Silver is one of the most beautiful and useful metals in existence, but it can be difficult to keep looking its best. If you’re worried about your silver getting dull and tarnished, the right cleaner can help. The key to maintaining silver’s beauty is preventative care, including regular washings and protective waxing.
Before you start cleaning silver, it’s important to do a simple test to determine whether your silver is pure sterling silver or silver-plated. If you place a magnet next to your silver, it should stick to the magnet, meaning it’s pure. If it doesn’t, it’s likely plated with other metals and shouldn’t be cleaned with methods that might damage or remove the plating.
Regardless of what type of silver you have, most tarnish can be removed with a few common household items. You’ll need a container that can hold your silver and some sort of abrasive or non-abrasive cleaning agent to get the job done. You can use a homemade solution made from baking soda and vinegar, or you can buy a silver cleaner spray, wipes or polishes. Some of these cleaners are available in a canister that allows you to just wipe, rinse and dry.
This easy, affordable silver cleaner is a great choice for anyone who has limited time. It’s also environmentally friendly and contains no chemicals. To make it, mix equal parts of vinegar and baking soda. Use a soft cloth or sponge to rub the mixture on silver pieces. Leave the paste on for a few minutes (depending on how tarnished they are) and then rinse with cool water.
Another convenient silver cleaner is a silver cream, which works almost like a car wax and can restore even the most tarnished pieces to their original luster. Unlike many store-bought silver cleaners, most of these creams are safe for silver-plated items and can be used on all types of silver. The only downside is that these products can be more labor-intensive than using a regular silver soap, and you’ll need to rinse and dry your silver thoroughly to prevent water spots.
For those who aren’t afraid to use a little elbow grease, a gentle soap and water can also be effective at removing light tarnish. Wet a cloth or sponge with mild dishwashing soap and wash the silver piece in warm water. Rinse with clean water and dry it with a cotton cloth to avoid water marks.
Those who don’t want to risk damaging their silver with too much abrasion can use a scrubbing brush, such as one of the horsehair or white china bristle brushes from W. J. Hagerty, to remove tarnish without scratching or denting. If your silver is heavily tarnished, you may need to repeat this process several times before the tarnish completely dissolves.
Once your silver is clean, you can protect it with a clear, protective wax, such as Meguiar’s Quik Wax or Renaissance Wax. This will keep dust from degrading the silver and help it resist future tarnishing.