Regardless of their initial pristine shine, tarnish is inevitable even for the most precious of silver plated flatware and serving pieces. Caring for your antique flatware or newer flatware can at times be tricky. Caring for silver plated flatware without damaging its luster depends on what cleaner and strategy you use. This blog post will discuss the best methods for cleaning silver plated flatware and other ancillary silver serving pieces.
What causes silver plated flatware to tarnish?
Both silver and sterling silver react to the environment around them, which is ultimately what causes silver plated flatware to tarnish.
Silver plated flatware reacts with a chemical known as sulfur. Sulfur exists in tiny microscopic particles that appear in infinite combinations. Hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide both occur in the air we breathe every day. The concentration of these elements is boundlessly higher in industrial, urban areas.
Silver is an extremely soft metal. Many craftsmen choose to use a variation of silver, commonly known as sterling silver, to make more durable products like silver plated flatware. This is achieved by mixing pure silver with a small amount of copper.
Take a moment to think about the last time you looked at a really old penny. Do you remember that dull green, almost moss-like hue? That is the result of oxidation. Oxidation is the result of chemicals in the air reacting to metal.
Therefore, sterling silver, a mixed metal of both copper and silver, is doubly subjected to chemical reactions when exposed to the elements.
Do Certain Conditions Make Silver Tarnish Worse?
Certain conditions can cause silver to tarnish faster than others. It is important to understand these conditions and prepare for any special factors that may affect your flatware.
Humidity, for example, causes an accelerated tarnish process. Moisture in the air will significantly decrease the amount of time it takes for silver to tarnish.
Chlorine, a chemical commonly used in pools and spas to keep water clean, reacts with silver very quickly and will cause it to tarnish. Chlorine is accelerated in the air around both outdoor and indoor pools. Further, cleaning with bleach and washing clothes or towels in bleach will leave trace amounts of chlorine in the air in your home.
Acids in various forms will accelerate tarnishing effects. It is not commonly known that tissue paper contains copious amounts of acid. Avoiding wrapping silver in tissue paper is a good practice for minimizing exposure to acids.
Is it Tarnish or Something More?
There are essentially three stages that can be observed as flatware tarnishes. At first, flatware will have a light-yellow hue. In this early stage, silver plated flatware can easily be cleaned by simply washing it with soap and water. After some time, silver plated flatware will become a light purple color before settling into a fully black tarnish.
Silver is a precious metal. While tarnish and corrosion are used synonymously in reference to silver, it remains true that silver does not corrode in the way other metals will. This means that while silver does tarnish, it does not rust. The corrosion (referred to as tarnish) can usually be cleaned with little to no resulting damage to the silver.
Can Tarnish be Prevented?
Tarnish can absolutely be prevented, or at least prolonged, with proper care and attention. Let’s look at some simple tips for preventing tarnish:
- The skin contains natural oils and secretions that can eventually cause silver plated flatware to tarnish. When handling flatware during the cleaning process, it may benefit you to wear disposable gloves.
- Avoid exposing silver plated flatware to household chemicals.
- Wrap silver plated flatware in an anti-tarnish cloth or seal it in an anti-tarnish bag. Store it in a dry area. Remember, humidity accelerates the process of tarnish.
- Consider using silica gel to remove extra moisture from the storage area.
- Avoid the use of tissue paper to store flatware.
- Heat can speed up the tarnishing process. Avoid displaying flatware or silver serving ware in an area that may be exposed to direct sunlight.
- For extended storage, consider the use of wax or other coatings to preserve cleaned silver for longer periods of time.
Remember, you will never be able to entirely eliminate the tarnishing of silver. Still, by making simple adjustments to your storage areas, you could significantly delay the process.
The Best Method for Cleaning Silver Plated Flatware
There are a number of choices for one to decide on when the need arises to remove tarnish from silver plated flatware. As the Internet has become the norm for research, putting in the question “what is the best method for cleaning silver plated flatware” will expose you to many so-called DIY recipes and chemical cleaners that claim to be effective ways of removing tarnish from flatware. We’ll explore the pros and cons of these DIY cleaning myths and other commercial chemical cleaners. Ultimately, we’ll present a very tried-and-true silver cleaner and polisher that for over 90 years has proven to be the safest and most effective way to remove tarnish from silver plated flatware.
