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 powder silver polish for removing tarnishing / my silver turn dull in the dishwasher / chemical in silver polish / how to clean silver plated tray / steel wool to polish silverplate scratch / flatware chest with pacific cloth /  pacific cloth / Silver Cloth Silver Flatware Storage Rolls /  how to remove rouge from sterling silver / black spots on silverware

Basic Silver Care Advice 1. To avoid damaging your silver, clean it only when you don't feel rushed. I've restored many a candelabrum arm that was broken off in haste. 2. If you are looking for someone to clean your silver, choose an individual with experience. Ask about methods and polishes. 3. Use untreated cotton gloves or form-fitting nitrile gloves when handling silver – finger prints contribute to tarnishing. 4. Always support a teapot or coffeepot by the bottom when holding it by the handle. 5. If your silver is tarnished to an extent that it requires a commercial polish, use only polishes made specifically for silver. (See section on Cleaning Silver.) 6. Cleaning silver in a dishwasher is not advised, as the heat and harsh detergents will eventually whiten the silver, causing it to require professional refinishing. In addition, dishwashers can cause blades to explode out of hollow-handled knives. (See section on Silver & Dishwashers.) 7. Silver flatware used on a daily basis will require little or no polishing. Hand wash the pieces with a non-lemon-scented phosphate-free detergent and dry them immediately to avoid spotting. 8. Salt is extremely corrosive to silver; always empty shakers and wash them when not used on a regular basis. (See section on Salt Shaker Corrosion.) 9. When cleaning or inserting a candle into a candelabrum, support the arms from underneath to avoid distortion or possible breakage. 10. Do not cut food on a silver or silverplated tray or plate. Cutting lines (and possibly linear dents) will decrease the object's value. Additional Advice for Flood Victims 11. If your silver was involved in a flood, gently shake any piece that might have hollow spaces (e.g., sockets on teapots and coffeepots that contain ivory heat insulators or wooden handles, hollow handles on some flatware, hollow rims, and candlestick cups with double walls). If you can hear water swishing within these areas, contact a qualified restorer (for referrals, ask a museum with a large silver collection or an antique silver dealer). 12. If the object has no hollow areas, rinse it well to remove any dirt or grit. When the piece feels clean to the touch, wash it with a cellulose sponge, using a non-lemon-scented phosphate-free, antibacterial detergent and warm water. 13. Rust may be present on carbon steel knife blades of older pieces, or on the worn edges of knife blades coated with silver. Do not use steel wool or Navel Jelly to remove the rust; rather, contact a silver restoration specialist, as the blades will most likely have to be replaced.  14. When in doubt, stop! Contact a reputable restorer for advice before doing irreparable harm to your silver. Cleaning Silver Silver, when properly maintained, will yield generations of enjoyment. The following cleaning instructions have been tried and proven in my silver restoration & conservation studio. They are suited for gold as well as silver. Silverplated and goldplated items should be treated very gingerly, as too-vigorous cleaning can remove the plating and expose the base metal. These instructions are written for the general audience—museum conservators generally clean silver and gold by using a calcium carbonate/denatured alcohol mixture that will not be discussed here, as most individuals would prefer not to spend hours cleaning a teapot! Also, the more technical aspects of silver care have been kept to a minimum. Tarnish is caused by contact with sulfur compounds, mainly hydrogen sulfide in the air. Other common culprits are wool, felt, fossil fuels, rubber bands, latex gloves, carpet padding, certain paints, and food (particularly eggs, onions, and mayonnaise). Tarnish formation is accelerated in a humid environment. Also, oily salts from fingers can cause corrosion patterns that may have to be professionally removed. Gently wash and dry your silver immediately after use. Use a non-lemon-scented phosphate-free detergent and, to avoid water spots, towel-dry using a soft cotton dish towel or Selvyt cloth. Silver that is used frequently and washed in this manner will require infrequent tarnish removal. While washing, do not allow silver to come into contact with a metal sink, as that can cause scratching. (Use a plastic dishpan or line the sink with a towel.) Tarnish is easily removed when first noticed (usually as a yellowish tint), and will become increasingly difficult to deal with as it turns to light brown and eventually black. Occasionally washing an object with a non-lemon-scented phosphate-free detergent is preferred to waiting until tarnish forms and gets so stubborn that polishes have to be employed. (All polishes have some degree of abrasion.) If you start to see very light tarnish that can sometimes only be detected when the object is viewed against a white piece of paper, Windex with