3 Tips for Cleaning & Preserving Antique Silverware

Posted on: 1 October 2014

Antique silverware can look gorgeous on a dining room table or in a display cabinet with other antiques. One large issue with antique silverware, however, is that it often becomes discolored over time. This grey/black discoloration is what gives silverware its value; the color shows off the silverware's antique status. But for display purposes it's generally better to try and clean up the silverware to make it look presentable.

How can you about cleaning and preserving antique silverware? Here are three tips:

Apply Polish Immediately After Cleaning

To clean antique silverware, simply use hot water. You'll want to avoid using most detergents. While the silverware is still warm from the water, immediately apply polishing cream to each piece of silverware. Warm water causes the polish to act quicker. Use a soft rag to do this. Afterwards, wipe off the cream and rinse the silverware one more time.

Use Acid-Free Paper

When storing and presenting antique silverware, you'll need to be careful about what your silverware comes into contact with. Make sure to use acid-free paper to line drawers with or for placing underneath silverware. You'll need to avoid placing cardboard, scotch tape, or newspaper underneath or on top of silverware since these materials contain natural acids.  

Avoid Harmful Materials

There are a few other materials you should avoid storing your silverware on or in. Antique silver is fragile and can become easily discolored.  Avoid placing your silverware on or near rubber or latex. Even rubber bands, for example, can be damaging to silver and cause it to tarnish.

You should also keep salt away from your silverware. Salt will saturate into the air where silverware is kept, so keep salt in airtight containers when placed in the same cupboard with antique silverware and/or silver dishes. Avoid using your antique silverware for any foods containing onions, eggs, or peas. The sulfur in these foods can cause discoloration.

Finally, make sure to store your silverware somewhere where there isn't a lot of humidity. For long periods of non-use, you can place silverware in polyethylene bags to keep your collection from getting tarnished. Activated charcoal is also a useful reagent to help preserve antique silver if being stored for a long time.

Antique silverware—like all antiques—needs a little tender loving care to ensure it looks its best and remains beautiful for years. Use the above tips to help your antique silver become the centerpiece of your kitchen, dining room, or antique display. For more tips, talk to experts such as Toronto Antiques On King.

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