silver pieces that are damaged, broken, bent or have missing parts, contact a reputable Silversmith (not a jeweler). A Silversmith is a professional that is a specialist in silver repair, re-plating and restoration and is familiar with the different methods of working with metal items and soldering temperatures that are required to restore antique silver items. We’d recommend a Silversmith who utilizes ‘old techniques’ and does not do ‘factory’ work. You will be much happier with the results if your pieces are handled as individual treasures.
Best Practices for Storing Silver
After you have cleaned your silver, there are a number of options for storage. Some have drawers lined with Pacific Cloth which has a tarnish preventative in the fabric. You can purchase and install this fabric but most clients use other options such as individual flatware wraps, zippered cloth bags, or flatware storage chests. Both Hagerty, and Reed & Barton sell these individual products over the internet. You can also easily find these products at your major department stores, Bed, Bath, & Beyond, etc.
• A large flannel ‘Silver Keeper Bag’ can be used for multiple items if first wrapped in tissue.
• ‘Silver Keeper Bags’ keep items from being scratched.
• An extra large tray can be stored in a dark green/black garbage bag (the air tight feature is the key here).
• Store away from direct sunlight and dampness.
• A tarnish-preventing strip (3M or Hagerty) can be tossed into any bag, cabinet or drawer.
• Never use plastic wrap or rubber bands on your silver.
• Do not wrap in newspaper.
• Remove salt from shakers and thoroughly clean and dry before storing.