vinegar or a liquid, non-abrasive, unscented, aloe-free hand sanitizer, such as Purell, may remove the tarnish. Use a large cotton ball and rotate it regularly to expose unused surfaces, as elements in the tarnish itself can be very abrasive; then dry the piece with a Selvyt cloth or cotton dish towel. Try this technique first, as it is the least abrasive of all silver cleaning methods. Always remove dried polish and grime from crevices and ornament on previously polished pieces before repolishing. Wetting a horsehair or natural white boar bristle brush (found in most hardware stores) will soften the bristles and aid in lifting the polish from the object's surface with minimal abrasion. A wet toothpick will get into the smallest areas. If your piece is more tarnished, use one of the commercial silver cleaners, some of which provide tarnish protection. Use the least abrasive product possible. Polishes that are meant to be washed off are less abrasive because they use a liquid to suspend the polishing ingredients. The least abrasive of the commercial cleaners are 3M's Tarni-Shield Silver Polish 1, Twinkle Silver Polish, Blitz Silver Care Polish, Earth Friendly Silver Polish 2, and Weiman Silver Polish. For removing heavier tarnish and residue, use Goddard’s Long Shine Silver Polish, Goddard’s Silver Foam, Wright's Anti-Tarnish Silver Polish, or Wright’s Silver Cream. (Wright’s Silver Cream is also useful for removing stains on steel knife blades.) The following products provide tarnish protection: Tarni-Shield, Twinkle, Goddard’s Long Shine, Wright’s Anti-Tarnish, Blitz, and Weiman. In a Canadian Conservation Institute laboratory test, Tarni-Shield was found to have a much more effective tarnish barrier than Twinkle; they have not tested the other polishes. The polishes and cleaners listed here can be found in your local hardware or department store, or can be bought from distributors listed in the Resources section. Keep your polish container closed, and don’t use polishes that have dried up—the abrasive particles have become much too concentrated and will harm your silver. Never use steel wool (too abrasive and rust may result if particles are not fully rinsed from the interior of an object), Scotch-Brite scouring pads (too abrasive), or dips (too toxic; see section on Chemical Dips). If, after cleaning your silver (not silverplate) piece, a purplish stain remains, do not mistake this stain for tarnish! Attempting to remove it will only damage your prized piece. This is firestain, which is oxidized copper, and can be found on many pre-colonial through early twentieth century pieces. It is not generally seen on pieces that have been produced by the large American silver companies after the early 1900s, but many one-person silversmithing shops still use this technique. I will not get into the technicalities of firestain here, but the stain is usually obscured with fine silver either by silverplating the object or through a process called depletion. The firestain under this fine silver layer, which may be a few thousandths of an inch thick, may not show up until after many years of polishing. Consult with a restoration silversmith if this happens to one of your pieces. Use the following technique if you are polishing near unwaxed, unstable, or cracked components, felt, or with no available water: Wooden handles & finials, ivory insulators, and felt used on the bottoms of candlesticks and compotes can become damaged when introduced to excess moisture. For objects with such components, use Weiman Silver Polish or Goddard’s Long Shine Silver Polish. Use these polishes also for hollow areas that will not dry (beaded rims, handle sockets with minute holes, etc.), or if there is no source of water. Of the polishes listed in this booklet, these are the only ones that are meant to be allowed to dry and then buffed off.  Use a large cotton ball with a small amount of polish and rotate the ball regularly to expose unused surfaces, as elements in the tarnish can be very abrasive. Rub the object in a straight, back-and-forth manner so as to maintain a uniform appearance. Avoid rubbing in a circular motion. Let the polish dry and remove it with a Selvyt cloth (preferred) or cotton dish towel. Selvyt is a lint-free, untreated, 100% cotton wiping cloth which is also excellent for highlighting ornament. Always use the smallest amount of polish necessary. Use the following technique if you are polishing an object WITHOUT porous attachments: Rinse the object first to remove any pollution that may have settled on the object. These contaminants, which may be more abrasive than the polish you will be using, can actually scratch the silver if rubbed into the surface. Apply Tarni-Shield Silver Polish, Earth Friendly Silver Polish, Twinkle Silver Polish, Blitz Silver Polish, Goddard’s Silver Foam, Wright’s Anti-Tarnish, or Wright's Silver Cream using a moist cellulose sponge. If you feel it necessary to protect your hands from moisture, use nitrile gloves which contain no ingredients that tarnish silver. Rub the object in a straight, back-and-forth manner so as to maintain a uniform appearance. Avoid rubbing in a circular motion. Rinse the sponge regularly, as elements in the tarnish can be very abrasive. Flattened cotton swab heads with very little silver polish applied are excellent for cleaning  between fork tines. Dried polish can be removed by patting the area with a warm wet cotton ball or a wet horsehair or natural boar bristle brush. Rinse the object with warm water, and then dry with a Selvyt cloth or cotton dish towel immediately to avoid spotting. Use a rouge cloth to restore the original luster to silver and gold which has been dulled by heavy tarnish. Unlike the Selvyt cloth, which is untreated, the rouge cloth contains a polishing agent, usually rouge.  