Silly Silver Subject(s)

DLM2000February 14, 2010

That's my alliteration for the day - I'm all out now.

I'm almost embarrassed to ask these questions but I figure even if you laugh at me, I can't hear it so..... here goes!

1. When I polish my silver, I don't like getting my hands in the polish so I wear rubber gloves. But I find the gloves seem to leave imprints and then I have to work to get them out. Is there something I'm missing?

2. I use a soft, cotton cloth to apply the polish. What do you use and what do you do with it when you're done? Do you toss it? Do you wash it with other rags? I hesitate to throw it in the washing machine even with other rags that I use to clean windows or kitchen counters, etc thinking the tarnish and polish residue won't really wash away but will transfer to other rags. Yes? No?

Hopefully someone else will jump in with some basic questions - I can't be the only one, I hope!

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I'm not big into silver (pewter/copper nut here), so only have a few pieces to polish. My mom has quite a bit tho, and I'll polish hers for her.

I usually just use my bare hands, tho I keep the medical latex kind on hand for odd projects. The yellow ones never seem to fit well and just get in my way. (I'm also bad about not wearing gloves when it would be better to have some on, like gardening or doing dishes.)

I think like you do when it comes to washing rags with odd "stuff" on them (oils, polishes, etc.). I usually let them soak in a bucket overnight in some laundry detergent. Then rinse like crazy being they go in machine. (And they don't go in with rags from general household use, either.) And if there's still enough 'stuff' on a rag, I'd rather toss it than risk ruining clothes or washing machine innards. Geez, never really thought about how many steps I go through in that process. ;)

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 11:46AM
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Could you get some cotton gloves?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 11:59AM
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I also wear the medical latex ones...I figure if a Dr can perform surgery, then I can polish silver.
I polish silverf at the sink...I use wrights polish...I wet the sponge and work up a suds and wash the silver with that. If there are particularly bad spots, I will squeeze the sponge nearly dry and put more polish on it.
I rinse things really well in hot water and dry with one of those feed sack towels....and toss the towel in the wash with whatever.
The black is on the sponge....which I rinse in the sink....
Linda C

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 12:24PM
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What I always heard, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that natural liquid tree-sap latex is cured into rubber with sulfur, which is THE chemical to tarnish silver, so cotton gloves (or silver gloves- they make 'em) for handling your silver.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 12:57PM
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I need to get more of the thin latex gloves - ran out a while back and haven't been able to find a box of small ones so have just been using my regular dish washing gloves and they leave imprints. I do wear gloves for almost any cleaning, craft, gardening etc. I learned the hard way that skin is our largest organ and chemicals do transfer through - be careful, moonshadow.

dekeoboe I haven't seen those thin cotton gloves since I was a kid - do they even make them anymore?

lindac - the sponge!!! duh. Last time I bought the Wrights in the bottle not the jar type thing that comes with the sponge. Will use this up and get the cream again.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 1:00PM
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If the gloves do contain sulfur...I haven't noticed them tarnishing my silver.....they are not in contact with the silver that long.....but if you are worried, most surgical gloves are non latex now days because so many are allergic to latex...would be awful to get a rash from your dr. or dentist.
And there are also cheaper versions of vinyl made for hair stylists.
Linda C

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 1:28PM
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I wear those thin med. gloves, too, and they don't seem to hurt the silver. I rinse the cloth in the sink, toss it in the wash when I do rags. (I'm not big on paper towels, have tons of old rags.)
Ditto on Wrights.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 1:56PM
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I remembered seeing them somewhere. Always room for one more gadget.

Here is a link that might be useful: silver polish gloves

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 4:56PM
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I bought a pair of "silver" gloves at the same time as I bought my MAAS silver polish.

For very light polishing (more spiffing up or dusting the pieces) these are great.

I'm must be a glutton for punishment.....I like the instant gratification of polishing silver :)

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 6:08PM
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I've never tried this, but would putting a very small amount of rubbing alcohol on a rag and wiping the silver cause a problem? I was polishing SS/SS plate for my antique booth, but noticed no one else does, so don't clean it as often. Supposedly, there are those who like the 'patina'. ;o)

    Bookmark   February 14, 2010 at 6:11PM
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Patty, heavy tarnish is not patina even though that seems to be the common euphemism among general antique dealers. The reasons are two-fold: 1. Cleaning silver is time consuming & keeping it that way while on display adds a lot of work. 2. If silverplate is heavily tarnished, there is no way to tell if the plating is worn - clean it up & you may find serious damage that makes the piece worthless. Hand polishing silver generally doesn't remove patina, machine polishing is a different story & will leave the piece looking ultra shiny, & 'skinned', i.e. no oxidation in the cracks & crevices that was intentionally put there for definition. Machine polishing will also remove pattern detail.

I've never used alcohol on silver so I don't know how that works.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2010 at 1:25AM
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The heavy black gunk on silver often is silver-sulfide. It was a huge problem when people burned coal. There are sulfides in coal and in its smoke. People living near coal yards could not keep their silver bright.

In the oilfields, some folks use raw gas straight from the wellhead for heating and cooking. This uncleaned gas contains hydrogen sulfide, another bad actor both for your health and silverware.

