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Silver Collector Forums

How to clean silver

The best method for cleaning silver depends on several factors, most notably whether the item is Solid Silver or Silverplate. This is because some methods of cleaning solid silver are too abrasive for silverplate.

Before following any of the suggestions in this forum, make sure you know whether your item is silver or silverplate. If necessary, refer to our guide How to distinguish between solid silver and silver plate

I’ve found that one of the most helpful tips for cleaning silver is to start with warm, soapy water. Wash the item well, dry with a soft cloth, then examine it to see what tarnish remains. Remember, tarnish is silver sulfide, a compound of silver and sulfur. Keep your silver away from sulfur, eggs and newsprint are the worst offenders.

After you have washed the item in warm soapy water, if the tarnish is not too bad, I like to use the Hagerty’s silver polishing gloves. Just a light rubbing will do the trick. The gloves are also handy for polishing silver in place (stuff you leave out on display) rather than haul the itmes to the kitchen or shop.

For heavy tarnish I use a cream polish such as Hagerty’s or Goddard’s, applied wet with some fake chamois from the auto parts store. The material is a thin sheet of dense foam, usually tan in color, and can be cut with scissors to a strip that when folded allows easy application of the polish. When the fake chamois gets “black dirty” just rinse out under cold water and squeeze a few times and its good as new.

For intricate chased areas I use a Hagerty’s horse hair silver brush to get in the tight areas. Finish with another wash with warm soapy water.

Uncle Vic

When reading about cleaning silver on the web, there seems to be some degree of ambiguity as to which methods are safe and which are not. There are so many chemical liquids, pastes, dips, electrochemical devices and solutions on the market. It’s a veritable minefield of potential mishap and detriment!

I have one of the cleaning plates which I’m inclined to use initially on newly purchased pieces (especially if they are serving or table pieces), but thereafter, I keep my table silver gleaming simply through daily use. I occasionally clean the flatware with the aluminium plate to remove the tarnish from the tips of the fork tines etc. After the preliminary cleaning, I simply maintain my other pieces with an occasional rub with an impregnated cloth.

Jeffrey Herman doesn’t recommend using a plate for cleaning silver as he claims it results in porosity of the silver’s surface.

I’ve read arguments both for and against the use of cleaning plates and washing soda as a means of removing tarnish. Would a serious collector or someone in the silver retail trade care to comment on the use of cleaning plates?

There also appears to be divided opinions on using “dip” cleaners. Would someone in the trade (who’s not pedalling a particular product) also care to comment on the use of dip cleaners.

The Silver Conservation page on the V&A Museum web sitewarns about over cleaning, but doesn’t point a finger at those methods that should be avoided.

The V&A briefly mention cleaning their silver with “solvents on cotton wool swabs”. Can anyone suggest what solvents they might be referring to? Are the solvents solely for removing the “colourless lacquer” that they recommend applying every ten years or so, or do they actually clean the tarnish off? Can anyone support the use of lacquering clean silver and recommend a product and/or the means of application (brush vs. spray?)?

This site seems to be quite a useful forum. I’ve just joined and cleaning silver is a subject of immediate interest. I’ve always used Wright’s Anti-Tarnish polish for the final polish, but some time in the recent past they changed their formula. It now seems rather suspiciously like Weiman polish. Weiman has apparently bought Wright’s. I would guess that now they use the same polish under two names. Well, I’ve always liked Wright’s because it rinsed off so easily and completely. Now Wright’s, like Weiman, leaves a sort of smeary residue. I can buff it off with a cloth but it seems rather a step backwards. Am I using the polish correctly? I recall the same problem with using Hagerty’s, which is well liked by many others. Is there another polish that rinses as well as the old Wright’s?

