HOW TO KEEP THE SILVER BRIGHT
It is discouraging to realize that silver tarnishes if left in the open air, is stained by many foodstuffs, and is even discolored by some cleansing materials. And yet, if certain principles are kept in mind, the silverware can be kept clean and bright. A few basic facts, scientifically ascertained, which ought to be of value to every householder, altho written primarily for those in charge of hospitals, are contained in an article written by Jay Krans for The Modern Hospital (Chicago).
Neglect of silver, Mr. Krans notes at the outset, is quickly reflected in the ware because of its tendency to tarnish and be stained by foodstuffs. Tarnish is caused by sulfur in the atmosphere. If silver could be kept away from all air, it would not tarnish. Keeping it in airtight compartments helps somewhat. A fact little known is that the presence of camphor (bulk camphor, not the mothball variety) tends to retard tarnish. In the winter, when much coal is being burned, silver tarnishes rapidly, owing to the greater amount of sulfur in the air; this will also explain why silver kept near gas-burning ranges tarnishes rapidly. He goes on:
Egg yolks contain a large percentage of sulfur. Thus spoons served with eggs come back to the kitchen badly tarnished. Rubber also is sulfurous, as is fiber, and both should be kept away from silver. Keep stray rubber bands out of the silver boxes. Don't wash silver in fiber receptacles. Several complaints of silver tarnishing badly, altho it was cleaned daily, have upon investigation been traced to washing in fiber tubs or in water transported in fiber pails.
Acids in certain foods cause discoloration. To find the cause for this, one must go all the way back to the soil and fertilizer which produced the food. Some strange phenomena have been observed in this connection; for instance, in a certain cafeteria where tomatoes are dished out with a silver ladle, several brands of canned tomatoes are carried in the storeroom. If one particular brand is used, for which the tomatoes have been grown in a certain section of the country, the ladle will discolor to a deep blue-brown shade. If on the following day another of the brands is used. produced in an entirely different locality, the ladle will clear itself of its discoloration and take on a high luster.
Good old-fashioned silver polish, any reliable brand, can scarcely be excelled for results. But, use a polish, not “whiting." A polish has all the shining merits of whiting and in addition other ingredients that remove tarnish and leave a protective film. After applying the polish, and rubbing, use a hot-water rinse, the hotter the better, then a final polish with a soft cloth.
The various silver-cleaning pans on the market offer a solution for removing tarnish from a large quantity of silver in a short time. They, however, do not polish the silver, but this can easily be accomplished by a hot water rinse after use of the pan, then a rub with a soft cloth.
We are all familiar with the sight of the tablecloth with a resulting black streak on the linen. The next time this happens don't blame the silverware of being of poor quality, but change your soap. It is a fact that certain soaps or cleansers in combination with certain grades of water will produce the result which is usually thought inherent in silverware, and a little experimenting with cleansing materials may be most helpful.
The care of knives deserves special mention, Mr. Krans tells us. Unlike other pieces of flatware, knives are made of steel and are therefore subject to rust. He goes on:
The “solid handle” knife in most common use is forged entirely of steel in one piece, ground and polished to a high degree of fineness, then silver plated. “Hollow handle" knives have handles made of nickel silver and only the blades are of steel, the two parts being securely soldered together and the whole silver plated. The coating of silver is most durable, but at three points, along the cutting edge or the blades, at the shoulder in the center of the knife on which the weight always falls, and the upper end of the handle, the wear is so severe that the silver deposit is worn through rapidly. The first pin-point area of steel exposed affords opportunity for rust to attach, and once lodged, it then begins to work under the silver deposit. Like a spoiled spot in a barrel of apples it spreads and may ruin the entire knife. It not only affects the plating but pits the steel so badly that often the knife is not worth replating. Knives should be dried more carefully than other pieces of silver, never left moist overnight, and if rust spots are observed, should be scoured or cleaned with kerosene to remove and prevent its spread. But do not expect as much service from your knives as from spoons and forks.
I am often asked, “Why shouldn’t we buy the nickel silver unplated goods (usually known as white metal) and avoid all trouble with silver plate wearing out?”
“Most emphatically, I answer no. Without the protective deposit of silver, it absorbs grease, is stained by acids, turns dark and always has a sticky, slimy feeling. It may be compared with a table with a white wood unfinished top, which also absorbs and takes stains, but if the top is varnished, all these faults are overcome.
“ Does silver service pay? Is it economical to replace china and glassware with corresponding items in silver? You can easily determine the answer to the latter question by making comparison of the cost of silver divided over a period of five, ten or even fifteen years with the cost of china or glassware and its replacement for the same length of time. One usually finds that an investment in such items as butterchips, creamers, sugar-bowls, pots and platters does pay. Silverware is bought on confidence, and unless you can have perfect confidence in the manufacturer from whom you buy, you may learn to your regret that your investment has been misspent.”
Source: The Literary Digest - 5th August 1922