Gracious Entertaining: How to Polish Silver

Phyllis Lifestyle, Video 25 Comments

The wonderful staff of Victoria magazine put together an easy guide for how to polish silver, so I thought I’d share:

Silver has been prized as a precious metal for centuries. But it reached a new level of prominence during the Victorian era, when members of nobility enjoyed elaborate meals—sometimes with as many as ten courses. Each dish served required different cutlery. Today, several collectors enjoy discovering rare finds that hark back to that time.

The inherent beauty of sterling ensures that it need not be reserved for holidays—it can make any occasion special—but if you have even a passing acquaintance with silver, you are probably familiar with what some consider a drawback to this fine tableware. The treasured metal tarnishes with exposure to air and seems particularly susceptible during winter months, when heating systems warm chilly days.

Think of polishing your flatware as a labor of love and an opportunity to admire the exquisite details of favorite patterns and perhaps you won’t view this task as a chore. It’s important to note that proper care of silver often can prevent—or at least lessen—tarnishing. Watch the below video for a polishing how-to.

What you will need:

Silver polish
Polishing cloth
Silver gloves
Horsehair brush
Bowl of warm water
Plastic bags
Silver chest


Do not handle silver while wearing rubber gloves. Rubber promotes tarnish and can even corrode silver, if stored in proximity.

Acidic fruits, vinegars, salad dressings, and olives are harmful to silver if the acid they contain remains on the sterling. Be sure to clean implements thoroughly after use with such foods. 

Do you take the time to polish your silver? Why or why not?

Victoria September 2014

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Comments 25

  1. Thanks for the wonderful tips…..I do so enjoy my silver….there is no one in my family who will appreciate it when >I am gone…I hate the thought of it being melted down…I do not know what to do with it…any suggestions .

  2. My comment when people complain about polishing silver “If you want to give it to me, I’ll be happy to polish and make sure it’s used with love!”

  3. I have many fond memories of my elegant mother as we polished silver for festive family holiday dinners. I, too, love silver and have beautiful silver trays in most every room in my home.Sometimes they are large enough as to serve as the top of a lovely table, and this becomes a beautiful coffee table in my home office; also there is a similar coffee table with a silver tray top in the music room. I placed a silver tray on a porcelain garden stool in my powder room, where I placed pretty paper guest towels and a small vase of flowers. A large silver tray on a sideboard in my kitchen holds a blue and white tea pot my beloved husband gave me a few years ago.With this are a few blue willow cups and saucers and lovely silver spoons.In my dining room I have a large silver tray on a table in front of a large window, and there I have pretty house plants and an African violet.Silver gives a shine to every room, and reminds us to live with beauty, now.


  4. I’m confused. I was always taught that silver should never go into plastic bags. We keep ours in “pacific cloth” cutlery units and then in a silver chest. Should I be putting the bags into plastic?

  5. You can get the horsehair brush at Replacements Ltd. in North Carolina. I just bought one there a couple of weeks ago and it really works very well. They also have a good brand of silver polish. You can order all of these things on line as well as at their store.

  6. Polishing the silver brings back memories of my grandmother. Every Sunday my twin sister and I would go to her home for dinner, the rest of the family would join in the afternoon for her delicious desserts including her homemade Ricotta Pie. It was our chore on Sunday to make certain the silver was polished. Now, I don’t look at that task exactly like I did as a child but your video makes this task look a little easier. As always, thank you for your wonderful posts.

  7. Loved,Loved the video!!!Just had a baby shower luncheon and I was polishing up a storm the day before. I wish I had seen the video prior because it would have made it alot easier. You are right about polishing silver taking you down memory lane. As I was polishing my grandmother’s flatware, I got a little misty remembering her and all the elegant meals we had over the years. Phyllis, I so enjoy your blog and magazine. In this hectic world,It is a soft place to fall with a cup of tea in a real china cup! Lynn

  8. Be carefull abut which cleanser you buy, some of them are abbraisive. An antique shop in Victoria, BC recommended “Twinkle”.

  9. Wonderful post. Polishing the silver was always my job as a little girl as well, and of course I try to stay on top of the job in my own home. We still celebrate holidays in my mother’s home, though, and it never fails that when I arrive from out of town and assess the table-setting situation, I see that the forks need a little touch up. And once you polish the forks, the knives and spoons look a little dingy, and before you know it, I’m polishing service for 24, in a hurry, trying to catch up to my other chores. So my take on the polishing of silver is, the time to do it is a week before the party! And where can I find a horsehair brush?

  10. I don’t polish all my silver items on a regular basis but when I do I use an environmentally friendly cleaning product called the Universal Stone. It is actually a paste that can be used on all sorts of things around the house. It works beautifully on my silverware and the inside of my tea stained cups. It is free of toxins and acids.

  11. Hi,
    I actually polished a very tall, champagne bucket holder that someone didn’t want anymore, I imagine because it was completely tarnished. It took awhile, but the results were worth the effort. It now stands in a corner topped off with a clear, non-glass ice bucket filled with fake crushed ice chips & empty, decorative metal Coca Cola bottles. Talk about a Big Task…. Ironically, I just found some silverware of my mother’s recently, so I will be tackling that before the Holidays. I was wondering, is silver polish/foam okay to use on stainless steel appliances? Have a Good One!

  12. Polishing Silver is definitely not something on my top ten list! I too, usually wait until right before company is coming! Once it is polished though, there are few things that are more elegant! As always, thanks for the inspiration!

  13. By the way, silver and dishwasher detergent don’t get along well. Best to hand wash and give a light polish after each use, or at least once a month, especially large serving pieces left on display in the dining room ~ or kitchen countertops.

  14. I NEVER use rubber or latex gloves while handling silver, but I never thought of special silver cloth gloves, nor wrapping each piece in airtight bags. We use our silver too often for that bother, and silver hollowware, such as the tea/coffee service, I leave out on the sideboard and tea cart.

  15. Sometimes I polish the silver when I need to distract myself for awhile, but mostly it’s shortly before company’s coming!

  16. I love to polish my silver, and find it a great little trip down Memory Lane. As a small child, polishing the silver in my mother’s wonderful silver collection was a job for my sister’s and me. That chore was often done just prior to a fun dinner party or entertaining event my parents were hosting. So, as I polish silver today, I often remember those endearing events. I always remember the praise we were given for the completion of a great job and the result of shiny silver pieces. I have shared this experience with my own girls because I hope they, too, will enjoy the family treasures.

  17. Phyllis-
    I love my silver! I bring it all out and put it on a drop cloth and polish while I watch tv. I also have a special container to put used silver in with gentle soapy water until I wash.
    Thanks for the great video. Didn’t know that rubber gloves would harm the silver.

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