Top Tips for Cleaning Silverware
Silverware can be one of the most beautiful additions to your table – and also one of the most frustrating to clean and maintain. Unlike stainless steel, silver tarnishes very quickly and easily, even with just exposure to the air, and maintaining its natural shine and sparkle can be a hefty job! In addition, continual use and insufficient daily washing means that stubborn dirt and grease may accumulate on the silverware. Wealthy families in the past, who employed a large number of servants, did not have a trouble with the daily upkeep of silver but busy modern living means that most silverware tends to go for a long time between cleaning, with the build-up of tarnish being substantial and the subsequent cleaning required quite intensive. With a few handy tips, however, cleaning silverware will be less of a tedious chore.
Why Does Silver Tarnish?Silver molecules readily combine with molecules from certain other elements, forming a corrosion product also known as “tarnish”. This tarnish is starts off as a yellowish tinge which gradually darkens through brown and finally to a dark, iridescent purple/black. It is in fact a layer of silver sulphide on the surface and can be removed using an abrasive polish. However, it is more easily removed in the early stages and require a lot of work once it was reached the “black” stage, therefore more frequent, light cleaning are recommended over sporadic intensive sessions.
Cleaning SilverPure silver is actually too soft to be used in everyday situations, therefore most silverware is actually an alloy of silver with a variety of other metals, such as copper, zinc and nickel. Despite this, silver can still scratch easily if great force is used so take care when cleaning.
One simple way to clean silverware involves just the contents of your pantry. Start by washing all the silverware with soap and water to remove any accumulated dirt and grease. Remember, commercial soaps often contain phosphates which can leave a brown stain on silver, so always use a mild, phosphate-free detergent. Be careful about immersing any silver pieces with wood or ivory attachments as the water can harm these materials; be careful also with any pieces that have been silverplated (rather than solid silver) because the base metal may corrode through the plating.
Next, gill a large aluminium pot or tray with boiling water and 2 tablespoons of baking soda (bicarbonate soda). If you don’t have aluminium trays, simply line whatever you have with aluminium foil). Put all your silverware into the solution and leave it for about 10 minutes. The baking soda will act on the oxidised surface of the silverware, removing the tarnish and any remaining dirt, stains and grease. If your silverware is heavily tarnished, then you may need to bring the solution to the boil and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Another thing to try is to add a teaspoon of salt into the boiling mixture and simmer for 2-3 minutes, ensuring that you have enough water in the pot to cover all the silverware.
Finally, remove the silverware and rinse thoroughly under warm, running water and then place on a clean, dry cloth to air-dry. Remember, don’t use rubber gloves when you are cleaning silver as they can emit sulphurs and undo all your good work!