In my experience, there is no greater barrier to using silver than how to clean silver. I have blogged about cleaning silver many times and the fact is how to clean silver is much simpler than you think. My Georgian silver goes in the dishwasher every day.
In a perfect world (eg one with a butler in my house) it would probably be hand-washed. But I am not about to let an unattainable level of perfection stop me from using my silver. Honestly, the dishwasher is a perfectly good solution.
“Cleaning” and “polishing” are not the same thing.
Let’s define our terminology first. Polishing should be a very occasional activity – cleaning is something you do to your silver after every meal. They are not the same thing!
Tarnish is caused by sulfur in the air reacting with silver. If you own or purchase some silver that is very tarnished, I’m afraid there is no alternative to giving it a good polish before you use it for the first time. Once it has been polished, frequent use is the best way to prevent tarnish build-up in the first place.
Once it is tarnish-free, what is the best way to clean silver?
- You can hand-wash your silver with warm water and dish soap.
- Or your silver can go in the dishwasher as long as you follow a few common-sense guidelines.
My house rules for how to clean silver in the dishwasher
- Only solid flatware.
- no pearl handles,
- items with glue joins, such as knives, or
- weighted/reinforced items.
- Rinse it off after use. Don’t let food remnants sit on sterling, they cause corrosion and pitting. This means I fill a bowl with water, grab a handful of flatware and vigorously swish it around.
- Don’t let the sterling touch any other type of metal. Stainless steel will leave marks on your sterling that are very, very difficult to get out. You may put silver in the same load as stainless, just use different flatware compartments and don’t let the two materials come into direct contact.
- If I need to use the “dish scrubber” cycle, the sterling waits for the next cycle. I only use the “normal” cycle.
- No lemon/citrus or phosphates in the detergent.
- Remove from dishwasher, use, enjoy, and repeat from step 1 above.
Click here for a PDF copy of Silver in the Dishwasher.
Now the silver is clean, use it!
Did you get a lovely sugar shell as a wedding gift? Has it been sitting in the box for 15 years? Put it in the sugar bowl. Enjoy it every time you put sugar in your tea or coffee. Think of the people who were nice enough to give you such a wonderful gift. Think how pleased they would be to know you use it every day.
How to clean silver is not as high-maintenance as its reputation suggests. Use it, enjoy it, make memories with it.