Heirloom silver serving trays, dishes, platters, teapots, candlesticks and utensils add a touch of tradition and elegance to holiday festivities. Unfortunately, keeping these pieces timeless requires special care to prevent silver tarnish from taking hold.
Tarnish, also known as silver sulfide, is that black film that accumulates over time on silver, giving it an appearance of grimy rather than gleaming. It’s the result of a chemical reaction that can be caused simply by exposure of silver surfaces to sulfides present in air, water or materials like felt. Silver is especially vulnerable in high-humidity or when an accumulation of oils or chemicals has built up, usually having rubbed off from skin contact.
If silver tarnish forms, a quick soap-and-water scrub isn’t going to cut it. It must be removed through tedious polishing. (The editors of Southern Living said that to refer to the task as time-consuming is “an understatement,” and recommend hosts set themselves to the chore three days in advance of a festive gathering.) Shortcuts can leave your cherished pieces worse for the wear. Some silver tarnish removers promise expedited polishing, but can pose a risk of damaging the surface quality of each piece.
Whether a sparkling silver necklace or a valued set of antique serving platters and cutlery, keeping your silver collection free from tarnish and ensuring these cherished pieces remain in excellent condition for the next use need not be time-consuming or expensive.
Anti-tarnish silver storage bags from Zerust can protect smaller items, while anti-tarnish drawer liners and anti-tarnish vapor capsules can be placed into existing drawers, boxes, storage cabinets or containers.
Why Does Silver Tarnish?
Tarnish on silver is the result of a chemical reaction. It’s basically a type of corrosion that forms over metals. It can be caused with mere exposure to oxygen over time, but silver is especially susceptible to low levels of sulfur-containing substances in the air. Additionally, oils or chemicals on your skin can accumulate on silver surfaces and predispose it to oxidation. High-humidity doesn’t help, either.
Tarnished silver will darken, dull or even turn black if not protected or treated. Removing tarnish on silver can be a difficult endeavor, as noted by research published in the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation.
For this reason, it’s often recommended that silver be stored in air-restricted spaces. Keep in mind your jewelry box, glass-front cabinet or silver chest is probably not air-tight. Zerust anti-tarnish silver storage bags and other products help protect your silver.
Staying a Step Ahead of Tarnish
Your silver, whether an heirloom or personal investment, needs proper care to avoid tarnish. Still, polishing silver probably ranks right up there with gutter cleaning on the list of, “Chores I’d rather not.” The good news is the best silver anti-tarnish protection doesn’t require a huge time investment.
- Gently wash silver. Hot, soapy water is best, finishing with a hot water rinse. Keep in mind harsh, abrasive chemical cleaners can cause silver to tarnish more quickly. Don’t even think about using a dishwasher, especially if you’re silver pieces are antique, as this can result in a dull finish. Also, if you have glued items (pot legs or knife blades), these are prone to falling apart in the dishwasher. It’s important after you hand wash your silver to dry it with a silver polishing cloth. Keep in mind if you allow the silver to air dry, standing water could cause spotting.
- Properly store your silver. Plastic Ziploc bags aren’t going to cut it. The same goes for cardboard boxes or newspaper, which could become damaged, leaving your priceless pieces vulnerable to damaging moisture. For smaller items, like earrings, bracelets and necklaces, anti-tarnish silver storage bags from Zerust are best. These blue satin bags come in 6×6 or 8×10 sizes, which are perfect for silverware. These anti-tarnish bags are FDA-approved, non-toxic and won’t leave a residue, so you don’t have to worry about washing them again after removing them from storage. These bags will also help you avoid the chore of regular polishing (which, if done wrong – particularly with paper towels or toothbrushes – can risk marring the finish).
Preserving your silver’s luster and shine is possible with correct storage. Zerust’s anti-tarnish silver storage bags, vapor capsules and drawer liners are affordable and effective.
Contact Zerust for information on anti-tarnish silver storage bags, capsules and vapors emailing us or calling (330) 405-1965.
A Comparative Study of Silver Cleaning Abrasives, 1990, JAIC
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