Removing Tarnish from Silverplate & Other Cleaning Tips

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NOTE:  The metal cleaner referenced is no longer produced -- the rest of the info here is good.

There are some differences between silver and silver-plate. You have to be more careful when removing tarnish from silver-plate. Some have home remedies, some use harsh chemicals, but I wanted something that would work without a lot of rubbing and polishing! Months into my search, I found an "all-metal" cleaner that was almost too good to be true! But it has worked very well for me on silver, gold, pewter, and any other metal you can think of -- it even worked on silver-plate without worrying about plate loss.  It just makes sense for folks to be able to have a choice about the tarnish remover they use ( I no longer sell the product talked about here as Goddard Labs no longer makes it; they make a similar product however). They should do some research and make sure instructions are followed as some tarnish removers say "not for use on plated items," specifically meaning silver-plate. The following is a bit of research I found out. You may find it interesting too.


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What's the Silver in Silver-Plate

Silver is the most lustrous of all the metals, and sterling silver is highly prized. It is proned to tarnish whereby black silver sulfide forms when the metal has even the slightest exposure to any sulfur compounds found in the air or water or sulfur dyes often found in cloth or paper. Silver-plate is produced by applying a coating of silver over copper or another metal, a process known as "electroplating." 

Cleaning and Preserving Silver-Plate

Keep rubber bands, newspaper ink and plastic food wrap away from silverware. They can stain or corrode even those items covered with layers of tissue or cloth. Silver pieces displayed in cabinets will tarnish less quickly if an open container of tarnish-retarding compound is stored with them.

Since the outer layer of a silver-plated item is soft and thin, don't rub harshly when cleaning. Wash and/or rinse all silver plate promptly after use to prevent tarnish, staining or pitting caused by food soils. Don't wash silver or silver-plate in the dishwasher. Wash by hand in sudsy water, rinse in clear hot water and dry thoroughly. To prevent water spotting, dry items with a lint-free towel, cotton cloth or cotton sock.

General Care for All Metals

The maintenance and preservation of today's most common metals relies on a few basic rules of thumb. First and foremost, it is important to keep metal dry to prevent tarnishing. When oxygen and moisture combine and come in contact with metal, a chemical reaction called oxidation occurs. The end result is tarnish, a damaging coating that *may* dull or destroy the metal's surface.

Here are some guidelines for the general care and cleaning of all metals:

  • Don't mix stainless and sterling in the dishwasher. If they touch, it creates a chemical reaction that can leave black spots on the silver.
  • Don't use abrasive cleaners that can scratch and dull metal surfaces.
  • Unless specified for a particularly durable type of metal, avoid using steel wool or scouring pads to clean.
  • Rub metal with straight, back-and-forth motions, rather than in circles. This helps maintain a uniform appearance.
  • Apply metal cleaner with a clean, soft, lint-free cloth. Turn the cloth frequently to avoid reusing the soiled portion.
  • Prevent undiluted liquid dishwashing detergents from coming into direct contact with metal, as it can damage the finish.
  • For ornate objects, apply metal cleaner generously. Rinse the cleaner with a wet sponge.

I hope this helps. I am not an expert and keep learning as I come across new challenges in this field (i.e, I buy a beautiful silver-plated service for 12 and then need to clean all 65 pieces!) Let me know if you have any comments or questions, or just want to give Mr. Metal a try (no longer have this product--but similar is sold). It is simply fabulous for all metals, but especially the one I like for silver-plate and shining up stainless steel.


"Mr. Metal is an exclusive cleaning system dissolves tarnish and grime without abrasives. Won’t harm metal surfaces, remove ornate designs or harm clear coat metals. Safe for ALL metals. No need to buff or polish…simply wipe on and wipe off.   One-of-a-kind Tarnish Guard protection leaves a protective coating that prevents tarnish and dulling."


Source: Goddards, Northern Labs, Manitowoc, Wisconsin; 2007 Suzbabee

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