Before you begin cleaning any silver pieces – from jewelry to flatware – it’s important to understand how silver reacts to substances and methods. Certain materials will damage silver almost irrevocably. Rubber, for example, corrodes silver. It’s advisable never to clean silver while wearing rubber gloves (there are alternatives, such as cotton gloves). Vinegar and acidic juices are also damaging to silver. When serving foods that contain such liquids (including many salad dressings), serve in and with other materials (such as wood, glass, steel, or china).
Generally speaking, it is good to avoid scrubbing silver with abrasive materials or scrubbing too hard. Silver can scratch and wear away. Always be gentle with your silver – it’s better to have tarnish take a little longer to remove than have your silver removed along with it!
Silver cleaners and polishers you can buy in most do-it-yourself, home goods, or grocery stores are created to be safe for your silver. However, silver comes in many forms. First find out whether your silver is silver plate, solid sterling, oxidized, or lacquered. Read labels and make sure to buy a cleaner or polisher that is indicated for your type of silver. For jewelry, you might want to find a jewelry-specific silver cleaner.
If you’re in a pinch and out of silver polish, you can use a common household item to clean your silver: toothpaste. Cover your silver in toothpaste and use a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub with a little water, until you’ve created a froth. Rinse thoroughly. Another common household substance that may be used is baking soda – blend water and baking soda into a paste and apply to your silver and rub carefully, then rinse.
If you aren’t sure what kind of silver you have or how best to clean it, ask an expert. You might find experts at home decor shops or jewelry stores.