I advise using untreated heavyweight cotton inspection gloves to avoid finger prints when cleaning and storing your freshly cleaned objects. Never Use Toothpaste as a Silver Polish Toothpaste should NEVER be used as a silver polish. Some toothpastes contain baking soda or other ingredients which are much too abrasive; even trace amounts can cause serious damage. Use polishes that are specifically formulated to remove tarnish from silver. Chemical Dips Chemical dips, such as Tarn-X, work by dissolving the tarnish on an object at an accelerated rate. Dips are used by silver restorers when heavy black tarnish cannot be removed with liquid or paste polishes. Chemical dips are wiped over the object with a cellulose sponge or cotton ball, as submerging the piece for long periods will remove factory-applied patinas and cause pitting of the object's surface. These surface defects will act like a sponge and more readily absorb tarnish-producing gases and moisture. The object may then require professional polishing to restore the original finish. Chemical dips are made up of an acid and a complexing agent. Acids are corrosive and will damage niello, bronze, stainless steel knife blades, and organic materials such as wood and ivory. The ingredients can also be harmful to the user, which is why silver restorers wear nitrile gloves and work in a well ventilated area. Chemical dips should never be used on objects that have sealed components, such as candlesticks and trophies with hollow feet, or teapots with hollow handles. Once the dip leaks into the cavity through small holes or imperfections in the joints, it becomes virtually impossible to wash the chemical out. For all the above reasons, this cleaning technique should only be used by qualified restorers. Electrochemical (Galvanic) Reduction This process uses an aluminum or aluminum alloy plate and a warm solution of sodium carbonate (washing soda). When the object comes into contact with the plate in the solution, it removes only light tarnish, not the thick, black tarnish produced by years of neglect. Pitting of the object can occur if the aluminum plate is not periodically cleaned. Another not-so-obvious problem is scratching of the object when in contact with the plate. Objects cleaned by this method may tarnish more quickly than silver that has been polished, for the object's surface will act like a sponge and more readily absorb tarnish-producing gases and moisture. The solution can also seep into hollow areas such as coffeepot handles, unsoldered spun beads around the tops of lightweight holloware, weighted pieces with minute holes, and any porous attachments. For these reasons, this cleaning technique is not recommended. Coffee & Tea Stains If you can manually clean the inside of a coffeepot or teapot, use a cellulose sponge (if the pot opening is big enough) or make a swab by wrapping a sponge on the end of a wooden dowel. Moisten the sponge and apply a liberal amount of Wright’s Silver Cream, then wipe away the stain and rinse the pot thoroughly with warm water. Wright’s is an excellent cleaner for this task because it’s much less abrasive than commercial cleaners that are not meant specifically for silver. Don’t use powdered abrasive cleaners, as they will  impart fine scratches which will attract more dirt. Don’t use steel wool (too abrasive and rust may result on the bottom), Scotch-Brite or scouring pads (too abrasive), or dips (too toxic — see section on Chemical Dips). A cotton swab with a small amount of Wright’s will remove stains within the spout opening.  Rinse well with warm water. If you can’t adequately clean the interior manually, fill the pot with warm water and drop in one five-minute denture cleaning tablet (about five cents each) per two cups of water. Let stand for ten minutes, empty, then rinse with warm water. You may find that the effervescing action of the tablets may just break the contact between the stain and the silver and not lift the residue. If this occurs, use a wet brush to remove the loosened residue and rinse with warm water. Salt Shaker Corrosion Those crusty corrosion marks on and in your salt shaker can be a real annoyance. One way to avoid this problem from the very start is to empty the shaker after a dinner party and thoroughly wash it; this way the salt doesn't have time to do its damage. Heavily gold plating the interior is the only other way to preserve the finish because gold is impervious to the effects of salt. It is still wise to clean out the shaker at least twice a year and inspect the plate to make sure it has not been abraded by the salt. There is a simple way