I just love this site, so much more friendly then I collect vintage sterling jewelry for my collection and for re-sale ( actually I also collect anything with a strange hallmark…lolol ) so polishing is an issue for me. I will NEVER use dips again. While some dips seem very good others have scared some pieces beyond redemption. Here in the states they seem to be changing the brand names often, and never tell you the content of the dip. so dips are over for me, unless of course someone here can reassure me and give me the name of a good quality product. for stubborn tarnish on pieces that can take it, i use Wrights polish on a dremel at not really right speeds. High speeds seem to be able to " burn " the polish right into the metal ( oops ). I really miss Twinkle Silver Polish that seems to be the best… but again everything has its minus side htat that polish left a residue after it dried…

I am afraid I do not know much about protecting silver with lacquers, I do know that once the lacquer wears off or tarnishes then it is a devil to clean off.

I am a supporter of the plate method of cleaning myself followed by a light polish with a good quality silver polish in between.

I believe someone mentions using a dremel - thats too scary for me.

I’m a strong proponent of Renaissance wax for protecting silver. It won’t yellow like lacquer, won’t crack over time to let tarnish develop underneath, and it can be easily removed if needed. Renaissance is also easier to apply than lacquer. If handled properly, your silver will last for years without polishing! Heck, if the V&A uses it on their silver, why shouldn’t the rest of us?

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Cleaning silver, silver plate , or sheffield plate is very simple , all you need is a bowl, tin foil and some baking soda , line the bowl with the tin foil put in the silver piece you wish to clean ,cover with baking soda , pour boiling water to cover the piece for cleaning not standing too close as there is a chemical reaction , but nothing to panic about your silvers quit safe , leave for a few minutes , check to see if the tarnished areas have been removed some pieces may need two or more to washes before you get the desired result , just repeat the process , you will find your silver becoming bright before your eyes , in between washes rub the piece with a soft cloth and you will be happy with the end result , this process is non abrasive , and will not harm the silver I have found it the best way to clean even the most tarnished of pieces .

I’ll have to respectfully take issue with the aluminum foil cleaning method. It removes a very large amount of silver and plates it on the foil. It is sort of the reverse of silver plating. Its a galvanic process that eats away the silver. There are much less destructive ways to remove the tarnish from silver.


Uncle Vic

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Hello everybody. I very like my silver rings and I clean them using the Colgate.

Please read both of these articles regarding electrochemical reduction and toothpaste:

© Electrochemical (Galvanic) Reduction

This process uses an aluminum or aluminum alloy plate and a warm solution of sodium carbonate (washing soda). When the object comes into contact with the plate in the solution, it removes only light tarnish, not the thick, black tarnish produced by years of neglect. Pitting of the object can occur if the aluminum plate is not periodically cleaned. Another not-so-obvious problem is scratching of the object when in contact with the plate.

Objects cleaned by this method may tarnish more quickly than silver that has been polished, for the object’s surface will act like a sponge and more readily absorb tarnish-producing gases and moisture. The solution can also seep into hollow areas such as coffeepot handles, unsoldered spun beads around the tops of lightweight holloware, weighted pieces with minute holes, and any porous attachments. For these reasons, this cleaning technique is not recommended.

© Never Use Toothpaste as a Silver Polish

Toothpaste should NEVER be used as a silver polish. Some toothpastes contain baking soda or other ingredients which are much too abrasive; even trace amounts can cause serious damage. Use polishes that are specifically formulated to remove tarnish from silver.

So what is the best way to clean Silverplate? I puchased a pair of Silverplate Candlesticks and want to know the best way to clean them without removing the plate and not wearing my hands to the bone! Photo’s can be viewed just type in Richard Hodd and Richard Hodd candlesticks.

You should treat it exactly as you would solid silver; i.e. a good quality silver polish. There is no guarantee that any cleaning process will completely preserve the plated layer but gentle cleaning will minimise any loss.

This is an interesting subject and obviously one that is important to preserve treasured items.

I have read that dissolving sea salt in warm to hot water in a bowl and then immersing the item can help clean silver. I have tried this method and it does work to a degree. At the same time gently applying a soaked soft toothbrush on hallmarks does help remove tarnish from these intricate areas.

Before immersing ensure that the salt is completely dissolved as one of my spoons was marked by direct contact with sea salt.

Colgate will absolutely ruin silver. For the latest Silver Polish Abrasive Ratings, go here: … atings.htm. The list also recommends what NOT to use when polishing your solid silver or silver plate.