In this site's article Polishing Silver you discuss various methods. My comments are:
Surely you mean washing soda rather than baking soda to be used with aluminium foil. I find this method very effective and very gentle. I have been told that museums use it. I have recently collected quite a few pieces of Chinese Export silver which usually has a great deal of repousse or applied decoration. It is often more than just tarnished. Often there is a great deal of polish residue and grime which just falls off when cleaned with this method. I discovered another silver mark, the so-called quadruped, under the grime on a miniature mug. Often the procedure must be repeated as the foil becomes discoloured and the water cools. I never use this cleaning method without following it up with silver foam.
I also use the Hagerty silver foam and often just with my fingers. However, I often cut up into cubes the piece of foam that comes with the pot and use these on highly decorated items. Because the foam cube is weaker than the silver it will be damaged rather than any applied pattern or sharp pieces that may catch on a cloth. Foam will also reach into crevices better than fingers. You mention brushes damaging the surface. I have had no problems with a makeup brush. It is soft and gentle when used with care. Sometimes I also find that a mixture of silver foam and silver paste is more effective than the foam alone.
I like to clean my silver well when I first puchase it. Generally the crevices will tarnish again more quickly than the high points. I can then leave that tarnish to show up the pattern next time I clean in the knowledge that what I see is only tarnish and not years of grime and polish build up.
Questions on polishing, restoration, conservation + manufacturing techniques
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