to remove the corrosion yourself. Do this in a well-ventilated area and with nitrile gloves since you will be using ammonia. (Silver dips will not perform as well as ammonia.) If you are removing corrosion from a salt shaker, pour ammonia into a container, place the shaker inside, and cover the container. Let the shaker sit for ten minutes, then remove from the container and inspect. If the black corrosion spots remain, place the shaker back in and let stand for another ten minutes and inspect again. If the corrosion is not gone after 30 minutes, have the shaker professionaly refinished. You may notice a slight graying of the silver. If this occurs, use Hagerty's Silversmiths' Wash, which is more abrasive than Tarni-Shield, Twinkle, Blitz, Weiman, Goddard's, Earth Friendly, and Wright's polishes. Apply a generous amount of Hagerty's Silversmiths' Wash on a damp sponge to bring back the surface, inside and outside of the shaker. If you find you need something even more abrasive, try a small amount of Bon Ami cleanser on a wet sponge and lightly rub the inside and outside of the shaker to renew the silver luster. Perform the Bon Ami procedure under trickling water in your sink – this way the abrasive qualities of the cleanser are dissipated, leaving the silver brighter than if you were to maintain the full strength of the cleanser. As when polishing silver, always use the smallest amount of abrasive to do the job. After the corrosion has been satisfactorily removed, use a rouge cloth to bring back the silver's luster, then use Tarni-Shield Silver Polish, Twinkle Silver Polish, Blitz Silver Care Polish, Weiman Silver Polish, Goddard's Long Shine Silver Polish, or Wright's Anti-Tarnish Silver Polish on the exterior for protection against the elements. Removing Wax From Candle Holders Do you become frustrated when trying to remove wax from your weighted candle holders? Do you go pawing into your flatware drawer to find just the right size knife to dig out the wax? Do you run the piece under warm water, only to create a big mess? Well, here are some simple, non-invasive techniques. Non-weighted candle holders can be put in your freezer. Upon removing them, use your fingernail (not a knife) to delicately chip off the wax. If residue remains, remove it with silver polish or 91% isopropyl alcohol on a cotton ball. (Isopropyl alcohol should always be used in a well ventilated area.) The following procedure can be used for both weighted and non-weighted candle holders. Use your hair dryer (but not a heat gun) to warm the candle cup or other area coated with wax. Be careful not to get the object too hot. There are three reasons for this warning: (1) If the weighting material is pitch, it will melt. (2) If the piece is lacquered, the lacquer will bubble off or burn (or both). (3) You could burn yourself! Lightly touch the area with your fingertip to make sure it is not too hot; then lightly wipe off the wax with a soft paper towel or cotton ball. When cleaning out a candle cup on a candelabrum, support the cup with your hand to prevent bending the arm. If the opening is too small for your finger, gently stuff the paper towel into the cup and twist. Cotton swabs also work very well, especially on Hanukkah lamps with very small candle cups. Use as much fresh paper towel or as many cotton swabs as needed; otherwise, you will continually reapply the wax you are removing. Use dripless candles whenever possible and remove any wax residue from candle holders after each use. Using these techniques will greatly reduce maintenance time. Removing Labels You just purchased a vase with one of those labels that leaves a sticky mess! Next time, before peeling off the label, use a hair dryer to soften the adhesive. The label will probably come off cleanly, but if it leaves a sticky residue, wait for the piece to cool and try removing it with some Elmer’s Sticky Out, 91% isopropyl alcohol, or Goo Gone on a soft paper towel or cotton ball. Elmer’s Sticky Out is the safest alternative, health-wise. The other two should be used in a well ventilated area with nitrile gloves. Any residue remaining after using any of the three cleaners should be removed with Windex Multi-Surface Cleaner with Vinegar. If a discolored spot remains where the adhesive had been, remove it with silver polish. Silver & Dishwashers KEEP SILVER OUT OF THE DISHWASHER! It's that simple. There are four major reasons for keeping your prized sterling and silverplate out of the "chamber of doom:" (1) Any factory-applied oxidation (the black patina in recessed areas) will eventually be removed. (2) The harsh detergent, combined with the washer's high cleaning temperature, is much too abrasive for silver—it will eventually turn it grey or white, with a dull, non-reflective surface. (3) Most older and some repaired hollow-handled knives are filled with pitch. This low-melting cement will expand with heat, possibly forcing open a thin solder seam, or exploding the knife blade out of the handle. (4) Silver that touches stainless in the dishwasher can create a chemical reaction, producing black spots or pitting on the stainless and possibly requiring the silver to be professionally refinished. Sterling, like a fine