How to Clean Silverware

Tarnished old silverware.

It’s Thanksgiving and your in-laws are coming over to your house for the first time. The heat is on. You agonize for days over the menu, the drinks, and of course the table setting. All is well until you realize that the silverware you got at your wedding two years ago, the same silverware that’s been under your bed in a “special” box, looks a bit tarnished. Don’t Panic. There are some easy and simple ways to get your silverware looking beautiful again that don’t include a complete meltdown.

Now, before you touch that silverware, be sure to Zen out a bit by chanting “I am good enough. I am awesome.” Now that that’s done with, let me tell you that cleaning your silverware can be an easy thing to do. First, I must make it clear that when I say silverware, I mean actual flatware that is made out of silver. Happy cleaning.

Cleaning Silverware

  1. silverware-1First, wash off your silverware. Washing your silverware first will give you an idea of how dirty or tarnished it really is. Get a plastic tub or bowl to wash the silverware in. Avoid washing your silverware in your sink if it is made of metal because it can cause scratching. Use a non-lemon scented, phosphate-free detergent when washing and then dry immediately to avoid getting water spots. Clean silverware with this method after the awkwardness that is Thanksgiving with the in-laws.
  2. silverware-2Second, identify how tarnished your silverware has become. If your silverware is only slightly tarnished, it will have a yellowish tint to it. Anything darker then a yellowish tint can be removed with silver polish. If it looks like it just got pulled up from the Titanic and is clearly not going to get clean with lowly old silver polish, or seems like it might be broken in some way, call a professional.
  3. silverware-3Use Windex and vinegar to clean slightly tarnished silverware. If your silver is only slightly tarnished or has a yellowish tint, you can use one part Windex to one part vinegar or a non-abrasive, unscented, aloe-free hand sanitizer. I know it may sound strange but this method is the least abrasive for the silverware. Use a large cotton ball to polish the silverware, then wash and dry when finished.
  4. silverware-4Use a silver polish to clean badly tarnished silverware.Make sure when you are buying a polish that it specifically says on the label that it is silver polish. Using polishes for other metals can harm your silver. Also, use a polish that is meant to be washed off. These polishes are less abrasive and can save the life of your silverware. 3M Tarni-Shield Polish is a good way to go. For all of these polishes make sure to read the directions carefully and wear gloves to protect your hands.
  5. silverware-5Tips for cleaning silverware. If you are going to polish your silverware, make sure to rub the polish in a straight line, back and forth, instead of making circular motions. To avoid water spots after washing, towel dry immediately with a cotton dish towel or a Selvyt cloth. When handling your silverware try wearing nitrile gloves or cotton gloves, so the oil on your hands does not damage the silver.
  6. silverware-6Store your clean silverware properly. Tarnish is caused by contact with sulfur compounds, mainly hydrogen sulfide that is found in the air. This process is accelerated if your silverware is stored in a humid environment. If you put your silver away in a case, including anti-tarnish strips can greatly reduce the rate of tarnishing. 3M Anti-Tarnish Strips are a good way to go and can be found at hardware and department stores.

Myths about Silver That Don’t Include Werewolves

There are a lot of myths out there about safe ways to clean silver. Most of these “safe ways” can actually harm your silver and are big no-no’s in any silver professional’s book.

  • MYTH: You can use toothpaste as a polish. Toothpastes include ingredients, like baking soda, that can damage your silver and shorten its lifespan.
  • MYTH: You can wash your silverware in the dishwasher. The harsh heat and detergents will eventually whiten your silver, shortening its life and leading to a professional refinish.

Other Helpful Tips:

  • Never use steel wool on your silverware.
  • Never use chemical dips because they are extremely toxic, and not the sexy Britney Spears type.

Now that you are in the know, enjoy your clean silver.

Silverware Cleaning Products

silverware-7Non-lemon scented, phosphate-free soap. Seventh Generation carries a dishwashing liquid called Free and Clear. This can be found at any big box or grocery store. It is phosphate free, scent free, and is natural and safe for the environment. You can get Seventh Generation Free & Clear from Amazon.

silverware-83M Anti-Tarnish Strips. These strips will help with tarnish control and can be found at hardware stores and online vendors.

silverware-9Nitrile Gloves.Nitrile gloves are made of synthetic latex and contain no latex proteins. You can find these at department stores and online.

About the Author

Jonathan Hatch Jonathan has been research writing, now, for a majority of his life. He started what is now Saint Paul Media in an web content development course in 2005 and never looked back. These days, you can find him designing websites for nonprofits in the Twin Cities, Minnesota while he learns how to be a new father.

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