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Ensure that Your Precious Antique Silver is Free From Tarnish!

Care of silver,silver tarnish,silver storage solutions

Though both begin with the same alphabet, “S”, silver and sulfur are incompatible! Silver has many enemies such as certain paints, felt, wool, latex gloves, rubber bands, food such as onions and eggs, and sulfur-containing materials such as hydrogen sulfide. If your antiques are exposed to a humid environment, rest assured that the tarnishing will take place all that much faster!

There are two ways of getting rid of this tarnish—

(1) There are readymade chemical dips (acid plus complexing agent) that are available. These cleaning agents are to be used only if paste or liquid polishes do not work. This should therefore tell you that chemical dips are meant for heavy, black tarnish only. The strong chemical constituents can harm your hands; it would be advisable to wear disposable gloves. Also, it is preferable to conduct your work in a well-ventilated area.

How are these chemical dips to be used? Take a cotton ball or a cellulose sponge and dip it in the cleansing agent. Now, wipe your antique till all the grime is removed. This is a better method than dumping the entire piece into the chemical solution and leaving it. Your precious antique might have pitting showing up on its surface. Again patinas that are factory-applied will most likely disappear too. The silvery surface becomes more vulnerable to moisture and tarnish-producing gases then.

Chemical dips cannot be used for all objects, because of the corrosive acids present in them. If you have to clean up silver candlesticks, silver teapots with hollow handles, or silver trophies with hollow feet, keep them away from chemical dips. Should there be any leakage of the liquid into the cavities via small holes or joint imperfections, you will be forced to leave the chemical there forever.

(2) Another method for cleaning silver is via electrochemical or galvanic reduction. An aluminum plate or an aluminum alloy plate is kept in a warm solution of washing soda or sodium carbonate. You dip your silver object into this solution. The light tarnish that is collected on its surface will dissipate as soon as it comes in contact with this plate. However, if you have neglected maintenance of your antique for years together, you might not be able to get rid of the thick and black tarnish that has collected on its surface.

There are disadvantages to this method of cleaning too. If your piece is delicate, it can get scratched upon contact with the aluminum plate. This plate has to be regularly cleaned if it has to prevent pitting of silver objects. If your silver has been polished beforehand, it may remain untarnished for a long period of time. This is not the case, however, with unpolished items. Despite galvanic reduction, their surfaces can absorb moisture and tarnish-producing gases easily; you might have to repeat cleaning. Again, what if the solution should leak into porous attachments, coffee pot handles, weighted pieces with minute holes, or the unsoldered spun beads that can be seen around the tops of lightweight hollowware?

So consider your options well before choosing!


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