Sterling silver flatware and serving pieces are beautiful, but keeping them free from tarnish can be challenging. To keep your silver looking its best, it's important to store pieces properly and to use the right types of cleaning products and techniques. Amy Gebhardt, Director of Public Relations for Oneida, shares her best silver care and polishing tips in this exclusive expert interview.
Silver Care Tips from Amy Gebhardt
Silver Polishing Basics
LoveToKnow (LTK): What causes silver to tarnish?
Amy Gebhardt (AG): The presence of Hydrogen Sulfide in the air is the primary cause. Eggs, onions, and other foods high in sulfur can also cause tarnishing.
LTK: What is the best way to know when your silver needs to be polished?
AG: Tarnish is a visible change that is easy to see. Clean the items prior to each use based on visible tarnishing.
LTK: What kinds of cleaning mistakes do people tend to make when caring for silver?
AG: It's important to understand that silver is a soft metal. It is affected by high heat and strong pressure.
A few things to keep in mind when caring for silver include:
- Use a soft clean cloth when polishing.
- Use a soft bristle brush only on decorated areas, not on the smooth sections, as this could cause scratching.
- Never put sterling silver in the dishwasher. This is too harsh of an environment for this soft metal. Silver-plated flatware is dishwasher safe, but not sterling.
- Never place stainless and silver-plated flatware together as this will cause discolorations.
Silver Cleaning Products
LTK: What types of products should be used to remove the tarnish from silver pieces?
AG: Polishing cloths are great for removing light tarnish. If your pieces are more heavily tarnished it best to use a polish or a paste with a soft brush to get into more recessed areas of decoration.
LTK: What are the best commercially available silver polishing products?
LTK: About how often should people expect to have to clean their silver items?
AG: It will vary depending on how you store it and where you live. Higher humidity locations tend to cause silver to tarnish more quickly. If you have silver flatware, the more you use it and wash it, the less it tarnishes.
LTK: Are there steps people can take to keep silver looking shiny and free of tarnish longer?
AG: Wash and dry the pieces immediately after using them. Don't allow food to remain directly on silver for very long as the acids and sulfurs in foods will cause tarnishing. Silver pieces should be stored in fabric that has been specially to minimize tarnishing.
LTK: What are the benefits of storing silverware in a flatware case?
AG: Most silverware chests are lined with a specially treated fabric that helps reduce tarnishing time. These types of chests also help to keep the pieces secure so they do not rub against each other much, reducing potential for scratching.
LTK: What are the best storage options for large silver serving pieces like trays and pitchers?
AG: Storage bags can be purchased in the same specially treated fabric that storage chests are lined in. These can be found in many different sizes to accommodate almost any size piece. We recommend storing one item per bag with the bag being as close a fit to the item as possible. This not only eliminates potential of scratching against another piece, it also reduces the amount of air in the bag. Less air means less tarnish or at least a longer time till the item tarnishes.
Thanks to Amy Gebhardt
LoveToKnow would like to thank Amy Gebhardt from taking time from her schedule to share her expertise about the subject of silver polishing with readers.