Quick Tips to Help Care for Your Silverware

By Collection Care RSS Wed, November 24, 2021

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many people have family silver they bring out for special occasions. Did you know that cleaning away the tarnish yearly will eventually wear away the silver?

Consider these tips from the Free Library Collection Care department:

Store your silver so that it doesn't tarnish
Believe it or not, polishing less will help maintain the beauty of your heirloom silver. Tarnish consists mainly of black silver sulfide, which is caused by sulphur-containing pollutants in the air. Each polishing takes away a certain amount of underlying silver along with the surface layer of tarnish—so storing pieces wisely can help maintain their condition. Avoid storing in areas with high humidity and moisture, such as basements. This type of environment can accelerate damage.

Use a tarnish-inhibiting cloth when storing
Wrap your silver in a tarnish-inhibiting cloth. These types of cloth are embedded with tiny silver particles that react with any tarnishing gases before they reach the object inside. The silver can then be sealed in a clear bag or case. Choose plastic bags made of long-lasting polyethylene (PE) and avoid bags made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Choose a quality cloth
Look for something like Pacific Silver® cloth, which can be found and purchased online. Tarnish-inhibiting cloths that contain metal salts are also available, but they’re not as effective as those that contain silver particles.

Collection Care staff are experts at the careful handling and storage of materials. Their work ensures that items within the Free Library's collections are preserved for many years to come. They offer guidance on the environments in which our collections reside, repair worn bindings, rid books of mold and other debris, and assist with transporting delicate materials. You may've encountered their work unknowingly, but if you visit one of the current exhibitions at Parkway Central Library, you're sure to encounter fascinating historic objects and artifacts—and the results of Collection Care's hard work!

Have a question for Free Library staff? Please submit it to our Ask a Librarian page and receive a response within two business days.

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