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Caring For And Cleaning Your Silver

Aug 17, 2007
Silver becomes tarnished from materials that contain sulfur. Some of the most common things that will cause your silver to tarnish are wool, felt, food (especially eggs and mayonnaise), rubber bands, latex and certain types of paints. If the atmosphere is humid, the tarnish will accelerate.

It is very important that when handling a silver item that your hands and fingers are not oily as the salts from the oil can leave permanent damage if not washed immediately.

Silver Cleaning Tips:
Always wash your silver by hand. If there is no tarnish on your silver, simply use a phosphate-free detergent to clean it. Washing and drying your silver immediately after using it will keep you from having to use tarnish removing tools less often. Be careful when washing in a metal sink as it could scratch your silver.

In the early stages of tarnish, your silver will have a yellowish tint. The darker in color this gets, the harder to remove. If left untouched, it will eventually turn black.

You can find most silver cleaning products at your local hardware store. Many of these cleaners have abrasives in them. One that we highly recommend is 3M's Tarni-Shield Silver Polish as this has the least amount of abrasives and also contains a tarnish barrier to protect your silver from tarnishing.

Do not use polishes that have become hard or dried up. Dried up polishes are more concentrated and can hurt your silver.

Use a very soft cloth. Never use steel wool on silver. Steel wool is too abrasive and sometimes little particles from the wool get into the silver which will rust over time.

Never, never put silver in the dishwasher! There are several reasons for this. The most important being that the harsh detergent and hot water will simply ruin your silver. Patina that is sometimes applied to silver to give an antiqued finish will eventually come off in the dishwasher leaving your silver dull looking. The glue that is used on hollow knife handles will also melt at such high water temperatures. Silver that touches stainless in the dishwasher can also create a chemical reaction causing the silver to get black spots.

Silver Storage:
Your silver should be stored in an area that is free of dust.

You can delay the tarnishing process by using silica gel. These can be purchased in packets and will help to keep the humidity low, or you can purchase what is called a silica gel canister. These canisters have a built in indicator that lets you know moisture levels. A second alternative to using silica gel would be to gently wrap your silver in soft tissue (preferably acid free) and then store it in a Ziploc bag. And a third option would be to wrap your silver in a special cloth that absorbs sulfur. Pacific Silvercloth is one brand that can be used.

Never wrap your silver in newspaper or use rubber bands to bind it. These items react with silver and causes discoloration to the extent that you may have to have your silver professionally cleaned. Using plastic wrap is also not a good idea as plastic can contain tarnishing producing materials. When using cardboard boxes, use only archival ones. The non-archival ones have acids in them that will quickly tarnish
About the Author
Evelyn Becker writes articles for Deutsches Haus http://www.deutscheshaus.cc which is located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Deutsches Haus offers German collectibles, souvenirs, gifts and foods.
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