Originally posted on Nov. 24, 2009
POLISHING SILVER SERVING PIECES and removing spilled wax from silver candlesticks is hardly my idea of a good time. Nevertheless, the holidays are here, company is due, and I want my tableware to sparkle. Here are a few tricks I use to make this mundane chore a little less…mundane:
Silver-Plate. I use an electro-magnetic process to quickly clean silver plate, like the coffee and tea service pictured above. Here’s the procedure: First, line a dishpan with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Next, pour into the pan one cup of baking soda, and enough almost-boiling water to fill the pan two-thirds full. Submerge silver for about one minute. Finally, rinse with hot water, and then immediately dry with a soft cloth. Why this method works: the foil, soda and hot water produce a chemical reaction that sucks the silver sulfide, or tarnish, from the silver item, and onto the foil. After cleaning several pieces, you will notice that the foil has become quite dark.
Sterling. There is no quick way to clean sterling silver. I find that a gin and tonic, and perhaps an old Bette Davis flick, like All About Eve, helps to keep me amused while I clean every sterling candlestick, fork, knife, and spoon with a cloth soaked in Hagerty’s silversmiths’ polish. If you have an easier way to clean sterling, I’d like to hear it.
Want to avoid all this scullery-business? Obtain a pair of silversmiths’ gloves, and spray them with dry silver polish. You can buy both gloves and polish here. Then, during your weekly dusting routine, don the gloves and lightly rub your sterling or plated vase, picture frame, tea service, or what have you. Do this religiously, and your silver will always be free of tarnish, and bright as the North Star.
I think old black and white family photographs are best displayed in silver frames. To clean the nooks and crannies of the ornate frame above (which contains a photo of Irene Spencer, my great-grandmother), I use a polish-dipped cotton swab.
To Remove Candle Wax. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to remove wax from silver candlesticks. Simply place them in the freezer overnight, and the next morning the wax will come off with a mere flick of the fingernail.
You might have a silver-polishing-trick up your own sleeve. Care to share it?
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