A silver polishing cloth is a reusable cloth that is treated with chemicals that clean and remove tarnish from silver. The chemicals can be mild or strong, depending on the type of silver and how it is polished. The chemical cleaning method works best on silver that has not been oxidized or corroded. This type of silver has a dark black appearance when unpolished, but when the polishing cloth is used to wipe it down the silver will look bright and new again. A silver polishing cloth can also be used to clean and buff other jewelry and metal items, such as watches.
Silver tarnish is a compound of silver oxide that develops as a result of prolonged exposure to oxygen and water. It is more common for silver to tarnish than other precious metals, such as gold or platinum. Silver is more susceptible to oxidation because it is naturally reactive. Often, silver objects will tarnish quickly in damp weather, especially in areas with high humidity or near bodies of water, such as the ocean. If silver is left out on display for long periods of time, it may tarnish even faster.
While there are many ways to clean silver, a silver polishing cloth is one of the most efficient and easy-to-use methods. It removes tarnish more quickly than other cleaning methods and is reusable for an extended period of time.
Although there are a variety of silver polishing cloths available, it is important to read the labels and instructions carefully before using them on your items. Some silver polishing cloths contain abrasives that can damage the surface of your item. It is a good idea to test any silver polishing cloth on a piece of Plexiglas before use to determine the extent and pattern of scratches it will leave on the surface of your item.
Some silver polishing cloths are pretreated with tarnish-cleaning compounds woven into the fabric, which make them particularly effective for silver items. It is important to not wash these types of cloths, as washing them destroys the tarnish-cleaning agents and renders them ineffective. A pretreated silver polishing cloth should last about two years with regular household use before it needs to be laundered.
Many people use a silver polishing cloth to remove tarnish from their silver items, such as spoons, rings and jewelry. These cloths are usually made of cotton flannel and have been thoroughly treated with special tarnish-removing and inhibiting compounds. The cloths can be purchased in stores and online.
There are also a number of commercial silver polishing solutions on the market, but these can be more expensive and require specialized care to prevent them from damaging delicate items. In addition, the abrasive ingredients in these solutions can damage the finish on plated items, so they should be avoided when possible. A simple solution of vinegar and baking soda is an effective alternative to commercial polishes. Apply the mixture to a damp cloth and rub it onto your silver items in small circles, using gentle pressure.