How to Polish Silver at Home for Your Holiday Meal

Your guests will thank you.

When the holiday season approaches, we can't wait for meals with family, gift exchanges, and all the rest. However, there are a few tasks to complete before the celebrations can begin. One of those tasks—the one that can elicit a groan from even the most seasoned host or hostess—is polishing the silver.

Because every Southerner can appreciate an appearance by the Good Silver, it just won't do to have tarnished silver flanking your best china and crystal . You've spent so much time in the kitchen, cleaning the house, and readying the menu that the appearance of tarnished silver isn't even a possibility. That's why the silver polishing must be done. It takes time, but it's all worth it when it's gleaming on your table during the holidays. Here's our advice on when to polish, how, and how to maintain that shine.

How To Clean Silver Still

When to Polish

It's widely recommended that you polish your silver three to five days in advance of when you need to use it. This is so that it's freshly polished and table-ready once the holiday arrives. However, you can polish the silver up to 3 weeks in advance of when you use it—as long as you can keep it from tarnishing in the meantime.

Time Commitment

The main concern—the one that keeps hosts and hostesses dragging their heels when they know silver polishing is on the horizon—is ensuring that you have enough time to get the polishing done. It is time-consuming. (That might be an understatement.) That's why you have to clear an afternoon, get comfortable, turn on the TV, a podcast, or an audiobook, and work on the silver 'til it's shining. If you take the time to do it right, it will be table-ready, and you'll be the hostess with the mostest.

At-Home Method

While the chore is a time commitment, there's a way to work on several pieces at once. Place silver on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with baking soda, and then cover with boiling water. Rinse and dry with a soft cloth. For pieces with more tarnish build-up, make a paste with two parts baking soda and one part water. Apply the paste to the silver with a damp sponge. Rinse and dry. Take caution with this technique though. If your silver pieces have built up beautiful oxidation over time, it's safer to try another approach that is less likely to remove that color.

Silver Storage

After the holiday meal, clean your silver so you'll have less prep for the next holiday. Wash your silver by hand right away in hot, soapy water. Dry with a soft cloth. Store your silver in cloth bags made for silver storage or in chests or drawers lined with similar cloth. If you don't have these items, plastic bags will also help keep your silver from tarnishing.

Silver Care

For long-term silver care and to keep it looking its best, avoid silver polishing mistakes like using abrasive cloths, paper towels, and toothbrushes on your silver. Always use a soft cloth to avoid scratches. Use tools meant for silver, such as brand-name silver cleaner applied in small circles with the foam brush or soft brush that comes with the bottle. And use your silver —it actually brings out the patina you are longing for.

What's your silver-polishing routine? Do you work silver polishing into your holiday prep, or is it shining and table-ready all year round?

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