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cleaning silver plate cutlery/eating utensils

Apologies if I’m going over well-trodden ground, but…

I am collecting together silver cutlery to use for “best”. My question concerns the possible health risks of silver polish on cutlery. Would you gus polish it, then wash it before use? Or is there another method for keeping cutlery shiny? Or does simply buffing the cutlery remove the polish enough for eating?

Basically, I want to be able to give my guests nice shiny silver (plate) cutlery, without poisoning them!

Thanks for your help!

Just polish with a good quality non-abrasive silver polish, then wash in warm soapy water and dry immediately. None of our guests have ever suffered ill effects (well, not so far anyway!)

Thanks silvermakersmarks…well i guess it wouldn’t do me any harm if I just followed your advice.

I would always recommend starting out with the least abrasive polish, such as Tarni-Shield or Twinkle. The tarnish protectant isn’t poisonous. If you would prefer not to use a polish, simply use your silver daily or keep it in a closed container lined with Kenized SilverShield or Pacific Silvercloth. A container of silica gel will keep the humidity to a minimum. See my Silver Care page for additional instructions:

If your silver is starting to look tarnished you can take a plastic container and line it with some aluminum foil. Then place the silver into the container on top of the aluminum foil and pour in some hot water. While the water is hot take three tablespoons of baking soda and add it to the hot water. Let the silver soak in the hot baking soda water for ten minutes. Then take the silver out of the baking soda water and dry it well.

Silver that has tiny embossing in them can be washed with a clean soft brush like a soft bristle toothbrush. The tiny bristles will get into the tiny cracks to clean them.

Never put any silver into a dishwashing machine. A dishwasher can make your silver tarnish fast.

Always store you silver in a container that air can get in and out of. Do not store silver in plastic since the silver will condensate and tarnish faster. Instead of wrapping silver in plastic take a nice clean towel and wrap your silver in the towel.

The oil on your hands is corrosive to silver. When you touch silver you leave behind some oil from your hands. This oil can damage your silver if you don’t wash it off of the silver. When you handle silver as you are putting the silver away after you wash it you should wear a pair of clean gloves to protect your silver from the oil on your hands.

When your silver tarnishes badly you can clean it up with a silver cleaner. Don’t clean your silver too often because every time you do you are actually stripping a layer of silver off of the silver item you are polishing.

Hi there Sandary and thanks for joining us. Most of us advise against use of the aluminum foil and baking soda technique as it is a “reverse electroplating” process that actually removes silver from the item and deposits it on the foil. A better way is warm soap and water followed by a non-abrasive silver polish, then another gentle washing in soap and warm water.

A silversmith’s horsehair brush works well for the intricate stuff and will not scratch the solf silver as nylon tends to do. Hagerty makes a nice one with a wooden handle that sells in antique stores for about $10 and lasts for years.

And finally, we usually advise storing silver in air tight containers as the tarnish is a chemical compound called silver sulfide, which is sulfur in the air attacking the silver. I use Zip-Loc brand storage bags as the chemical compositon of the plastic is safe with silver. As you mention, some plastics will react with silver and casue tarnish and corrosion. A small strip of 3M brand Tarnish Strip placed in the bag with your silver adds another layer of tarnish protection. The strips are paper impregnated with activated charcoal that removes the harmful chemicals from the air (such as sulfur). The tarnish strips are available at many antique and jewelry stores, and of course, online.

Thanks again for joining us!

Uncle Vic