I adore my silverware. The pattern is a reflection of my personality, the silver pieces makes the table look dazzling, and the heavy, smoothness of sterling silver always feels amazing in my hands.
Silverware that hearkens back to a more beautiful era, I love; removing tarnish and discoloration from sterling silverware, not so much.
So how do you prevent tarnish covered silverware, or discolored silver, before it happens?
It is simpler than you think!
1. Use your silver as often as possible.
Most people only haul out the “good silver” for special occasions. I happen to think that every day is a special occasion in its own way, so we use the silverware every night at dinner. By using your silverware frequently you are actually preventing tarnish from appearing on your pieces, and helping them establish a beautifully aged patina. Not comfortable using your silverware every day? Then aim to use the pieces at least once a month (i.e. not just during the holiday season).
2. Dry = good!
Moisture is one reason your silverware can lose its luster and gain tarnish. To prevent this from happening, make sure to store your silver in a dry location. Since we have humidifiers in certain parts of our home, the silver is kept away from those areas. I store the silverware in a silver chest in the dining room, a dry location in the house.
As an extra precaution, I also have small sachets of uncooked rice to absorb any additional moisture from the air. If you live in a particularly high humidity area, you may want to consider recycling those little silica packets that come in vitamin bottles. They are a great way to absorb moisture and you can feel good about recycling! Just remember to change them every few months.
3. Consider buying tarnish protection for your silver.
Store your silverware in fabric that prevent tarnish from occurring. Silverguard.com offers a variety of silverware storage solutions, including zippered bags in which to store your treasures. Tarnish preventing fabrics are also sold at a lot of other places that you can find through a simple Google search. Wherever you buy from, rest assured that these fabrics are infused with tarnish preventing properties that will keep your silverware beautiful, safe, and free from tarnish.
4. Try to avoid oak storage.
Oak is a beautiful wood, but it does not play well with silver. Because oak is rather acidic, it can cause discoloration on your silverware. If you absolutely have to store your silverware in oak, make sure to wrap your silver in either the tarnish preventing fabrics or acid-free tissue paper.
5. Keep the silverware separate from your stainless steel flatware.
I’ve, unfortunately, seen the damage that mixing these two metals can do. Pitting, black discoloration, and a significant loss of sheen can occur when silver is allowed to be in contact with stainless steel. No, it does not occur instantly, but it will occur faster than you might imagine, so avoid doing this at all costs.
6. Keep rubber products away from your silver.
Rubber can not only cause tarnishing, but also pitting, and heavy amounts of corrosion, so keep the rubber far, far away from your silverware.
7. Watch out for acidic food.
If you eat foods that contain a lot of acid of sulfur (tomatoes, eggs, mustard, etc.), don’t let it sit on the silver for too long as it can cause discoloration, tarnish, and corrosion. By all means enjoy the foods (I’ve eaten pretty much every food imaginable with my silverware and have never had a problem), just make sure to rinse your silver right after the meal.
8. Hand wash when you can.
Again, this is more of a guideline than a rule. I have run my silverware through the dishwasher on numerous occasions – after all, it is dishwasher safe. However, to make sure that all food is removed, and that the silverware is dried relatively quickly, hand washing is usually recommended.
Remember – moisture and air cause tarnish, so letting your silver pieces air dry is not your best option. Hand dry your silverware, when you can, to avoid water spots, discoloration, and tarnish.
And don’t forget, the more often you bring out those beautiful pieces of art to enjoy at the table, the easier it will be to keep the tarnish at bay!