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Home Design with Kevin Sharkey

How to (Sort of) Polish Silver

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In anticipation of a fall filled with entertaining, I recently decided it was time to polish all of my silver. I started out enthusiastically, taking out each piece one-by-one and setting it on towels on the dining room table. Then I got to work ... and kept working ... and before I knew it, I had taken up the better part of a full day.

Here's a shot of the sideboard in my dining room, which is crammed with pieces. Note: this is not the way to store silver properly and I clearly need to re-organize!


During the process, I came to the realization that I am in desperate need of some felt rounds and possibly some felt bags. I would love to hear from you all what you consider to be the best way to polish silver -- and also any great resources for the rounds and bags!

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Comments (18)

  • I've heard that you can line your sink with a sheet of aluminum foil. Fill it with hot water.... add some salt and baking soda. drop each item in and let it touch the aluminum and the tarnish disappears....I've never tried it.... I usually put a moving blanket on the dining table and use goddards silver polish in the bucket.... have a sponge and and old toothbrush.. and do it by hand... the trick is to do it ever 3 or 4 months.... that way it doesn't take too long each time....

  • I love The Container Store for silver storage. You have so much, though, that you may want to consider wrapping each piece in Cling or Saran wrap, tightly and completely, then using stock felt from Michael's, which you can quickly cut to fit and just wrap it around the piece. Poor pieces may be getting scratched in there! Good luck!

  • Happy Monday from London! I love the first photo of your silver on your dinning table. I usually use products by Goddard. Some of the silver pieces have felt bags and some are wrapped in 3 layers of tissue papers, some of my silver felt bags are custom made.
    Best wishes

  • The best silver polish that I have used is "Cape Cod Metal Polishing Cloths." Absolutely the best for quality of shine and durability of the polished piece. Also, I store everything I'm not using all the time in flannel keeper bags. Martha used to sell them on her old site. You can get them from Hagerty, and also find them at Gumps and Tiffany's etc. Also, you can find them on ebay. I think you need an assistant to help you with that big project.

  • usually has awesome dinnerware & flatware storage. During their White Sale, they do free monogramming too!

  • try using coffee filter paper instead of felt rounds. They are pre cut, less expensive and perform the same job! I have tried the hot water and aluminum foil methold for cleaning silver, don't bother. Use silvo, or wrights silver polish with a sponge applicator, very easy and does a good job.

  • To keep silver "ready for service" I take the time to vacuum seal as many pieces as I can. I have found it very helpful to vacuum seal one place setting per bag. That way if I have unexpected guests at a moments notice I can open another place setting and set a place for late arrivals that looks as glorious as those previously set.

  • Hi Kevin:

    I can't polish anymore after discovering the scientific method of removing tarnish.

    Get a plastic tray or bucket of sufficient depth to submerge your silver item. Place a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom and a helping of baking powder (I've not found quantity to be a factor, but a generous portion nonetheless). Fill the container with boiling or almost boiling water - hot tap water isn't sufficient to begin the chemical process - dissolving the baking powder. Then just place your silver in the water, in contact with the aluminum foil. Within seconds, the oxidation of the silver will transfer to the foil leaving your silver gleaming. Then just rinse with clean water and dry.

    I can "polish" our entire set of flatware within 2 minutes. A real time saver!

    Caution, will remove patina.

  • Nice collection....
    My fave felt bags are all from my father and grandmother...The older ones are thicker and the ties are silk....There must be some at all those sales you go to...I always use the best polish from Birk's here in Montreal.....Tiffany's must have their own line of polishes too I suspect.....
    Polishing silver is a lot of work but the results are heavenly....

  • Hi Kevin. I recently started collecting silver and my collection is quite unorganized. I'd be interested in a follow up post on what material to wrap the pieces in. I was thinking about lining several drawers in plush velvet. Thoughts?

  • The cheapest and easiest way to clean silver is to place a large piece of tin foil in your kitchen sink. Fill the sink with hot water and add 3-4 tbl baking soda. Add the silverware and wait for the chemical reaction to take place. It will smell like rotten eggs but it will clean every crevice without polish. Once clean you can then wash with dish soap and hand dry. Your silver should be ready for entertaining

  • After polishing your silver, try wrapping it in plastic wrap until you're ready to use it. Even if it's a year later, it will still be in good shape.

  • Best way to polish silver: my husband.

  • Ditto to all who recommend the sink and baking soda and boiling or very hot) water. Sometimes I've needed more than that and I've just discovered that a damp, soft cloth with some dry baking soda takes the rest off. No need for those nasty chemicals, though I do keep some on hand just in case - I really seldom use it. Isn't it traditional to store silver in cotton flannel?

  • My dear Kevin and readers,

    My experience and lord knows I have had a great deal of experience. . . . I too have a silver collection equal to yours . . . .
    Now that I no longer have a wonderful housekeeper who cleaned the silver by hand. . . . yikes. . .I have had to learn. . . . tricks to everything. . .

    Tin foil and baking soda works well for small things . . .excellently actually; but, as a former commenter says . . . .IT MUST BE BOILING WATER. . .FROM THE KETTLE OR A TEA TAP IF YOU HAVE ONE. . . . this is good for small items . . . but the huge ornate trays etc . . .no. . . Normal tap water (hot) just does not do it. . . and for a long time I would not use this method as I thought that it would not work. . . .

    As other commentors have said. . .Birks jewellers, Haggerty's etc. . . have fairly good and expensive cream and potions. . .lol . . .and along with hand labour . . . voila . . .but I am concerned with the chemical odours that are released and we breath in as we labouriously are rubbing . . . lol

    From my experience, as for wrapping silver, saran wrap and plastic, NO NO NO. After a period of time this will pit your silver and there are non reversible consequences. Never wrap silver in plastic cling. I should know as I bought a beautiful tea service at a garage sale when silver was not popular. It had been wrapped in cling for a number of years. Taking off the wrap and polishing did not bring back the silver. . . . BEWARE . . . there must be a chemical reaction and the silver plate especially turns black pits. . .silver gone. . .

    Now, the silver bags. . . .they can be very expensive or non existent . . . .BUT, I actually found the fabric in my nearby fabric store that contains chemicals that keep your silver from tarnishing. It is incredibily expensive. . .I wait for half price time. . . $30 plus to around $15/meter or yard . . . and you can make your own to fit whataever you have. . . must be similar to fabric in silver chests . . .

    My big questions, where does one store all of this!
    I am running out of ideas for this . . . as the brown treated silver fabric is lovely; but, not displayable. . . . .

    Maybe someone can help me. . . .

    It is nice to know that after certain years of life, one can learn and share . . . lol

    Enjoy your silver an happy entertaining all!

  • I use Wright's silver polish with a sponge, then wash with hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Dry with a lint-free cloth. Leave overnight to make certain everything is dry. Wrap tightly with a good quality plastic wrap and store in a felt lined drawer. I have silver (not used very frequently)that I cleaned this way about 5 years ago. It needs a little touch up which should take a few seconds. Use new plastic wrap to re-wrap your pieces after each use. Good luck

  • I envy your collection. I have lots of silver that I use and love on a daily basis. The baking soda/aluminum foil/salt as everyone says does work wonders. But when I find old secondhand pieces in dire shape, it's Wrights all the way.

  • Best way to polish silver is hire someone else to do it. Preferably a butler.

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