How To Clean and Polish Silver
Whether company’s coming or you find yourself with a few spare minutes, it’s time to start thinking about polishing the silver.
It never hurts to have an arsenal of tried-and-true polish products handy, but if you don’t and your chest of flatware or julep cups are looking less than occasion-ready, this quick kitchen remedy made of simple ingredients can save you a lot of time and a big mess.
How It Works
This simple setup isn’t too far from an elementary-school science project. Clear space on your table or counter for a glass baking dish lined with aluminum foil (shiny-side up) or an aluminum baking dish.
Combine the baking soda and salt. Then add vinegar and boiling water. The simple (but fun-to-watch) chemical reaction should begin to remove the tarnish immediately. Heavily tarnished pieces may need to soak a little longer.
Utensils should come out quite fine with a good buffing with a dry cloth.
If you want to get real nerdy, read this explanation of the science behind this process from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
How to Get a Great Shine After Cleaning
After you’ve cleaned your silver and removed all the tarnish, you’ll want to give it a good shine! Most of my fine Southern friends keep a jar of Wright’s Silver Cream tucked in the pantry. It’s their Old Reliable and gets the job done without too much elbow grease. The gorgeous shine on that julep cup needed a little extra help from Wright’s Silver Cream, even after a longer soak, but it was worth the mess to see it gleam.
An Iowan friend of mine, regular to the task of silver polishing and whom I trust completely in this matter, rated Happich Simichrome as offering the best shine but cautioned that it can be quite abrasive and may be reserved for heavy tarnish or salt stains. He also suggested Hagerty Silversmith’s Spray Polish for hollowware (bowls, pitchers, teapots, and trays) because “it does a nice job of keeping the tarnish in the design of pieces [where it should be].”
Do you have a trusted polish how-to or a favorite product? Or maybe you’re lucky enough to have a friend that finds happiness in removing tarnish for fun? When all else fails, why not make polishing the occasion? Invite a few friends over and start with the julep cups, then use them!
Silver Polishing Products You Can Buy
- Wright’s Silver Cream
- Hagerty Silversmiths’ Spray Polish (recommended for hollowware)
- Happich Simichrome Polish (abrasive polish recommended for heavily tarnished areas, not regular use)
How To Clean and Polish Silver
What You Need
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup boiling water
- Aluminum foil
- Glass dish or aluminum baking pan
- Rag for polishing
- Combine baking soda and sea salt: Combine one tablespoon of baking soda and one tablespoon of sea salt. Then, sprinkle the mixture into the pan.
- Add white vinegar: Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Here’s when you’ll start to notice a chemical reaction.
- Add boiling water: Carefully pour in one cup of boiling water.
- Place the silverware: Place silver in a single layer so that each piece is touching the pan or foil. (Add more hot water if needed to make sure all the pieces are fully submerged.) Let soak for 30 seconds. Note: Heavily tarnished pieces will need a few extra minutes.
- Dry and buff: Dry the piece thoroughly, then buff with a clean cloth.
- If necessary, a silver polish cream can address small crevices and offer a shining finish. See above notes for which silver cream to use!