How to care for silver

Cleaning the silver in the Butler's Pantry at Llanerchaeron

Throughout history, silver and silver plating has been used to make a wide range of shimmering objects from tiaras to tableware. However, silver is a soft metal that often suffers from over-cleaning and poor handling. Tarnish forms when the surface is exposed to moisture, gases, dust and contaminants such as food.

Here's some useful advice from our conservation experts on how to look after silver:

  • To prevent surface damage and excessive wear, clean silver with the correct materials, as infrequently as possible. Light cleaning with specialist silver cloths will avoid the need for abrasive cleaners.
  • When handling silver, use thin vinyl or cotton gloves. Our hands leave oils and moisture on the surface, which mark and promote tarnish.
  • Remove dust lightly with a lint-free soft cotton cloth, or use a soft-bristled artist’s brush, covering the metal ferrule with tape to prevent scratching of the surface.
  • If you use silver objects for serving food and dining, wash the items separately using plastic bowls. Rinse in clean warm water and dry immediately to reduce the rate of tarnishing.
  • When storing silver, use special tarnish-reducing bags and jewellery pouches to protect silver from dust and scratching. Do not wrap silver in newspaper as this will rapidly tarnish it, nor seal in bubblewrap or plastic as these trap moisture.
These ornate figures really shine when this silver candelabra is illuminated / Ickworth NT 852057
Figures on a 7 light candelabra by John Bridge, 1826, part of the silver collection at Ickworth, Suffolk
Conservator Carmen Vida cleaning a silver dish in the Conservation Studio at Knole, Kent
Conservator, Carmen Vida, cleaning a silver dish in the Conservation Studio at Knole, Kent