How to Care for Silver and Stainless Steel Flatware

Caring for silver and stainless steel flatware

Using tarnished and spotty flatware during a special meal is definitely unappealing for you and your guests. Keep your silver and stainless steel flatware sparkling using these basic steps.

How to Care for Silver and Stainless Steel Flatware

Washing silver flatware

After each use, wash silver flatware immediately in hot sudsy water and rinse it in clear hot water; this will minimize the need for polishing. Prompt cleaning is especially important for pieces that have been in contact with tarnish-producing foods, such as salt, eggs, olives, mustard, vinegar, fruit juices or cooked vegetables.

Don't allow silver to air-dry. Hand-dry each piece with a clean, lint-free towel to prevent spotting.

Types of polish

There are several ways to polish silver items, each with its special uses. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.

  1.  Dip polish. Dip polish is quick and easy to use. You can lower a piece of silver into a jar of dip and, like magic, the tarnish is gone. For bigger pieces, you can apply the dip with a cloth for the same immediate effect. The only drawback is that dips don't help protect the silver from further tarnishing.
  2. Paste or cream polish. Paste or cream polish takes longer to apply, but it gives your silver a deep shine and also produces a protective coating, which means that you'll have to polish it less often. The technique for using paste or cream polish is to apply a small amount of polish to a soft, dry cloth. Then gently rub the piece of silver lengthwise. Clean crevices between fork tines or in the silver pattern with a cotton swab, piece of string or natural-bristle brush, dipped in the polish. When you have removed all the tarnish, wash the silver pieces in hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and dry with lint-free towels. Finally, buff each piece with a soft cloth. A pair of old cotton socks makes a good silver-polishing duo; use one to apply the polish, then use the other to buff.
  3. To remove heavy tarnish. To remove heavy tarnish from several pieces of silver flatware, cover the bottom of a pie pan or casserole dish with a piece of aluminum foil, making sure the shiny side is up. Place the tarnished pieces on the foil, add 15 grams (one tablespoon) of baking soda, and pour enough boiling water to cover the items. The tarnish will collect on the foil. Rinse the pieces thoroughly and polish with a soft cloth.

Caring for silver plate

Although silver and silver plate look alike, they require different care. The outer layer of silver plate is soft and thin; rubbing it too hard with a paste or cream polish and buffing it too often can wear the silver away. Instead, use a dip polish to remove tarnish without any rubbing, and give your silver plate a longer life. Use your silver plate often and keep it clean with soap and water to minimize the need for polishing.

Caring for stainless steel

When you are buying stainless steel flatware, look for the numbers 18/8 or 18/10 etched into the back, indicating an alloy of 18 parts chrome to eight or 10 parts nickel. Flatware of this quality is strong and resistant to dents, scratches and discolouring. Such stainless steel is dishwasher safe, but it will have fewer water spots and look nicer if you dry it by hand.

Tips for tarnish prevention

Wrap silverware in tarnish-inhibiting fabric or in tarnish-proof tissue paper, available from hardware stores and some supermarkets. Silver is easily tarnished by sulfur compounds in the air. The protective wrapping will slow down — or stop altogether — the process of tarnishing. Avoid rubber bands and plastic food wrap, both of which can harm silver, causing stains and corrosion — even through tarnish-proof cloth or tissue. Never use either to wrap silver.

Following these guidelines will keep your silver and stainless steel flatware sparkling clean and sure to impress.

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