How to Polish the Silver - dummies

By Gill Chilton

You can’t prevent tarnish on silver cutlery, but you can polish it away. Just eating eggs, mayonnaise, and onions ups the chances that your knife and fork get a light coating. What you can do is remove tarnish regularly to ensure that corrosion patterns don’t form permanently.

If you wait until the dishwasher gets full before you run it, be sure to rinse off cutlery after meals.

Very light tarnish rubs away with just a cloth and perhaps a spot of dilute washing-up liquid. But now and again, perhaps because you’ve let food residues sit awhile, your silver may need specialist attention.

You could reach for the silver polish to clean tarnished silver, but that’s a slow, item-by-item process. Instead, speed things up with the all-in-one approach. Follow these steps:

  1. Line a large bowl with aluminium foil.

  2. Fill the bowl with a solution of soda crystals dissolved in very hot water.

    Use one cup of soda crystals or powdered water softener per half litre (one pint) of water.

  3. Soak silver for 5 to 15 minutes.

    The tarnish simply melts away.

  4. Rinse then buff gently with a soft cloth.

Clean up very dirty knives and forks by boiling them on the hob in an old saucepan filled with water and a scrunched up bundle of aluminium foil. After 20 minutes, drain and dry.

Sports cups and silver display ware are best cleaned with a proprietary silver cleaner.

Use a blunt toothpick to get out trapped dirt in salt and pepper pots.

Whether you go for silver polish as liquid, cream, or impregnated wipes is a personal choice. But whatever you use, open a window as you work and wear gloves to protect your hands. Polish works best on a dust-free surface. So wipe over surfaces before putting on the polish. Purists suggest rubbing in straight lines, not in circular movements.

Most polishes suggest that you start rubbing the polish off before it sets dry. Take care not to over rub because doing so takes some of the silver coating away as well.

Resist the temptation to squeeze life back into old, dried-up liquid polish. The active ingredients become very concentrated and may damage your silver.

Silver dips are the final choice if your silver is particularly stained. They are strongly acidic so where there are two surfaces, take care not to get the polish onto the second: it can strip the finish from wood handles and pit stainless steel.