The Butler Did It

By August 7, 2015Cleaning, Silverware
Advertisement for 'Punch' Magazine, 1939

Advertisement for ‘Punch’ Magazine, 1939

‘It’s all to clean…’

With the recent popularity of programmes such as ‘Downton Abbey’ we can’t help noticing the extensive silver services such households would have used at every mealtime – even the afternoon tea was served on a silver tray with a silver teapot and tea spoons. Keeping all of that silver polished and pristine must have been a mammoth task – how did they manage it? The butler did it, of course!

Today the honoured craft of ‘butling’, as P.G. Wodehouse would call it, has all but died out and the Jeeves’ of this world are few and far between. The butlers may have disappeared from the modern home but that need not mean that silverware should also disappears from its tables. Indeed no! We’ve put together this quick guide to help you keep your silverware looking its best and get the maximum use and enjoyment out of our pieces.

What causes tarnishing?

Tarnishing is a chemical reaction between the silver and other substances in the immediate environment that form a thin film of black, yellow or grey corrosion on the surface of the silver. The main culprits are oxygen, which reacts with the silver to form silver oxide, and hydrogen sulphide, which might be produced by an open fire in the room, certain sulphurous foods or even friction on wool carpets.

The Good News: The good news is that all of our silver products are solid with unembellished, ‘un-coated’ surfaces so you don’t have to worry about wearing away plating, lacquering or details such as chasing. We also favour a smooth, high-gloss finish rather than a matt or textured look, which makes the application of cleaning products very easy.

Use: Warm soapy water – we recommend the original green Fairy washing up liquid. Unlike the yellow lemon-flavoured ones, the green one is pH neutral and nice and gentle on your silverware.

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Town Talk Anti-Tarnish Silver Foam – this rouge paste is gently abrasive, which gets rid of any surface grime and silver oxide without the need for hours of rubbing and scrubbing. The pot contains a little sponge designed specially for the purpose – all you have to do is wet the sponge, dip it in the pink paste and apply a thin layer to the surface of the silver. Then count to 100 and rinse thoroughly before drying with a tea towel. Easy!

Anti-Tarnish Cloths – if all you want to do is remove the odd sticky finger mark, wipe off a splash of wax or even just buff the silver up a little, silver anti-tarnish cloths are great for bringing out the shine in your silverware. They are available to buy in most jewellery shops and department stores and you’ll find them equally effective on your silver jewellery.

Avoid: Dishwashers! There are a number of reasons for this; the detergents used in dishwashers can be very harsh and the silverware might be effected by other items you put in the dishwasher with it.

Silver Dip – these can be very aggressive and are probably best used for jewellery (although BEWARE if your jewellery contains precious stones, particularly opals!)

Remember: silver is tougher than you think! It has a melting point of nearly 900°C and is one of the least reactive of all common metals, beating copper, lead and tin to the bottom of the reactivity scale. So don’t be shy – use yours in whatever way is most practical and enjoyable for you.

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The Golden Rule: Enjoy your silverware!

Use your silver as often as possible and wash it up after every use. This ‘little and often’ policy will ensure that it stays tarnish free for as long as possible.

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The old ways die hard: get yourself a pair cotton ‘butlers’ gloves if you want to avoid making fingermarks on your freshly polished silver

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