Spring cleaning is upon us, and if there’s one thing that’s frequently overlooked when it comes to cleaning, it’s antique silver. If you’re lucky enough to have a silver flatware service, or maybe a few inherited ornaments – now is the time to break out the elbow grease and get them sparkling.
Yes, we have just said that this is the time to clean your silver, but make sure it doesn’t become a habit. Once you’ve done this thorough clean, a regular dusting of sorts is all it takes to keep your silver glistening and beautiful.
A clean cotton cloth or feather duster can be used to remove minor yellowing and other discolouration from silver. A method called ‘harring’ is a great way of removing most marks your silver is likely to have. Marking a ‘harr’ sound with an open mouth, use the condensation from your breath to wet the silver. Gentle methods like this are preferable to getting out any harsh cleaning products that might seriously damage your silverware.
More neglected – or even forgotten – silver can often be tarnished beyond the help of some therapeutic breathing and a clean cloth. Seriously yellowed or somewhat blackened silver can be helped with silver polish. Polish wadding is best used on plain silver without too much intricate decoration. Accents like piercing or grooving can trap small pieces of wadding which can deteriorate silver over time. However, applying silver polishing products to unembellished silver creates a sort of film over the surface of the item. Once this is on, a clean cotton cloth can be used to remove it, and any tarnishing along with it. Make sure you rub in small, concentric circles, in order to ensure a thorough cleaning is achieved.
If your silver is the real deal, it is quite likely to have hallmarks. The hallmarks on any item are vital elements which can seriously impact the value of the piece. Products like polishing wadding can be damaging to these hallmarks so it’s essential to either avoid them or cover them in a small piece of tape while cleaning to keep them nice and crisp. This provides appropriate temporary protection. If you do use tape make sure you don’t forget to take it off!
While cotton cloths are suitable for cleaning silver, there are also specialised cloths designed for cleaning silver that are imbued with elements of polish. These are great if you have one or two small pieces that need upkeep. Furthermore, they’re ideal if you’ve got silver jewellery. Using a cleaning cloth can keep all manner of accessories at their best.
If you have silver but it is not on display you can also purchase special storage bags. These bags are designed to prevent any scratching to your items, but also to prevent tarnishing. Silver is tarnished when it is exposed to the air for too long without being cleaned. If your heirlooms are sitting in the attic or stored somewhere else, a storage bag can help retain whatever value they might have as well as helping you to remain organised.
If the silver in your house comes in the form of flatware or a canteen of cutlery, then believe it or not, frequent use is the key to healthy pieces. Tarnish is reduced with frequent use, and the silver itself actually develops a patina which makes the surface colour more beautiful and appealing.
Silver flatware should be rinsed shortly after use, especially after contact with any acidic or corrosive foods such as salt, vinegar, mayonnaise or eggs. Don’t soak your silverware in water overnight, extended submersion in water can be corrosive to the metal. Simple hot, soapy water and a quick rinse is enough to keep your flatware clean. If there are any small areas that need special attention, a toothbrush can usually come in handy.
Although silver flatware may be washed in the dishwasher, keep your detergent usage to a minimum or prepare to suffer the consequences. And never put stainless steel and silverware in the same basket as direct contact between such pieces may cause damage to the silver.
Whether you’re using this season to ‘Marie Kondo’ your home, or you’re just looking for some quick tips for keeping up with your silver, you can’t go too wrong if you follow this tried and tested advice.