Over the years I have cleaned thousands of pieces of silver. One thing I can tell you is that there is not a cut and dried rule.
1. If you have completely black silver, wash it is dish detergent, gently rubbing it with a good cloth and if you are not seeing any results for removing dullness, not the darkness, use a 0000 grade steel wool. Ok, I know there are going to be those that disagree with me, but I promise you, you are not even down to the silver level at this point. There is also a fine steel wool just for metal.
2. The next step, if it is clean now, is for black or very dark tarnished peices, take an aluminum pan that is about 4 inched deep, add a half cup of Tide and hot water. Place silver items in the water and let set for about 15 minutes. The mildly tarnished items will take less time, the darker items will take much longer. You will want to add Tide and hot water as needed. Remove and rinse each piece, drying and set aside.
3. I use regular silver cleaner at this point to renew the shine. In some cases you will need what I consider a finishing cleaner that will bring back a high shine, similar to when the piece was new. Mr Metal is a good finishing cleaner. There are many more, it is not a silver cleaner like Wrights. It all depends on how shiny you want your silver.
Trust me cleaning silver is trial and error, if anyone tells you otherwise they have not cleaned thousands of pieces. .
If you are cleaning larger pieces, the Tide solution works great, just use a deeper container and turn over as the tarnish goes away.
It usually at the point that the silver is all nice and shiny and ready to put out again, on larger pieces use a furniture polish like Pledge to spray over the piece and buff.
BUFFING is part of the process no matter what stage you are at. Buffing silver once you have applied any chemical will turn up a great shine, you just have to get in there and see the results.
I do find that most of my larger pieces of silver will come back to a nice shine just using Pledge or another furniture polish and stay that way for months. I do like for a silver patina to develop and this process helps maintain that look. The wax finish does slow the tarnish down a bit.
I did learn the Tide trick from the television show about the cleaning ladies in England that would go and bring houses that were a total disaster back to normal. Great trick. Be sure and use the powder Tide.
Happy silver hunting, now you will not be afraid to embark on the task of cleaning black pieces that you thought would never come clean.
I can tell you that it is worth the effort, I found a beautiful set of candlesticks that were totaly black nearly twenty years ago, and it took me weeks to clean them. I sold them for $750, they were in a box with about 25 other silver pieces that I purchased for $100. That purchase put me on my way to being in love with silver.
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