Antiques guide: how to clean antique silver

Keep your silver looking shiny with these easy-to-follow tips

Staff at Viners Cutlery polishing the plate silver before it is packaged. 3rd September 1967.

Anyone who has ever bought an antique silver spoon, candlestick or necklace will know how quickly the surface can tarnish. But, with a little care and attention, it’s easy to bring the gleam back to your silverware.

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Even if you picked up a heavily tarnished piece secondhand, it’s possible to remove the dark brown or black oxidation to reveal the shining surface beneath.

Follow the steps below and remember to go gently as you work. Also, while you are cleaning, bear in mind that you may not want to remove all of the tarnish – in some cases, leaving hints of the oxidation means that the surface retains a pleasing patina.

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You Will Need

  1. Cotton towels
  2. Nitrile gloves
  3. Methylated spirit
  4. Silver cloths
  5. Cotton buds
  6. Cotton wool
  7. Alcohol
  8. A mild abrasive silver polish
  9. Distilled water
1

Prepare your surface by laying a cotton towel down, then put on a pair of nitrile gloves.

2

For heavily tarnished pieces, remove surface grime by swabbing with methylated spirit – you may find this lifts some of the tarnish.

3

Take a silver cloth, one which has mild abrasive particles, and carefully rub it over the surface. To get into detailed spots and tight corners, wrap a small piece of the silver cloth around a cotton bud.

4

Once you have covered the whole surface, remove the residue by moistening some cotton wool with alcohol and rub it over the surface. Dry with a soft cotton towel.

5

For any tarnish that remains, use a specialist silver cleaning polish. Moisten a cotton bud with distilled water and use it to apply a small amount of the cleaner, with a gentle circular motion.

6

To remove polish residue, wipe the surface with a cotton bud dipped in distilled water. If it proves stubborn, repeat step 5.

7

Lightly swab the surface with methylated spirit and use a dry silver cloth, with anti-tarnishing properties, to polish it all over.