How to Properly Clean and Polish Silver

Experts set the record straight on how to properly polish silver, which products to avoid and common silver care mistakes.

Whether it’s silverware, an antique vase or candelabrum, a piece of jewelry or an old serving plate passed down through generations, a silver piece loses its luster over time.

Luckily, you can polish silver. But do you know the right way to do it?

Get rid of grime

“We get a lot of people who buy something out of antique stores and it’s sticky so they’re asking what to do,” says Peggy Dale, office manager at Oexning Silversmiths in Bakersville, North Carolina. “We recommend you get any stickiness off with acetone. Use a cotton ball or a Q-tip and slowly, gently, a little bit at a time, get stickiness off of it.”

Polish the silver

Dale stresses the importance of using a product specifically designed to restore silver. “Find a reputable company and use their polish.”

Dale says her company often uses Hagerty Silversmiths’ products, while Angie’s List member Jeffrey Herman, owner of Herman Silver Restoration & Conservation in West Warwick, Rhode Island, says he uses Blitz or Earth Friendly brand products. Silver polish costs range from about $4 to $15 for an 8- to 12-ounce bottle.

To apply the polish, use a cotton ball or pad. Dale says some stores also sell cotton polishing cloths, which cost about $5 to $10 each. However, she advises to never use an old cotton T-shirt. Any printing or ink on the shirt acts as an abrasive and can damage the silver.

Wipe it clean

Sometimes, the silver polish leaves residue on the piece. Herman says to follow up by wiping it down with water or a silver-friendly surface cleaner, such as the Method brand surface cleaner.

What not to use

Some online articles (including a previous one at tout common household products such as toothpaste and baking soda as good household products to use for silver polishing, but silver experts warn that using these products increases the likelihood that you’ll damage the silver due to their abrasive nature.

Dale says  one customer soaked a candelabrum in a mixture of baking soda with aluminum foil but left it sitting for too long. The solution damaged the silver beyond repair, because it eliminated the weighted material from the piece that allows the candelabra to withstand the weight of candles, she says.

Both Herman and Dale advise against using Tarn-X, saying it acts abrasively on silver. They suggest using products designated for only silver, and avoiding chemical dips or any polishers that claim to work on multiple metals.

Herman says the only household items he’d consider safe to use are Windex with vinegar or hand sanitizer.

Common silver care mistakes

Wrapping it in plastic: “No, no, no, no, no,” Dale says. “I can’t say no enough. Never, ever. Never wrap it in saran wrap or a plastic bag. Always have something between it. Something about the plastic discolors and can permanently discolor the silver. Wrap it in tissue or even paper towel. You can buy special cloth to wrap up your pieces in.”

Putting the piece in the oven: “I’m not sure why, but people put it in the oven to try and either loosen up dirt or grime, and when they do that, the weighted material melts out,” Dale says.

Looking for a quick fix: “Don’t rush,” Herman advises. He believes this is why most people try household remedies for polishing silver, but products that work quickly only do so because they’re too abrasive. While cleaning and polishing in separate processes may take longer, at least you won’t damage the silver.

Kaley Belakovich
Kaley Belakovich

joined Angie's List in April 2013. She covers topics relating to family and personal services, and most enjoys writing about pets.

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I second the original question (still unanswered). Speaking as someone who logged in today to try to find an attorney, I see this category as one that's exactly what I have my Angie's List membership for:

1. It's important that I find a good one
2. I'm not an expert enough to know myself who is a good one
3. The industry is full of advertisements and misinformation
4. I wish I knew what experiences other people have had

I don't care about lawns--I planted mine in clover and don't have to mow it. When I do need to mow I use a rotary Fiskars mower, which is great--or a scythe. That's right--a scythe (the European type, which is smaller, and it's very good exercise). Gas-powered mowers, chemical fertilizers and weed killers--all nasty stuff that gets into everyone's air, soil, and water. I'm sure my neighbor doesn't like my wildflowers, semi-wild pockets of fruit bushes, and unmown areas and yes, dandelions (I have 10 acres) but that's too bad. It's better habitat for wildlife, especially the pollinators on which our food supply depends. I think this obsession with the Great American Lawn is a waste of time and resources. Plant some food instead.

I'm not sure Angie et. al. want you to have a complete answer to this question. By re-subscribing at the Indiana State Fair in 2012, I think I paid $20.00 per year for a multi- year subscription. Maybe even less. At the other extreme--and I hope my memory isn't faulty about this--I think the price, for my area, for ONE year was an outrageous $70.00. And they debited me automatically without warning. I had to opt out of that automatic charge. I like Angie's List, but if some of the companies they monitor behaved the way they do in this respect, they'd be on some sort of Pages of Unhappiness. I'll be interested to see if this comment gets published or censored out of existence.

You have to put your self in the shoes of a business that is in business to turn a profit of some sort. All businesses have different overhead which in turn decides what their bottom line would be on their services. I personally would not go with an unlicensed professional for this type of install. You are messing with gas, venting issues, electrical wiring{electric water heater} and updated code issues such as a drain pan and tempature and relief drain lines for heaters that currently do not have them. I do agree that there are some companies that are way out of line for their installs but most of these companies are the really big companies that have very high overheads  I would assume. Tank type water heaters have changed over the last several years and with these safety changes come bigger prices. The price of steel thanks to China is skyrocketing and tank type water heaters are made of steel. Most wholesale plumbing supply companies cannot match what the big box stores are selling at retail to consumers. I happen to think from research that heaters such as Rheem, Bradford White and AOSmith who have been in business forever make a better product than what you can buy in the big box outlets. You also have to take in consideration the location of the water heater that is being replaced. Is it in the house, basement, garage or attic. Most 40 and 50 gallon water heaters that are purchased in a plumbing wholesale store in Texas cost between 300-340 for a 6 year warranty heater with 6 year on parts and tank. Speaking of warranty. Most big box companies will take a least 24 hours to a week to get your warranty problem taken care of. Most reputable plumbing companies will give same day service if they installed the heater.

So lets break down a typical install at cost to a licensed plumber in Texas

Heater: $315, water shut off $6.50, water flex lines or unions to code $20, gas flex line and cut off to code $12, misc fittings $15, Total $368.50 Lets add a 35% profit which is some what low  for a business $129, Total 497.50

This doesnt  include permits, pan and drain or any venting issues. The vent must go from the heater to the outside of roof using double wall vent.

Cost of permit on average $60

Most plumbing companies allow for 3 hours of time for a water heater. This includes picking the new one up. Delivering out to house. Draining and removing old water heater. Hauling off old heater. Installing new heater up to code. Going down to city and pulling permit.

Average Labor charges for heater installs $400

That would make this install run without extras on any code issues $957.50

I just had a 50 gallon gas water heater installed in my house for $1200 but I needed a pan installed. I used a licensed plumber.