How to Clean and Care for Antiques: Silverware

When you’ve taken the time to choose beautiful antique pieces for your table, you want to be sure you’re caring for them properly, so they give you years of joy. It’s a shame many antique dishes are kept behind glass instead of taking up their rightful place at the center of a home’s most convivial moments. You know how we feel about using the good china. You bought those antiques for a reason and shouldn’t be afraid to use them. Below is the first in a series where we share some tips for cleaning and caring for your antique treasures.

First up: How to clean and care for antique silver. 

How to clean and care for antique silverware

Cleaning Antique Silverware
You might be reluctant to buy silver cutlery because you think it’s complicated to care for, and maybe even have memories of your grandmother taking out the silverware for an annual polish. The first tip (and good news) when caring for silver and silver-plated items is knowing that the more you use it, the less likely it is to tarnish. (Read: less polish work needed). 

Silver cutlery can also go in the dishwasher, however it should be removed as soon as the washing cycle has finished and dried by hand to maintain the shine. If you prefer to wash it by hand, use warm soapy water immediately after using it. It's not ideal to leave old crusty food sitting on your antique cutlery overnight. Don’t use detergent containing lemon or any other citric acids that might damage the metal.

To remove stubborn stains, rub gently with a paste made of baking soda and water. Always dry straight away with a soft lint-free cloth to avoid leaving water stains.

Clean and care for antique silver

Clean and care for antique silver 

Polishing Silver
If your silverware has become badly tarnished (remember, the more you use it, the less it tarnishes!), you can bring it back to its sparkling glory with a few simple tricks. The most common is using a soft towel and a silver polish cream like Hagerty's or Miror.

Another option is to line a ceramic or glass (never metal) dish with aluminium foil. In a separate bowl, mix together one tablespoon of salt, one tablespoon of baking soda, and half a cup of white vinegar. Pour these ingredients into a foil-lined dish, add boiling water and then carefully lower your silverware in a single layer. Please use tongs so you don’t burn yourself ! The water needs to be deep enough to completely cover the silverware. The aluminium reacts with the silver to remove the tarnish. It usually works pretty quickly but heavily tarnished pieces might need to sit for a few minutes. Don’t leave them in their bath for more than 10 minutes, though, because this could damage the metal. If there is still some tarnish parts, rubbing it gently with a soft toothbrush should get the last stubborn stains out.

If you only have a couple of pieces to clean and you don’t want to go to the trouble of running a bath for them, an effective (if slightly whacky-sounding) method is to clean them with tomato ketchup. A few drops of ketchup on a paper towel should be enough to wipe away the tarnish. Rinse with clean water and then dry carefully with a soft lint-free cloth.

Have hard to reach areas or small details that need to be cleaned? Use a toothbrush with one of the above methods of choice. 

Storing Antique Silverware
If you’re not going to use your silverware for a while, it’s best to store it in an airtight container. If you have a tarnish-proof cutlery roll, this is even better, but keeping the air and moisture out is key to limiting the tarnish. Pop a few pieces of white chalk (the board chalk sold in packs for kids is fine) in with your silver. The chalk absorbs moisture and sulphur and helps to reduce tarnish. 

For pieces that you use less frequently like this Empire style serving utensil, a great tip to prevent tarnishing is to wrap it in plastic wrap before storing it - a convenient way to protect your special pieces using something that most of us have on hand in the kitchen.

Clean and care for antique silver

We hope these tips help you care for your antiques, so you feel confident and comfortable buying and using your treasures. 

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