Care and Cleaning Tips for Glassware and Silverware

Like fine china, quality glassware and silverware needs special care too. Proper care of glassware, crystal, and silverware is needed to insure long life, preserving your treasures for years and generations to come.

Glassware, Stemware and Crystal
Glassware should be carefully hand washed with a soft dishcloth or sponge. Do not use hard bristled brushes or abrasive pads that might scratch your glasses. Hold the glass by the ‘bowl’ and do not twist the stem and bowl in opposite directions while you scrub or dry. Place glassware and crystal into warm dishwater on its side to evenly distribute the heat of the water and avoid cracking and breaking. A dishcloth or rubber mat on the bottom of the sink will help to keep glasses from smashing into a hard sink bottom, causing breaking or cracking.

Temperature extremes can cause glassware or crystal to break. Do not let the temperature of the glass change too quickly by pouring hot liquids into cold glasses, or placing cold glassware into hot water. Before filling crystal with hot liquids, warm the glass to equalize the temperature difference. An old tip passed down by the authors of Haley’s Hints (1999, 3H productions, Inc.) suggests placing a silver spoon in a crystal glass when adding hot liquids. It is said to keep the glass from cracking (probably having to do with the way the heat disperses over the spoon and metal). Likewise, it is best not to store your fine glassware in an area of the home or a storage unit where it will be exposed to extreme temperatures (basements and attics are not good storage areas for crystal).

Take care how you place your pieces for everyday storage and display. Although many of us have been taught to flip glassware upside down to keep the bowls clean, it is not a good idea. Glassware should be stored on its base; glasses are not engineered to have the lip of the glass supporting the weight of the entire piece, and hence turning glass and crystal on its end causes undo stress to the mouth of the pieces, resulting in cracks and breakage.

Silverware and Cutlery
Silverware and cutlery are a little more easily cared for than delicate glass and crystal, but for the best wear and to diminish the effects of tarnish on your pieces, follow these tips and care instructions.

To begin with, silverware should be washed and hand dried soon after a meal. Food left on the silver will cause tarnish and staining and will not necessarily wash off with regular dish water. Silver should be washed by hand with a mild dish detergent in hot water. If you are the proud owner of a matching set of silver salt and pepper shakers, the salt shaker should also be cleaned after use unless it is lined with glass. Rinse the pieces in hot water, and do not let silver air dry. Spots and tarnish will result.

Some foods are more likely to stain your silverware and cutlery more than others. Acidic foods (like tomato bases), eggs, and salt all cause tarnishing.

There are several commercially sold products for polishing silver, but some common household items can do the trick as well. Toothpaste makes a very good silver polish. Simply rub it on, rinse off and hand dry as you would if your were polishing with a silver polish preparation. Haley’s Hints authors Rosemary and Graham Haley also recommend saving the water from boiled potatoes, letting it cool and dipping tarnished silverware into it for sparkling silver. Rubbing silver with a piece of cork or damp salt can help to remove stubborn stains.

Use this tip from Haley’s Hints to polish large amounts of silver quickly. Fill your sink with a quart of very warm (almost hot) water. Add one tablespoon washing soda and one tablespoon salt to the water and dissolve. Place a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of the sink and put the tarnished silverware on top of the foil. According to the Grahams all but the toughest tarnish should disappear in about ten seconds. For badly tarnished items, rub them with a soft cloth after you have removed them from the solution. (Note: “Washing Soda” is referred to as water softener or lime-scale remover for washing machines. Depending on where you live, you may find it sold simply as “washing soda”, but Haley’s Hints warns not to use “washing soda crystals” as they can react with the foil and produce harmful fumes. Use only powdered lime-scale remover sold as a washing machine cleaner.)

For the best maintenance of your silver cutlery, follow these tips for use and storage.

Though you may be tempted to reserve the use of your silverware for special occasions and company, regular use of your silver helps to keep it free from tarnish. Give every piece a turn as often as you can, rotating the pieces for use so that wear on the entire set is even. After proper washing and drying, wrap silverware in special cloths or bags that have been chemically treated for storing silver (these may be the bags they came in, depending on how your set was packaged). Warm temperatures and humidity are contributing factors to building tarnish stains; do your best to keep stored silver in a cool, dry environment.

Fine crystal, glassware, and especially silverware, are keepsake pieces that can become family heirloom treasures for generations to come. Though they require a little more attention than everyday flatware and glasses, it is an effort is worth putting forth for maintaining beautiful pieces you and your family will enjoy for a very long time.

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