How to clean silver – a guide

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Everybody loves silver, and there probably isn’t a household in the country that doesn’t contain some form of silver. Whether it’s sterling silver jewellery, antique silver cutlery or even a silver plated trophy, there’s bound to be some hiding somewhere in your home.

And, whilst silver is a very beautiful and sought after precious metal, it can become “tarnished” over time and lose its beautiful shimmer and shine.

Tarnish is a dark, almost black layer that covers silver jewellery. It happens when silver comes into contact with naturally occurring sulphur compounds in the air. It’s also sometimes called oxidisation.

It can be a bit scary to try and clean your silver pieces yourself because they are often very special to us and we don’t want to damage them. That’s why we’re here to help with a handy guide on how to clean silver at home.

So, how do you clean silver?

Experts remain divided on the best way to clean silver as there are a lot of different methods out there, so we’ll talk you through some of the most common options and let you decide what’s best for you and your silver.

But let’s get one thing straight before we start: Never clean your silver in the dishwasher. Clean all of your silver items by hand. The high temperatures and abrasive nature of a dishwasher can change the colour of your silver and cause serious damage.

Cleaning silver with vinegar.

Place your jewellery or silverware in a bowl or container and cover it with white vinegar, enough so that it is completely immersed. If the item is only slightly dirty, it should be pretty clean after about fifteen minutes.

Depending on how badly tarnished your piece is, you can let it sit for up to three hours. Then, rinse your silver in cool, clean water, before drying it thoroughly.

Cleaning silver with toothpaste.

Cleaning sterling silver with toothpaste is a frequently suggested way how to clean silver jewellery. However, beware of using toothpaste to clean tarnished silver, as toothpaste can contain harmful ingredients which will actually damage the silver. Mere trace amounts of the wrong kind of chemical in the toothpaste can cause serious damage, even if you’re just cleaning silver plate items.

If you do decide to go ahead, make sure that you select a plain white, non-gel toothpaste, that doesn’t contain any special whiteners.

Dampen the silver with water and gently apply toothpaste directly to the surface. Polish in soft circular motions with your finger or a soft cloth until the tarnish starts to disappear.

If you notice scratching at any point, stop and wash the toothpaste off immediately.

Rinse with cool water and dry thoroughly with a towel or cloth.

Warning – We strongly advise that toothpaste should never be used to clean valuable and antique pieces of silver since it can cause irreparable damage.

Cleaning silver with baking soda.

Cleaning silver with baking powder or baking soda may remove stubborn tarnish. However, like toothpaste, don’t use it unless you don’t mind the risk of damaging the silver, as it will take off a layer of silver along with the tarnish. This can be especially damaging for silver plate items, as the layer can be quite thing.

If you are confident that this method will be right for your silver, then make a paste of baking soda and warm water.

Gently rub the mixture onto the silver using a soft cloth or towel. Once the tarnish has gone, rinse your items under the tap and dry thoroughly.

Cleaning silver with coke.

Cleaning silver with Coca Cola is a very popular method used by people wondering how to clean tarnished silver. In fact, it doesn’t have to be Coke or even cola, any similar carbonated drink such as lemonade will work just as well.

Place the silver pieces that you want to clean in a bowl or container and pour over the coke or soft drink of choice.

Allow the items to soak for between one and three hours depending on their condition. Then remove them and rinse thoroughly in clean water.

Note – please don’t drink the leftover soft drink!

What else cleans silver?

Still wondering how to clean sterling silver? Of course, there are plenty of other ways, but one of the easiest ways to clean silver is simply to prevent it from tarnishing in the first place! Despite its fragility and tendency to tarnish, it’s actually quite easy to do, simply by wearing or using your silver often.

Thing is, if your old silver jewellery is no longer to your taste, or your silverware never leaves the drawer except for its annual clean, you might be better off selling your silver to us and saving yourself a lot hassle.

Once dirty, silver can easily be forgotten about and left at the bottom of a drawer or jewellery box. So why not turn it into instant cash by sending it into us?

At Vintage Cash Cow we buy silver in any condition. In fact, we recommend that you actually don’t polish it before you send it to us. Imagine that!

It’s easy to assume that silver jewellery should be cleaned before it’s sold, but that isn’t the case with us. Cleaning your silver jewellery could damage it, and thus reduce its value.

Specialists, like our team of in-house experts, can easily identify the key information that they need regardless of the condition of the piece. Not only that, collectors will normally want to clean the jewellery themselves, to avoid potential damage. This will also save you the messy job of fiddling about cleaning the silver yourself. It’s a win-win situation!

Remember, silver is pretty fragile compared to many more commonly-used metals and it can quickly tarnish or develop stains and scratches.

How to sell your old silver to Vintage Cash Cow.

First, request an info pack from us. It has all the information that you need to know about how our service works as well as some of the other items we accept. It also includes some insured Freepost stickers.

Then collect up your vintage silver items – plus anything else that you fancy turning into cash – and send it to us. It’s a good chance to have a clear our and will increase the value of your offer too.

Next, our in-house experts will value your items and send you a quote. If you like the offer (and we think you will!), you can accept it and be paid the same day by bank transfer or in a few days by cheque.

If you don’t like our offer, we’ll send your stuff back free of charge. It’s as simple as that.

Alternatively, you might choose to spend money on an expensive silver polish and then simply put the items back in whatever cupboard, drawer or box they were in.

There are specially designed polishes you can buy on the high street, like Goddard’s Silver Dip, however, these are specialist substances so should be used with caution.

If your silver jewellery has gemstones, be very careful with professional polishes. Some semi-precious stones like opal, coral and amber will be damaged by the silver dip.

You could end up doing more harm than good if you’re not careful – but don’t worry if that happens, because we buy silver in any condition.

If you’ve got any questions, why not contact one of our friendly team today? They’re ready and waiting to answer any questions that you might have.

Plus if you have any great tips or hints with cleaning silver, please add them to the comments section below!

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