SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? [Email her.](mailto:email@example.com)
This week’s Squalor is inspired by this reader letter:
I bought these vintage silver earrings for my wedding in October and I love them so much, but they have a tarnish stain that really dulls the center of them! The center of the earring, which is a groove in the pattern, has these circular tarnish stains that won’t come out. I tried soaking them in Connoisseurs silver cleaner, and then scrubbing the spots with the silver cleaner with a Q-tip, but that only faded the stains a little. Help! What can I do to reduce the look of these stains?
The LW included a photo of the earrings (above), which was very helpful and here’s why: I looked at them and was like, “Oh sure, you don’t need silver polish, you need to have those re-plated. Also they are very lovely!” So that’s my professional opinion, thanks for stopping by Squalor, see you next week!
Haha just kidding, we’re here to talk about polishing silver and we’re gonna do just that, for ‘tis the season for silver cufflinks and belt buckles and all manner of other silver things that can and will get tarnished.
There are all sorts of different products for polishing silver—creams and dips and cloths!—but for most people, a cream silver polish like Twinkle Silver Polish Kit will be the best bet, especially for smaller items like jewelry (earrings, bracelets, cufflinks, belt buckles, etc.) Weiman Silver Polish and Hagerty Silversmiths’ Polish are also very good brands to know about.
To use it, apply the polish to a soft cloth—and this is really important so I’m going to say it twice—You must use A SOFT CLOTH for the polishing of silver because silver will scratch very easily. This means you cannot use an abrasive sponge, you cannot use a scrub brush, you cannot use a toothbrush (I mean you can, but you shouldn’t!) Another thing to be aware of is that the tarnish will stain whatever cloth you use for silver polishing, so do make sure it’s something you don’t care about, i.e., don’t use the brand new dish towels you just bought.
Many silver polishes, like Twinkle, come with an applicator sponge, and you can absolutely just stick with that. Dampen the soft cloth or applicator sponge, and rub it into the cream polish. Then, apply the polish to the silver item and rub it in a circular motion, working in sections and rinsing the polish off with cool-to-warm water. You’ll also need to rotate your cloth, or rinse your sponge, so that you don’t deposit tarnish you’ve removed back onto the silver item.
Once you’ve polished the entire silver piece, rinse it well with cool-to-warm water and buff with a dry, clean cloth. When it’s been dried, check for any small tarnish spots you may have missed and touch up any spots. That’s all! OH WAIT NO! There’s one really important last step: Admire your work and perhaps consider clapping excitedly at THE SHINY THING, LOOK AT THE SHINY THING [CLAP CLAP CLAP].
Okay now you’re done.