Commercial silver cleaning products are readily available in the form of silver cleaners and polishes, silver polish pastes, and silver polish wipes. These products are easily found in the cleaning supplies section of most grocery stores.
There are some major downsides to using such chemically-based silver cleaners. These cleaners tend to be rather messy, expose you to potentially harmful and toxic chemicals, and must be kept away from young children. They are not the most environmentally friendly choice for the modern climate change battle.
Ionic cleaners are another possible method for cleaning tarnished silver plated flatware. They have limited use since they are best suited for very small pieces of jewelry and very small pieces of flatware. The process and equipment required can be expensive and costly. Ionic cleaners use a process called electrolysis. These machines employ two electrodes, one with a silverpoint and the other with a stainless steel point. These are attached to a battery pack and then immersed in a solution of water mixed with an electrolyte powder. Immediately, the tarnish can be seen disappearing from the silver.
Ionic cleaners can be useful as a method for cleaning silver plated flatware, however they can require a higher monetary investment and they are simply not practical for cleaning larger pieces of flatware like silver plates, silver pitchers, and large volumes of flatware in general.
Home Remedy/Do It Yourself
It is not a secret that the do-it-yourself phenomenon is likely perpetuated by our fascination with social media platforms like Pinterest. With information readily at our fingertips, home remedies have become more popular than they have been in quite some time. It comes as no surprise that there is a litany of do-it-yourself remedies for cleaning and removing tarnish from flatware.
- Aluminum Foil, Baking Soda, and Vinegar – This may be the single most popular recipe for cleaning flatware among do-it-yourselfers. With only three ingredients (aside from water) the recipe is not too complicated and claims to be extremely effective. Looking into this particular recipe more in-depth starts to expose a couple of major downsides. Baking soda seems harmless enough, but as a cleaner for silver plated flatware, it is a bit too abrasive. It can remove tarnish, but it adds scratches to the surface of the flatware. The other ingredient, vinegar, is an effective cleaner and will remove tarnish. With that said, please be aware that vinegar is acidic and like any acids that are not handled correctly, will eventually damage silver plated flatware and cause tarnish to return rather quickly.
- Lemon and Salt Bath – This method is as simple as it sounds. The recipe says to soak the tarnished flatware in a solution mixture of water, lemon juice, and salt, then wait. There are a few concerns with this cleaning method that come to mind. The first, much like vinegar, concerns the acidity of lemon. Yes, acids are effective cleaners, but the goal is not only to clean the flatware but to do it in a safe and stress-free way. Handling any kind of acid can and will damage flatware if not done carefully. Another concern with this recipe is the presence of salt. We’re not quite understanding why salt is being added to the recipe. Salt is corrosive, and if a silver item is exposed to salt long enough, it will corrode. Although the damage may be limited, a better course of action is to eliminate any chance of damage.
- Toothpaste – Another popular cleaning hack for those looking for a quick at-home fix for heavily tarnished silver plated flatware is coating the tarnished item in toothpaste. Rumor has it that tarnish will wipe away as the toothpaste is rubbed off. Not only is this a messy method, but it is also an expensive fix. Additionally, toothpaste is another abrasive product that will scratch your flatware. Ok, it might work in a pinch, but you should also be concerned about the long-term effects of this method on your precious flatware.
- Ketchup – Much like the toothpaste method listed above, tarnish is said to wipe right off when rubbing ketchup on a tarnished piece of silver plated flatware. Again, this seems like it might be an expensive, messy, and potentially damaging method. There’s some acidity in ketchup, so while ketchup may clean your flatware, maybe it’s better to leave it for your burgers and French fries!
- Coca-Cola – We have all seen evidence of the damage that soaking various items in Coca-Cola can do. Regardless, do-it-yourself research finds it worth mentioning that Coca-Cola will eat tarnish from silver pieces. It is important to note that the acidity in Coca-Cola might eat away at layers of the metal during this process.
Overall, do-it-yourself methods do not appear to be the best method for cleaning silver plated flatware. They tend to be messy, risky, and somewhat expensive options in comparison. Additionally, while these methods may be handy in a pinch, on closer inspection, they are not as user-friendly as implied, nor are they providing value for the budget-conscious household.
A significantly better and safe option for cleaning flatware pieces is the use of a polishing cloth. Polishing cloths are reusable, affordable, mess-free, and require absolutely no preparation. The simplicity of the polishing cloth is what makes it by far our favorite method for cleaning and polishing silver plated flatware.
