How to Clean and Polish Silverware

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Dinnerware, utensils and flatware made with sterling silver make for elegant additions into any home, but they can also be easily tarnished. Silver, when pure, does not tarnish easily, and would most likely stay polished, and shine with regular cleaning. However, sterling silver, like those made into silver jewelry and dining utensils, are cut with copper, which easily tarnishes.

Clean tarnished silver using a few household items such as vinegar, toothpaste, and even ketchup! These are best used to clean lightly tarnished pieces, and heavily tarnished pieces may need more than one cleaning session to completely remove tarnish. Here's how you can clean sterling silverware at home:

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What You'll Need

  • White vinegar, Lemon juice, or Ketchup
  • Toothpaste
  • Baking soda or Fine salt
  • Aluminum foil
  • Soft cloth

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How to Clean Silverware: A Step-by-Step Guide

Using a Cleaning Solution

Step 1: Submerge Silverware

Choose a food-safe cleaning solution, such as vinegar and baking soda, ketchup, or lemon juice and salt. These acidic solutions would essentially eat away at the tarnished pieces, leaving you with a sparkling clean silver.

Submerge the silver pieces into the cleaning solution, or coat the cleaning solution all over the silver piece, and let it sit for 30 minutes. The heavier the tarnish, the longer you should leave the piece in the solution.

Step 2: Remove Cleaning Solution

Remove the cleaning solution by wiping it off with a clean, dry microfiber cloth. You should see a clean silver piece with a shiny appearance, and minimal to no tarnish. Repeat the process if there are any spots left on your silver.

Step 3: Clean as Normal

Wash and clean your silver as normal. Clean silverware with diluted dish soap: soapy water made with a few drops of mild dish soap. Make sure to remove all soap residue as you clean your silver utensils.

Step 4: Dry Before You Store Silver

If you are polishing silver, then dry the piece and get it ready for a good polishing. Otherwise, dry your utensil thoroughly before storing to prevent watermarks, tarnishing, and rust. Make sure the piece is fully dry and neat before you store it.

Using the Electrolytic Method

Step 1: Wrap the Silver Pieces

This method does not use any chemicals or cleaning solutions, but instead relies on a chemical reaction to transfer the tarnish onto the aluminum foil instead. First, wrap your silver flatware in aluminum foil, completely covering the entire piece.

Step 2: Mix Baking Soda in Hot Water

Dissolve baking soda in hot water, then place the mixture into a large bowl, aluminum dish, or container. Make sure there is ample space for you to submerge your flatware, and add more hot water as needed later on.

Step 3: Place Wrapped Silver Pieces in Water

Completely submerge the wrapped silverware in the water, let the pieces sit as long as possible, making sure the water is kept warm. This will clean silver naturally as the tarnish transfers into the aluminum foil instead, leaving you with clean silver shiny enough to see your reflection!

Step 4: Replace Hot Water as Needed

Add more boiling water as the warm water cools down. You will need to keep the water hot to clean silver pieces.

Step 5: Let Sit, Then Remove Silver

Let the silver soak in the hot water - the longer the better. Then remove the clean silver, and unwrap the aluminum foil. You should see a shiny, pristine silver utensil that has little to no tarnish, which has now transferred to the foil coating. Repeat the process if the silver still has tarnished spots.

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How to Polish Silver: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Apply Toothpaste or Food-safe Silver Polish

Toothpaste, or a food-safe silver polish, work wonderfully to get that shine back onto your clean silver. Apply equal parts baking soda and toothpaste onto your clean silver, and coat the entire utensil with the polish. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes.

Step 2: Gently Rub the Silver

Gently rub the silver in a circular motion using a clean, microfiber cloth. Concentrate on shabby, matte areas, and the nooks and crannies of the utensil. Most silverware would have intricate designs molded into the piece. so be sure to focus on polishing these areas as well.

Step 3: Remove the Toothpaste

Use another microfiber cloth to wipe the toothpaste away. You should notice your silver pieces are much shinier. Wash, clean, and thoroughly dry as normal, then store the silver utensil in a cool, dry place.

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What to Avoid When Cleaning Your Silverware

Silver - both sterling silver and pure silver, are generally low maintenance materials that are used in a number of utensils and dinnerware sets. They can be cleaned like any other material, and can be sanitized in boiling water. However, there are a few things to avoid when cleaning silverware:

  • Do not use abrasive cleaners on silverware as these may scratch the surface, causing the piece to look matte and dull.
  • Do not soak your silver pieces for long periods of time, as the acidic solutions may eat away at the silver instead of the tarnish.
  • Avoid storing silver in damp locations.
  • Avoid storing silver while wet. Allow it to fully dry before storing.

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Go for Gold

When it comes to cleaning your home, Luce Home has the gold standard in housekeeping, as our experienced cleaners are well-versed in cleaning every part of the home. We'll make sure every surface is shiny, and each area is clean!

Give us a call, and we can discuss a cleaning routine that fits your home!

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