Cleaning Silver | A Reader Asks About Silver Dips

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Two weeks ago on my Facebook page, I asked readers if they had any questions about silver.  Suzanne Sokolov responded by asking about cleaning silver.

cleaning silver - tarnished bowl

Even on a piece like this, I would not resort to a silver dip.  They are too harsh, better alternatives do exist.

“I normally use the cream silver polish that never seem to get into the nooks and crannies well. While away at a wedding recently, I purchased a liquid silver polish with an internal basket that you use to dip the silver pieces into. They came out fantastic! The instructions indicate not to have a piece immersed for more than 10 seconds and the packaging did note that the product may cause cancer. There was also a caustic odor to the process. Is this product harmful to my silver?”

Cleaning Silver

There is a very short answer to this question, Suzanne.  STOP!  Those dips are awful for your silver (and if you are using them for jewelry goodness only knows what it is doing to the stones in a piece).  There are much better products to use for cleaning silver.

I understand your frustration with the paste cleaners leaving residue everywhere and your desire to find a tidier alternative, but a dip is not your friend.  While I do not know the particular brand you are using, on the whole, silver dips are made with corrosive chemicals.  Sure it strips the tarnish off your silver, but it also strips the silver off your silver.  See what Jeffrey Herman, a leading silver restoration and conservation expert has to say about dips.

Hopefully, that has put you off using a dip when you are cleaning silver.  Now, we need to to find you an alternative. To deal with the nook and cranny issue you need a very liquid product.  It would also probably be beneficial to have a polish that rinses away.  No chemicals left lingering on your piece (or you).

Silver Polish Abrasion Levels

Again turning to Jeffery Herman, he has published a list that rates silver polishes by levels of abrasiveness.  They key is to find something that works for cleaning silver that is as mild as possible.

You are likely surprised to see on the mildest end of the scale that Jeffrey lists Dawn, Windex and Purell.  Give them a try…if your piece is lightly tarnished, one of these will get it polished.  To give you some sense of scale, almost everything I deal with gets the this level 1 treatment.  The ‘toughest’ polish I ever resort to is Goddards, which is rated ‘very mild abrasion’.  I only break out this big gun on items that look like charcoal, like the photo above.

My picks would be to try any of the level 1 polishes (which also have the benefit that one of them is likely already in your home).  If that doesn’t work, my pick of level 2 ‘extremely mild abrasion’ is Earth Friendly.  And of course Goddards for level 3, I have never had to use anything harsher than that.  The other huge benefit of all of these choices is that they rinse off, getting the polish out of the nooks and crannies once you are done.  You could use a cotton swab or a very, very soft baby’s toothbrush to help with the nook issue too.

PS

Disclaimer time.  I have no financial relationship with any of the polishes/products/people mentioned in this post. Nor am I an Amazon Affiliate.  I don’t want to be, reserving the right to change my mind about products I use and recommend is too important to me.  I use what I find works best, not what I have been paid to use (or say)!  Jeffrey Herman and I are professional acquaintances but no kickbacks there either. 🙂

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8 thoughts on “Cleaning Silver | A Reader Asks About Silver Dips

  1. Jackie BernardiNo Gravatar

    I had no idea about the abrasiveness of the dips. Like the person who asked the question, I have always found the nooks and crannies to be aggravating. I love the idea of using the purell, and will give it a try on a few things this week. Thanks for the great info!

    1. SilverMagpiesNo Gravatar Post author

      Hi Jackie – It seems kind of counter-intuitive that a liquid dip should be ‘abrasive’ but it is. Stick to the kinder stuff.

      I think part of the appeal of dips is the sub-conscious pull to shiny-bright = brand new. With silver brand new is NOT the look you want. Soft grey and patina that’s the goal! 🙂

      Nan

  2. CaroleNo Gravatar

    How do you use Dawn as a polish? I use gold (nota typo ) jewelry polishing cloths that I buy at Walmart to polish lightly tarnished silver.

    1. SilvermagpiesNo Gravatar

      Hi Carole

      If a piece is only lightly tarnished, the tarnish can often be literally washed off with water and Dawn and a light going over with a soft sponge.

      The polishing cloth uses a similar principle. Light tarnish is very easily rubbed off with a soft cloth. A non-treated cloth, like an old, very soft t-shirt will even get tarnish off.

      However, I like to use a water based method for two reasons. 1) There is often dust and other residue on a tarnished piece that a dry polishing cloth will grind/rub into the finish. 2) Also, there is my chemical-phobia…I want it well-rinsed with water before I put it anywhere near my food. 🙂 Those cloths are impregnated with something (I don’t know what) to remove the tarnish, and I don’t want to take any chances.

      Nan

  3. IvetteNo Gravatar

    Wow! I knew dips were bad news, but had no idea about the level 1 options! Definitely going to check that out! I remember your mentioning once that some tarnish in the nooks and crannies of a design help to highlight it, and I agree.

    1. SilverMagpiesNo Gravatar Post author

      Hi Suzanne –

      Glad I was able to give you an answer! I’m sure you’ll be able to find a good solution among those listed.

      Thanks for asking the question in the first place! I always want to provide useful, relevant info for my readers and customers.

      Nan

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