Whether you’ve inherited your families collection of silver cutlery, received a beautiful silver photo frame as a wedding gift, or have a growing collection of silver watches and jewelry that you want to keep looking new, knowing how to polish your silver items will prolong their lifespan and make them items you are proud to show off. When it comes to polishing silver, there are two important factors. One is how you polish the silver and the other is what you use as the polish.
Tarnish or black silver sulfide on silver is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you should be tossing out your new bracelet at the first signs of wear. By using a few affordable products and a little elbow grease, your silver items can be looking brand new in minutes.
What NOT To Do
Before we discuss how to polish your silver, it’s important to first note what not to do. Never use paper towels when polishing silver, which can leave scratches and marks. Try to not go longer than a year in between polishing jobs since it will become increasingly difficult to remove tarnish the longer it sits on an item. Lastly, when dealing with items that have an excessive amount of tarnish on them, it’s a good idea to invest in a pair of cotton or nitrile gloves because fingerprints can create even more tarnish.
We like the White Cotton Gloves from Coyaho, which are sold in a set of 12 and can be washed and reused. The gloves have a slight stretch that makes them comfortable to wear and appropriate for men and women. Also known as ‘inspection gloves,’ Coyahos gloves won’t leave fingerprints on silver, metal, mirrors, coins or jewelry.
Coyaho White Cotton Gloves
The Right Way To Polish Silver
Polishing silver is thankfully a relatively easy and straightforward task. Depending on how delicate the item is that you are polishing and how much tarnish has built up, there are several products available to get your candlesticks and watch bands looking brand-new.
Weiman Silver Polish and Cleaner
For a polish that won’t damage or scratch silver and will bring back its lustrous shine, we like the Weiman Silver Polish and Cleaner. The ammonia-free polish is safe to use on the most delicate silver items, including jewelry and even gems and diamonds. Designed for silver and safe for copper, brass and aluminum as well, Weiman’s polish can be applied with a microfiber cloth and leaves behind a protective coat to help ward off tarnish in the future.
Takavu Horsehair Detail Brush Set
BEST BRUSH SET
Using a microfiber cloth to clean silver can sometimes mean that small crevices are missed. That’s why we like the Takavu Horsehair Detail Brush Set, which can get to hard to reach spots and help remove grime, dirt and tarnish from silver pieces. Horsehair won’t scratch or damage the silver and can be used with polish wax, foam, paste or spray. We also like that the set includes a microfiber shine cloth that is ideal for quick polish jobs.
Goddards Silver Polisher Cleansing Foam
MOST USER FRIENDLY
For a silver cleaner, polisher and protector in one, we like the Goddards Silver Polisher Cleansing Foam. Not only does the three-in-one product cover all the bases of caring for your silver, but Goddards also sells its foam with an applicator. Users can simply dampen the application, lather the foam onto the silver, rinse the pieces and dry with a soft towel. No excessive rubbing or buffing required.
Blitz Extra Large 2-Ply Jewelry Care Cloth
BEST FOR JEWELRY
Many of us don’t realize that our silver jewelry isn’t looking as good as the day we bought it until it’s time to slip on the item and run out the door. Thankfully, there are jewelry cloths from Blitz, which make it easy to give small silver items a quick buff and shine in minutes. The 100 percent cotton flannel cloths are a non-toxic option for cleaning jewelry and even leave behind a tarnish retardant coating. The inner cloth will loosen tarnish, while the outer cloth leaves the item with a shiny, just-buffed finish.
Arcliber Scrub Sponge
BEST CLEANING COMPANION
Whether you are using professional polish, a homemade mixture, or simply washing your silver with soapy water before buffing, a non-abrasive cellulose sponge is a perfect assistant for cleaning and polishing. Safe for use on silver, glass, copper, non-stick coatings, chrome and even leather, the Arcliber Scrub Sponge has strong scrubbing power and is biodegradable. We also like that the set of 12 sponges come in a variety of colors to help keep your ‘silver sponge’ separate from your ‘dish sponge,’ ‘car sponge’ and ‘cleaning sponge.’
How To Make Your Own Silver Polish
If you need to polish items in a hurry and don’t have time to wait for a professional silver polish to arrive, there’s a good chance you already have the ingredients you need around the house to make your own silver polish.
For items that only have a minimal amount of tarnish on them, soaking the piece of silver in a mild dish detergent (no lemon — the acidity will ad more tarnish!) and gently scrubbing the item with a soft sponge cloth will help to get rid of some of the tarnish. Seventh Generation Dish Liquid Soap Finish is hypoallergenic, plant-based and is Free and Clear, which means it’s made without fragrances, dyes, phosphates, or triclosan. Finish off the soak session with a quick buff and dry using a soft towel.
Seventh Generation Dish Liquid Soap
For an annual polishing job that will gently remove any signs of aging, you can also make a paste from water and cornstarch or water and toothpaste. In both cases, rub the paste on the silver item using a gentle microfiber cloth, rinse off the paste using warm water and dry the silver item using a clean microfiber cloth. At SPY, we have received a set of the Casabella Microfiber All Purpose Cloths, which are not only great for polishing silver but also for dusting, cleaning countertops and getting rid of streaks on windows and mirrors. The multipurpose cloths are machine washable and will last throughout several polishing jobs.
Casabella Microfiber All Purpose Cloths
There are also several home recipes that can be made for a natural alternative to store-bought polishing pastes, waxes and foams. Mixtures of white vinegar with baking soda and aluminum foil, or baking soda, hot water and aluminum foil, or laundry detergent and hot water are all affordable methods of cleaning silver.
How To Protect Your Silver Between Uses
When your silver has been polished and is ready to be stored, there are some items that can help protect against excessive tarnish build-up and make your next polish job much less strenuous. Using a cloth bag designed for storing silver is one of the easiest and best ways to protect silver in between polish jobs. Hagerty makes their zippered bag in a variety of sizes to hold small jewelry items all the way up to larger pieces, like a candelabra or urn. The company also makes a bag that fits into a drawer and has slots for cutlery.
Hagerty Zippered Holloware Bag
Another easy way to decrease the amount of tarnish build-up on silver is with anti-tarnish strips. These strips absorb sulfur and moisture, which can cause silver to look old and rusty. The biodegradable, non-toxic Rosenthal Collection Anti Tarnish Tabs Strips are perfect for storing in an airtight container with jewelry or other small silver items. The tabs will keep items free from tarnish for up to a year and will turn from their original color of black to brown when it’s time to replace them.
Rosenthal Collection Anti Tarnish Tabs Strips
There are also protective items that can be rubbed directly onto silver pieces to provide added protection. Burt’s Beeswax Lip Balm can be applied to knife blades or carbon-steel flatware before they’re put away to prevent the blades from rusting while they are not being used. Lip balm is a great option for flatware since it’s not harmful if ingested.
Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm Tin
When storing other silver pieces like jewelry or candlesticks, using protective wax can help ward off tarnish that can build up while in storage. An item like Renaissance Wax Polish is designed specifically for use in protecting silver from natural wearing.