Thursday, May 22, 2008

Caring for Silver for Tea

Caring for tea things takes time, but can be a soothing and relaxing experience. There's something about gently handling fragile teacups, pretty teapots, and fancy silver that helps one change their pace from the rushed and mundane to more tranquil and relaxed. I can remember my husband's grandmother on visits to his parents home. She walked with a cane because of arthritis, and although that kept her from some family activities, she always found another to keep herself busy. A morning polishing the silver was something she enjoyed and did well. The satisfaction of all the gleaming silverware in the drawer was appreciated by everyone! This morning as I prepare to polish some old silverware, I thought I'd take a moment to share some ideas for cleaning silver and polishing it to a fine patina. Each of us will have a different technique, I'm sure, but here's mine:

Wash silver with a mild, liquid dish soap and hot water. Set on a fluffy tea towel to drip dry. I always wear surgical gloves to protect my hands from chemicals for the next steps. Using a small sponge or terry cloth dishrag, use a product like Wright's Silver Cream to clean off tarnish. For small cracks and decorative spaces you cannot reach with the sponge, use an old soft toothbrush to get in all the little spaces. Sometimes it takes lots of rubbing to get the tarnish off! Rinse well and dry. Sometimes I stop with this step, but I've learned that a beautiful, high polish can be achieved by next polishing with MAAS polishing cream. It gives everything a beautiful patina and high polish, making most silver good as new again. Actually, silver becomes better with 'age', have you noticed? The patina produced by using silver makes it become soft and beautiful. Years ago I took a class in meal management and table-setting and our instructor frequently reminded us that silver was meant to be used and only became better because of it.

Sometimes there are silver pieces that are so tarnished and blackened that they become overwhelming to tackle with the silver polish. Emilie Barnes has a technique in her book, IfTeacups Could Talk, that works very well and helps to streamline the process. She says to place a large sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of a sink or dishpan. Fill with warm water and add one cup of Tide detergent (not any other brand). Stir the mixture up and then add your silver pieces. Allow them to sit in this liquid mixture for eight to twelve hours and then remove, rinse, and dry. The tarnish should be gone. . .and if not. . .soak them for awhile longer. I've used this technique with success, but am very careful not to do it very often, as I think it is quite strong for favored silver pieces and over time and frequent use of this method, they could deteriorate. Emilie also suggests rubbing silver with toothpaste to polish silver. I haven't tried this method, but it sure sounds like it would smell better than some of the silver polishes out there!

Once your silver is cleaned, it can be stored by wrapping in specially treated flannel that will prevent it from tarnishing. This works especially well for silverware, as you can line the drawer with it or make silverware a silverware caddy to slip individual silverware pieces into. But, the best way to store silver is on display where you can enjoy it on a daily basis. A crystal vase with a selection of interesting shaped silverware pieces in it is beautiful on a hutch or counter. And a silver tea tray with tea set upon it is lovely on a tea table in a special room in the house. They tarnish slowly over time with all the exposure to air, but fortunately the tarnished, shabby chic 'look' is very popular and still beautiful on display. If only I could convince grandmother of that. My verbalization of such thoughts has been met by much skepticism by the previous generations!

Do you have other ways of cleaning and polishing silver? Please leave a comment, sharing with others your secrets for silver care.

Please scroll down for this week's Mr. Linky and posts by others on the topic of teapots. Enjoy a lovely day!


  1. Thanks so much, I was going to polish my silver, the one set I put in my last post and I do agree it does age well and the shabby schick tarnished look helps to not have to polish so often! I went to an Emily Barnes Seminar back in the 80's and she said to use the foil and baking soda back then. That has worked for me, and I have tried toothpaste on diamonds but not on silver...yet. :)

  2. I strongly recommend not using the foil and baking soda method as it will over time remove the silver off the medal.

    I use Hagerty silver paste. Same method as you do for cleaning with paste,wet clean cloth, rinse and shine. What I like about Hagerty is that I only have to polish once a year, and in an old dusty Victorian farm house this is a good thing.


  3. Hi!
    I love Wrights Silver Cream too! It does a great job. I also wash my pieces with soap and water immediately after I polish them. I don't know if it's my imagination but it seems to last longer before tarnishing again. I'm so glad to hear about the aluminum foil in the basin with laundry detergent. I have passed up silver pieces in sales because they are so badly tarnished. Thanks for the great post and info!!
    Hugs, Sherry

  4. Oh my goodness....I am so enjoying my visit! I'm so pleased to have found so many posts on one of my favorite things--tea.

    I must say that your recipes all sound utterly delicious and I cannot wait to give them a try.

    I'm off to enjoy more of your lovely much wonderful little time--I will most certainly be back for another visit :)

  5. There really are few things lovelier than freshly polished silver. It just brightens up the whole house!


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