How to let it shine: facts on silver polishing
Polishing silver ranks right up there with cleaning out the basement as a chore to put off as long as possible. But it doesn't have to be that bad. Neither do you have to keep sterling silver packed away for fear of staining or damaging it. Sterling is durable; when treated with respect, it will last a long time.
Here are some tips on caring for silver from silver expert Mark Boultinghouse, an owner of Boultinghouse & Hall Antiques in Midway, Ky., and collector Betty Overly in Paris, Ky.
Q. Can I put sterling silver in the dishwasher?
A. That's not a good idea. Phosphates in the detergent will, in time, dull the finish and cause a white buildup.
Wash pieces immediately after you use them in soapy warm water. Rinse in hot water and dry with a soft dishcloth. You might have to use a little silver polish and elbow grease to remove discoloration caused by vinegar or acidic fruits.
Do not soak knives because it might loosen the glue that holds the blades. Using and washing silver daily helps prevent tarnish from forming.
Q. Which is better: cream, liquid or foam silver polish?
A. There's really not much difference among them.
Q. What about quick-dip tarnish removers?
A. Resist dips. They tend to be hard on silver. Experts felt the same way about putting silver in an aluminum pan and covering it with baking soda dissolved in boiling water. Too harsh. Plus, darkness around designs gives depth. Dips remove all that and make a piece look shiny-new.
Q. How do you remove wax from silver candlesticks?
A. If candlesticks are weighted, warm the wax with a hair dryer and wipe it off with a paper towel. If they aren't weighted and the bottom is open, put them in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Then pop the wax off.
Q. Can I use a toothbrush to clean crevices?
A. Skip the toothbrush. The bristles are too stiff and can scratch. Instead, use a horsehair brush designed for cleaning silver.
Q. What's the best way to store silver?
A. Keeping silver away from air prevents tarnish. Store in a silver chest lined with flannel. Or use a zippered drawer liner that holds service for 12. These sell for about $25. Another option is specially treated flannel bags made for silver. Don't wrap several silver pieces together with a rubber band or cover with plastic wrap. Both can leave black marks that are all but impossible to remove. Don't wrap in newspaper.