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How to clean silver: Here's what you need to know

Silver’s long been the metal of choice for elegant flatware, serving pieces and candlesticks. And currently, with the price of gold out of sight, silver’s regained popularity in jewelry.

However, as much as we love its beauty and affordability, silver does require TLC because it tarnishes — and tarnish is just plain ugly. Chad Berg, general manager for Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry in Metairie, Louisiana, knows how to keep silver looking its best — and he's dishing out his tips.

How to polish silver

1. Make sure it’s clean.

Clean any silver you will be cleaning in warm, soapy water and dry with a soft cloth. Never use paper towels. They can scratch the silver!

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2. Remove tarnish

If your silver looks dull but doesn’t have visible tarnish, it's considered "lightly tarnished." According to Berg, “A silver polishing cloth and a little elbow grease is the easiest and fastest way to give your piece a shiny finish.” No silver polishing cloth? Wash the silver in warm water using a non-lemon mild dish detergent and a sponge or soft cloth. Dry and buff to a shine.

To remove heavier tarnish, Berg suggests using a quality silver polish, such as Blitz Silver Shine, Hagerty Silversmiths’ Wash or Wright’s Silver Cream. Apply polish using a cotton ball or cotton make-up pad, a sponge or a soft cloth. Wear cotton or nitrile gloves because fingerprints contribute to tarnishing. Removing tarnish does take effort, so be prepared to rub until the tarnish is gone. Wash off residue, then dry and buff to a shine.

3. No matter what you hear, never use the following items to clean silver.

They are either too harsh and can remove the protective patina from silver or are too abrasive and can scratch it.

  • Aluminum foil/baking soda/boiling water method
  • Scrubbies, Teflon scrubbing pads, anything advertised for use on metal
  • Chemical “dips” designed to instantly remove tarnish by dipping or wiping it on silver
  • Toothpaste, ketchup, baking soda
  • Dishwasher

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How to store silver

To minimize tarnish, wrap silver pieces individually in acid-free buffered tissue, cotton, linen or polyester and store in a zip-top plastic bag, or store in bags or containers designed to minimize tarnish.

To further retard tarnish, consider adding the following to the storage container: 3-M Anti-Tarnish Strips, which absorb tarnish-causing sulfur and silica gel, which absorbs moisture.

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