automobile, must be handled with tender loving care. You certainly wouldn't drive your Rolls Royce through a car wash, would you? Silver Storage & Display Your primary consideration should be to keep silver objects clean and free of dust and surface grime. In addition, the following guidelines will help to preserve your silver’s finish while it is on display or in storage. To minimize the formation of tarnish inside display cases, use 3M Anti-Tarnish Strips (see section on 3M ANTI-TARNISH STRIPS) to absorb tarnish-producing gases, and silica gel (see section on SILICA GEL) to keep relative humidity low. Certain paints, oils, and fabrics within the case can accelerate the formation of tarnish. Therefore, if the case or cabinet is made of wood, the interior surface should be sealed, preferably with lacquer or water-based polyurethane. If latex paint is used, allow it to dry for at least four months. See the dramatic difference when silver is not exposed to tarnish-causing particulate here. If a silver piece to be stored is already tarnished, even if it is heavily blackened, it need not be polished before storing: doing so will only reveal fresh sterling or fine silver electroplate to be exposed to the elements. Before storing, wrap each piece in non-buffered tissue paper (acid-free and of archival quality) or soft anti-tarnish tissue, place it in a polyethylene bag such as a Ziploc, toss in a 3M Anti-Tarnish Strip, and seal the bag. This will provide some protection against changes in relative humidity and create a barrier against tarnish-producing gases. Another option is to wrap the object in a sulfur-absorbing cloth such as Pacific Silvercloth or Kenized SilverShield flannel (see the independent testing of the two flannels here) before putting it in the polyethylene bag. Pacific Silvercloth is impregnated with microscopic particles of silver, and Kenized SilverShield contains zinc. Both products attract sulfur equally well, thereby preventing much of it from being absorbed by the piece being stored. Sulfur-absorbing cloth will stay effective for approximately 20 years before they become saturated. You can further protect silver pieces against tarnish by placing small containers of silica gel (to absorb moisture) and activated charcoal (to absorb pollutants) in the storage bag. Some storage materials should be avoided. Wrapping in newspaper or binding in rubber bands can cause deep discoloration that may have to be professionally polished. Plastic wrap contains tarnish-producing materials and can also adhere to the silver over time, requiring solvents to remove. Finally, non-archival cardboard boxes contain acids that aggressively tarnish silver. Lacquering silver retards tarnish formation, but is generally not recommended because of the difficulty in obtaining an even coating. If the coating is uneven, when the object re-tarnishes, it looks worse than if no coating had been applied at all. However, in an open display where surface protection of the object is necessary, a skillful application of micro-crystalline wax such as Renaissance wax 3. Check the Renaissance MSDS here. 3M Anti-Tarnish Strips 3M Anti-Tarnish Strips can be used to absorb tarnish-producing gases. The strips are made from a 45-lb. paper containing activated charcoal. They guard against corrosion, tarnish, and discoloration by absorbing airborne pollutants. These strips can also be used to protect objects containing copper, brass, solder, gold, and tin. Unlike similar products, 3M strips absorb on both sides. A 2"x7" strip will protect an area up to 422 cubic inches, the approximate size of a flatware chest. Protection time depends on the nature and permeability of the storage container and on the pollution level of the surrounding atmosphere. The following guidelines apply to an average atmosphere: loosely sealed container (e.g., cardboard box, china cabinet, or flatware chest): 6 months; moderately sealed container (e.g., lightweight polyethylene bag): 12 months; and tightly sealed container (e.g., low-permeability polyethylene bag): up to 24 months. The strips should be replaced in a timely fashion because once they are fully saturated with pollutants, the strips will become inactive. Silica Gel Since World War II, silica gel has been the drying agent of choice by government and industry. It is safe to use with even the most sensitive materials, including food and medicine—it’s what is contained in those tiny packets enclosed in pill bottles and shoe boxes to prevent moisture. It prevents tarnish- and corrosion-causing condensation within enclosed areas, such as flatware drawers and china cabinets. Such areas should be made as vapor-proof as possible. Despite its name, silica gel is not a gel, but is in the form of chemically inert man-made granules containing thousands of tiny crevices that “drink up” excess humidity from the air by surface adsorption. A good choice of product is a canister containing silica gel that turns from blue to pink when saturated with moisture. Reactivate the gel by drying the canister in a conventional oven. The reactivation process can be repeated indefinitely for a lifetime of protection. (Read directions thoroughly; silica gel dust should not be inhaled.)