You want to clean your silver, not damage it. To avoid doing so, use a non-abrasive silver cleaner that requires rinsing after use. Silver cleaners that require rinsing are usually less abrasive. It is also best to look for brands that state the cleaner is “non-abrasive” on the label.
Do not use chemical dips for cleaning sterling silver flatware, as they contain corrosive acids. Also, do not put your sterling silver flatware in the dishwasher.
For supplies, you’ll need a plastic dishpan, soft cotton dish towel, cotton balls, non-lemon-scented, phosphate-free hand dishwashing liquid; white vinegar and/or non-abrasive silver cleaner, silver polishing rouge cloth, and a dry artist’s horsehair paintbrush.
- Place the flatware in the plastic dishpan. Add a teaspoon of non-lemon-scented, phosphate-free hand dishwashing liquid and fill the pan with warm water. Wash the flatware with a soft dish towel to remove oils, fingerprints, and debris.
- Rinse the flatware with warm water and dry with the soft cotton towel.
- Next, clean light tarnish by wiping the area lightly with a cotton ball moistened with white vinegar or non-abrasive cleaner. Dry the flatware with towel.
- To remove heavier tarnish, apply a small amount of non-abrasive silver cleaner to a soft cloth and rub the flatware gently from side to side, or up and down. Do not use circular motions, and do not apply an excess amount of cleaner to the silver—use only the amount needed to remove the tarnish.
- Rinse the cleaner off the flatware, and wipe off any dried cleaner with the towel. To remove residual cleaner from nooks or patterns, use a dry artist’s horsehair paintbrush.
- Rinse the cleaned flatware with warm water and dry with a soft cotton towel.
- Polish the sterling silver flatware with a silver polishing rouge cloth to restore the silver’s shine and luster.
If you’re planning on selling your silver flatware, the most important thing is to first determine if it’s actually real silver. Look for markings and words stamped on each piece that say “silver-plated” or “sterling,” the latter of which means that it’s comprised of sterling silver. Also check for maker marks, patterns, or monogramming on the pieces and note any extensive flaws. Make a note of all the details to use for reference later on.
Next, take inventory of all the pieces to determine if it’s an entire set or if there are pieces missing. A complete set usually has an even amount of utensils, such as four spoons and four forks. Count your pieces and make sure they’re complete. Also cross-check markings to find out if all the pieces are from the same set, or have been mixed and matched. Obviously, a complete set of the same make will be worth more when sold.