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Looking for a good silver polish
April 18, 2008 3:59 AM   Subscribe

We need to polish some antique silver, but are afraid of ruining it or removing too much metal. We're talking about flatware, cups, serving dishes, and other tableware. Ideally we'd like a method that: damages the silver as little as possible, provides a long-lasting shine/reduces future tarnish rate, won't kill whoever eats with them.

Our experience seems to suggest that with some polishes the tarnish returns more quickly, and that with some polishes silver plate is worn away more quickly. Neither one of those is any good.
posted by herzigma to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have found the following site contains useful and reliable information:

http://www.silversmithing.com/care.htm
posted by pernishus at 4:08 AM on April 18, 2008


You can keep the tarnish gone by using the set more often -- more specifically, by regularly washing them with dish soap and water.
posted by winston at 4:54 AM on April 18, 2008


Baking soda has always worked for me. I just make a paste of Arm & Hammer and water and then use a soft rag or a clean sponge. It's gentle and easy. For smaller items, like jewelry, you can use white toothpaste.
posted by cachondeo45 at 5:06 AM on April 18, 2008


Seconding using it, but a big question is whether it is sterling or silver plate. Sterling is solid silver and so can be polished more aggressively, whereas plate will eventually wear off. This method chemically removes tarnish from silver and thus avoids abrasives; there are many variations but they all involve baking soda and aluminum. My wife says a little Tide detergent added to the linked recipe makes it work even better.
posted by TedW at 5:11 AM on April 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, there are polishing waxes that you can use on some items that will help prevent future tarnishing for metallic objects that are more likely to be stored or displayed than used.

I use Renaissance Wax for my knives (that are on display in my private collection), which can also help clean, but usually not remove tarnish.
posted by kalessin at 5:45 AM on April 18, 2008


Silvo and a cloth is the best solution. My mother is an antique dealer dealing primarily with flatware and she has tried many different methods for cleaning cutlery and tableware in bulk. Baking soda and tin foil in a basin will work, but it won't totally clean the silver. It brightens it, and will remove some tarnish, but if you want stunning silver that you can see your reflection in, Silvo and a lot of elbow grease is the only option.
posted by fire&wings at 6:19 AM on April 18, 2008


Just so you have a more complete list of weird and wonderful silver cleaning methods, I have always used regular old Colgate toothpaste. Seriously. Works beautifully.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:39 AM on April 18, 2008


I always did the hot water + baking soda + tin foil trick and it cleaned all the tarnish off the silver almost immediately upon dunking.
posted by willmize at 7:20 AM on April 18, 2008


Note that the hot water + soda + aluminum* foil trick actually converts the silver tarnish back into silver. You are renewing the piece, not removing the silver that's "rusted" to the black sulphide.

In contrast, abrasives and polishes actually remove silver mechanically. Polishing will wear away silver-plate if overdones.

*critical---this will not work with tin, in fact.
posted by bonehead at 8:07 AM on April 18, 2008


@bonehead - My fault totally, for saying "tin"for "aluminum"; and I did not know that about turning the tarnish back into silver. Neat!
This is probably why I am not in charge of the family silver.
posted by willmize at 9:38 AM on April 18, 2008


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