Cleaning and tarnish removal
Tarnish is first visible on silver as a yellowish cast that over time deepens to brown and eventually becomes a very dark and iridescent purple/black. Tarnish is quite easy to remove in its early stages and very difficult to remove once it has reached the black stage; thus, frequent light cleanings are safer for your silver and less time-consuming for you than waiting until silver is very tarnished before cleaning. Commercial soaps that contain phosphate can leave a brown stain on silver, so choose a mild, phosphate-free detergent. Do not immerse pieces with wooden and ivory attachments such as handles or finials, as water will harm these materials. Silver plate should not be immersed for any length of time, as the base metal will corrode through the plating. After washing, dry and buff silver with a soft, clean cloth. Be sure to clean your silver in this way just before polishing, to remove any gritty or greasy dust and dirt from the surface. Don’t use rubber gloves when you wash or polish silver – they emit sulphurs! Removal of tarnish generally involves the use of an abrasive and so it is referred to as polishing. Since silver is softer than many other metals, it is of utmost importance that the appropriate abrasive be used – a product formulated for cleaning copper or brass would be much too strong for silver, and leave disfiguring scratches. For silver that is only lightly tarnished, a polishing cloth is gentlest as it does not contain a high concentration of abrasives. Once silver has been cleaned of tarnish, a polishing cloth can be used on a regular basis to maintain a shiny appearance. Whatever product you choose for your silver, don’t make the mistake of trying to remove all tarnish; in decorative areas it is meant to enhance texture and relief, and contributes to the aesthetic appearance of the piece. Your silver will continue to give you pleasure if you take the proper steps to maintain it by preventing tarnish as much as possible, and using the appropriate polish when tarnish removal is required.