The Case for the Polishing Cloth
We now arrive at the best technique for cleaning silver plated flatware. The Champion Polishing Cloth wins our award as the best silver cleaner for silver plated flatware. The key to the Champion Polishing Cloth is its simplicity. The fewer materials needed, the easier it is to accomplish the task at hand.
The Champion Polishing Cloth is safe to use on vintage flatware and will naturally clean tarnish without causing any damage to your valuable silver plated flatware and silver serving pieces.
Lastly, the Champion Polishing Cloth provides real value and is budget-friendly. One 9″ x 12″ polishing cloth is the equivalent of one gallon of a liquid commercial silver cleaner and polish. You’ll appreciate the long-lasting ability this product offers since it can be used over and over again. It seems to last forever! It was designed to outlast any other silver cleaning product on the market.
Cleaning Silver Plated Flatware with the Champion Polishing Cloth
We’ve already mentioned all of the benefits of using a polishing cloth over any other method for cleaning tarnished silver. Since the polishing cloth wins the award for the best method for cleaning silver plated flatware, we will take a quick look at a step-by-step guide for how to clean your tarnished silver using a polishing cloth.
You can pick up a low-quality polishing cloth in most major retail stores but we strongly suggest you opt-in to using a high-quality silver cleaner such as the high-performance Champion Polishing Cloth. One benefit you’ll appreciate about the Champion Polishing Cloth is that it’s a biodegradable and environmentally friendly silver cleaning cloth.
The other awesome feature of the Champion Polishing Cloth is that it is not limited to polishing silver. It’s extremely versatile in that you can use it on any metal, real wood, and any enameled or lacquered furniture or surface. When you invest in the Champion Polishing Cloth, you are not limiting yourself to only polishing silver plated flatware. Its uses are endless.
Here is a product that has been in existence for over 90 years and is made with an exclusive proprietary polishing formula that will safely and effectively remove tarnish from flatware. It cleans and protects.
The Champion Polishing Cloth is a simple method for cleaning silver-plated flatware. Read below for instructions on how to create the shiniest polished silver plated flatware:
- Step 1: Be sure that the flatware is free of loose debris like dirt or dust.
- Step 2: The Champion Polishing Cloth is ready for immediate use directly out of its seal-tight packaging. It requires absolutely no wetting. All surfaces must be dry before using the polishing cloth. It is very important to never use on a wet surface, as moisture and water will destroy the effectiveness of the cloth. Start by rubbing a small section of the flatware to be cleaned. Continue rubbing until the tarnish has been removed.
- Step 3: Take a soft, dry cloth to wipe and buff to a brilliant shine. Repeat the process until the entire piece of flatware is brought to a lustrous polished finish.
If your flatware contains intricate designs, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that the Champion Polishing Cloth will not leave behind any sediment within crevices. An interesting aspect of the polishing cloth is that you’ll notice that once your silver plated flatware has been cleaned and polished, it will retain its beautiful luster for a long period of time.
As you remove the tarnish from the flatware, you’ll notice the cloth will start to discolor. This discoloration is simply a byproduct of the tarnish being removed from your flatware item. This discoloration of the cloth does not in any manner affect the cloth’s ability to remove tarnish and clean. In fact, the darker the cloth becomes, the better it cleans and polishes.
The proprietary chemistry that is impregnated into the cloth will not evaporate. Once you’ve finished cleaning and polishing your silver plated flatware, you should store the polishing cloth in the seal-tight package it came in.
Maintaining Cleaned Flatware
There is no way to completely eliminate tarnish from happening. However, you may consider purchasing what are called anti-tarnish bags. Of course, never forget to use your trusty Champion Polishing Cloth. This silver polishing cloth that is made in the USA has been delivering a safe and extremely effective way for cleaning and maintaining silver plated flatware for over 90 years.
You should now have a better understanding of how to clean and maintain your silver plated flatware and silver serving pieces. Hopefully, we’ve answered your question on what is the best technique for cleaning silver plated flatware. If you find yourself tasked with restoring tarnished family heirlooms to their shiny origins, you should be more prepared now than ever. Maintaining vintage silver plated flatware pieces has never been easier and more manageable, especially if you’ve chosen the Champion Polishing Cloth as your chosen silver cleaning and polishing tool.