Silver readily reacts with sulfur and sulphur compounds. Sulphur is one of the major ingredients for vulcanizing rubber. Rubber products that may contain un-reacted sulphur and sulphur compounds will tarnish silver when it comes into contact. Silver will react with airborne sulphur compounds even when in minute concentrations.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2010 at 3:51PM
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I use Wrights silver wash and make sure when I lather it there is no purple paste left, it washes on and rinses clean - I have never had any reaction on ym hands - i find it to be the easiest and most gentle - it maintains the "nielo" (that dark coloring purposefully put in the recesses of the silver to emphasize the design) unlike a dip (I feel sad for silver that has been dipped or "cleaned" using one of those plates you put in water)

Cotton gloves wont protect your hands from cleaning chemicals, if thats the reason you dont like to get it on your hands - maybe get the kids to do the work for you ! (Kidding)

    Bookmark   February 15, 2010 at 4:08PM
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Since I worked on the silver at my kitchen sink, I used the gloves I have there for dishwashing and that's what left the marks. Completely forgot I have nitrile gloves in my studio and tried those today - no marks left - problem solved!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2010 at 6:21PM
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DLM, if you want the surgical type gloves in a small size, Walgreens has them and many times they run buy one Walgreen item, get one free. I use them when I polish silver, and for a hundred other uses! I also use a sponge ...not the fine ones that come in the Wright's polish, but a regular 2 for 1$ kind from the grocery store. After use, I wash it clean and it's ready for the next round! I rinse the pieces in HOT water and immediately dry on old cotton rags which I then wash with my bleachables in hot water.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 11:40AM
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jaybird why on earth I didn't think of Walgreen's is beyond me - I was trying our local lumber/home store, Home Depot and paint stores and they have sizes for men with big hands. Walgreens is just not on my shopping radar unless I need a prescription. I keep a pair of rubber gloves (regular dishwashing kind) just for handling fish but the surgical gloves would be much easier. Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 12:23PM
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This is not a silly subject. These are valid questions.

I handle Georgian sterling (mostly II & III) and American silver through the Federal Period. I have been a silver lover for many, many years! I like my inventory to be clean and obviously don't wish to destroy it in the cleaning.

The first thing I will tell you is to throw the silver polish away. It can and will remove more silver than is necessary (*all* polishes remove silver. period.).
The gentlest thing for silver polishing, which works a treat on plate as well, is raw wool. It doesn't take elbow grease, it doesn't require exertion, just a delicate touch as you wipe the piece. The tarnish begins to lift as you wipe. After a nice once-over, then take a non-prefolded cotton diaper and tenderly wipe the piece. You'll be picking up lots of lanolin with the tarnish. Rotate the diaper to wipe the piece with a clean section. Don't put pressure on it, just wipe. Although this makes your hands black, the tarnish washes away from your hands easily with a little soap. And your hands will be softer for the lanolin. I'm not sure but think the lanolin is the actual 'polish' at work. Raw wool is easy to get, just ask at a sheep farm, or at a farm animal rescue.

And to clean the diaper, wash in very hot soapy water on the longest wash cycle you have. I don't wash silver rags with other rags for fear of contaminating the silver rags. Rinse thoroughly without fabric softener or dryer sheets. Those leave residues that are harmful to silver. The silver cloths tend to keep a bit of tarnish here and there.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 4:59PM
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What is a "non-prefolded cotton diaper"? Do you mean just a regular old diaper-of which I have a few?

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 7:28PM
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>What is a "non-prefolded cotton diaper"? Do you mean just a regular old diaper-of which I have a few?

Yes, but if I just say to use a diaper, people will get the pre-folds which are a bother to use for polishing. It can be done, but I find that a cloth with a laaaaaaaarrrge surface area is far better than several thick cloths. Although the pre-folds are very nice for wrapping silver.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 11:34PM
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I understood the diaper part, but it's the RAW WOOL part that has me stumped. You say just ask at a sheep farm or farm animal rescue but haven't seen either of those around here in a while.....I'm 30 miles from downtown Chicago ;-)

Is the wool acting as a fine abrasive?

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 8:45AM
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I don't think that the wool is acting as an abrasive at all. If the grease came in other fabrics it would have the same effect-so my guess is that the lanolin is the trick. The way the tarnish 'undevelops' after a pass with the wool leads me to that.

Okay, 30 miles from downtown Chicago. Head another 30 further away from the city and you'll find some rural stretches which likely include a sheep farm or two. You could even find raw wool on ebay. Or ask a handspinner. Check your local fiber arts guild, someone will be able to guide or-or, better, give you a handful of raw wool.

Raw in this sense means uncleaned. It can be pretty gross to think about.

I learned this trick from a metalsmith. He's reknowned for his sympathetic repairs of antique metalwares and is the man who makes the Kentucky Derby trophy each year. I was lucky enough to be at the workshop one day while he was fashioning part of the trophy's top. Fancy thinking that there sat an empty urn-shaped thing whose body was comprised of greater value than me, my entire antiques inventory, and my home.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 5:37PM
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