How to clean and polish silver

clean and polish silver

The luster and beauty of well-kept silver are unmistakable. Properly cared for, silver will last for many generations. With a little maintenance and a few preventative measures, you can even cut down on the amount of time you spend polishing silver, as well.


Tarnish is silver’s enemy. Silver tarnishes when it’s exposed to air and certain chemicals. Outside of regular cleaning, you can keep silver tarnish free by following these general rules of thumb:

NEVER let silver come in contact with rubber. This includes dish mats, placemats, silverware holders, and rubber bands. Rubber contains sulfur, which will cause your silver to corrode.

NEVER allow stainless steel flatware to come in contact with fine silver or silver plated flatware. When the two metals touch, silver becomes damaged and stained. Don’t wash or store the two different metals in the same area.

DON’T expose fine silver to foods for long periods of time. Never leave flatware inside serving dishes containing eggs, mayonnaise, or mustard. The sulfur in these foods will corrode silver.

USING silver prevents tarnish. The more you use and handle your silver flatware, the less chance there’ll be for tarnish to buildup. So, don’t hide your good silver away for safekeeping!


Silver should be washed after each use. The best and safest way to cleanse silver is by hand. It is the rubbing and friction during hand washing that shines silver. “Patina,” the outer surface on fine silver is brightened and enhanced through friction.


  • Fill the sink with warm water and mild dish detergent.
  • Hand washes each individual piece of silver.
  • Using a soft cotton dish towel, dry silver completely.
  • Dull silver can be buffed a little with a dry cotton cloth.


There are differing viewpoints as to whether silver should be washed inside a dishwasher. Most top-of-the-line modern washers provide enough protection to adequately clean silver without damaging its finish. If you choose to wash silver in a mechanical dishwasher, most experts recommend removing the silver before the drying cycle begins. Remember, it’s friction that creates shine. Therefore, rub each piece dry and store properly after the wash load has finished.


Too much polishing can wear down the finish on some silvers. Items that are coated or plated should be washed by hand often and polished only once or twice per year. As long as silver is cleansed regularly and stored properly, there’s no need to polish silver more than once a year.

  • Apply silver polish. You won’t need much, so don’t overdo it.
  • With a soft towel, rub the polish on the metal using straight strokes, as opposed to circular movements.
  • Using a clean, soft cloth, buff silver.


When silver oxidizes, it tarnishes. Tarnish dips work to repair and remove tarnish from quality silver. Most commercial dips are used when heavy, dark-colored tarnish cannot be removed with traditional pastes or polishes. Chemical dips are wiped on silver with cotton balls and specialized applicators and then submerged in the chemical makeup of acid and a complexing agent. You can make your own chemical dip by following these instructions:

  • Fill a sink full of steaming hot water.
  • Mix 2-tablespoons salt and 2-tablespoons baking soda in a bowl.
  • Add mixture to sink of hot water.
  • Cut a small sheet of aluminum foil and push it to the bottom of the sink.
  • Dip silver items. The most tarnish will slide off. For stubborn stains, allow them to sit for up to 5-minutes at a time.
  • Rinse well.
  • Dry.
  • Store properly.


All silver objects should be stored in an area where they can remain free of dust, surface grime, and debris. To keep humidity levels low in your storage area, add desiccated silica gel to your storage drawer or cabinet. To keep your storage area free of gases known to cause tarnish, add a few capsules or a small dish of activated charcoal. Silver should only be stored on wood which is sealed with lacquer or polyurethane, which will also help keep silver tarnish-free. Other steps you can take to retard tarnish development include:

PRETREATING each piece with a tarnish-retardant polish when storing for long periods of time. Specially treated cloth bags or anti-tarnish strips work well, too. When a cloth bag is not an option, you can provide further protection to silver and silver plated items by wrapping your prized pieces seperately in plastic cling wrap.

USE white chalk. Add a single piece of white chalk to the drawer or cabinet where your silver is stored. White chalk prevents tarnish.

KEEP silver free of tarnish causing agents, including wool, felt, eggs, onions, mustard, rubber, latex gloves, paints, and humidity.


CORROSION caused by food or salt can be removed by soaking silver in a mixture of hot vinegar and salt for up to 5-minutes at a time. Use two cups of vinegar for every tablespoon of salt. Rinse. Dry well.

NEVER allow foods to “cake” on to silver. This can cause staining and corrosion. Remove from food items immediately and rinse well, until you are able to wash silver.

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