The term silver plate refers to objects that have a thin veneer of pure silver over a base of a secondary metal like nickel, silver, copper or zinc. The pure silver is adhered to the surface of the base metal by an electro-magnetic plating process first developed in the 1830s. With the base metals used in this process, silver plate pieces are harder wearing and less prone to damage than those made of pure silver. Cleaning silver plate can be accomplished with a few household items or with polishing products purchased specifically for the task.
Silver Cleaner Paste & Dip Products
The gold standard for cleaning silver plate effectively and safely is with a low abrasive silver polish. Applied with a clean towel over the surface of the item, the polish picks up dirt and tarnish and is then buffed away with a second clean cloth. On silver plate items you will simply want to ensure that you are using a low- to no-abrasive polish suitable for silver plate, which most on the retail market are. For silver plate pieces with dimensional decoration and lots of fine detail or heavy engraving, liquid tarnish removers can be a time saver over the paste form. The item is soaked in or wiped down with the anti-tarnish solution and will almost instantly be returned to its original luster. Due to the sometimes corrosive nature of the dip style silver cleaners, the item is then rinsed of the solution and dried. Dip silver cleaning products are sold under many brand names including Hagerty and Tarn-X.
Homemade Cleaning Solution
To remove very mild tarnish on silver plate objects, you can wash them in warm water and household liquid dishsoap. Dip a clean soft cloth in the solution, and gently scrub the object and rinse repeatedly in clean, warm water. Dry the pieces with a clean and dry soft cloth, and buff to a shine.
Anti-Tarnish Cleaning and Storage Cloths
Soft cotton flannel cloths impregnated with silver polish serve as a one-step cleaning and polishing tool for silver plate items. Many are two-sided cloths with one side for cleaning and the other side for buffing to a high shine. They are sold as a convenience and can be taken easily on trips and stored safely anywhere in the home where frequently needed. To prevent the buildup of oxidation and tarnish, storage cloths and bags are manufactured with zinc metal threads and anti-tarnish chemicals that significantly reduce the need to clean and polish silver plate.