Every once in awhile, we all get to entertain in style. We pull out the good china. We break out the good silver. Once the meal is over, how do you make sure that the good china and the good silver are cared for properly? How about the stainless steel stuff?
Whether its your china or your silverware, remember that water is a corrosive. It’s fine for washing in, but you will want to avoid soaking items in water for extended periods if you can help it. Especially with silver or metallic trim on plates, prolonged soaking can cause pits and marks.
When washing stainless steel flatware, use a mild detergent and rinse promptly. It should not be jammed into the silverware basket in the dishwasher. Better to pack it loosely and go for including the rest in a second load if you need.
Contrary to what most folks do, you should load your silverware with the handles up. If you load in with tines and blades facing down, you will avoid injury when you get cut or poked. You will also avoid handling the portion that goes into someones mouth. If you are washing by hand, immediately dry all flatware with a soft cloth.
Whether you good silver is sterling or silver plate, make sure you wash it promptly after each use in warm, sudsy water. Avoid lemon scented detergents or those containing chlorides. Use slightly less detergent than normal. Food left on silverware can accelerate tarnishing. If you plan to put it into a dishwasher, do not put them through a “heat drying” cycle. Dry instead with a soft cloth. Never wash silver flatware in the same dishwasher with stainless steel flatware as this can cause discoloration. Some suggest that you should avoid any stainless steel pots or pans in the dishwasher when washing silver.
If, like most people, you only use your good china and silver once or twice a year, let everything dry overnight before putting it away. This will ensure that all items are absolutely dry and will avoid mold, pits or tarnish that water can bring. If you cannot let it air dry overnight, at least make sure it has cooled before putting it away.
If you like to give small parties that don’t utilize all your china or flatware, resist the urge to take the plates and spoons from the top every time. Try to rotate the dishes and silverware you use to maintain even wear.
If you have a party that uses your good dishes and silverware, count everything before you take the trash out. There was a time when people had servants to help serve and clear the table. Today, friends often jump up to help clear the table. In their eagerness to do this, sometimes a spoon or fork accidentally goes in the trash. It is much easier to pull it out of a bag of kitchen garbage than to have to dig through a dumpster.
If it is time to polish your silver, use a non-abrasive foaming paste cleaner, or Hagerty’s Spray Polish. Whatever you do, avoid the all-purpose metal cleaners, and dip cleaners. Dip cleaners can remove factory-applied “tarnish” down in the grooves of a design.
Polish silver using a soft cloth. Make sure to rub lengthwise, not a circular motion. Even the least abrasive silver polish can create “swirls” if you use a circular motion. Try to keep polish off gold accents if your silver has them.
Your good silverware and china are meant to last a lifetime, and beyond. If you care for them, they can be your children’s treasured heirlooms.