O'Meara Sterling

Traditional Techniques

It is a myth that silver is hard to care for.  If you use your silver regularly, and wash it after use with a phosphate-free detergent, this is usually enough to keep tarnish at bay.  You can enjoy living with silver with the  minimum of maintenance. 

Life is too short to save our precious handmade things for best.  Be surrounded by them and love them. With simple care, silver can be used every day in with ordinary china and flatware; part of the joy and statement of a gracious home.

Silver is the whitest, most reflective of all metals , and is prized for its unique soft lustre.  Over the centuries silver has been a practical way to store ones wealth in useful objects made of a material that innately resists corrosion and decay and is safe for food stuffs. For this reason it has been called a "noble metal." Return to the priceless elegance of handmade sterling.




NB [Do not follow these steps for pieces which include wood, bone or felt - see instructions below.]

  1. Rinse the piece (removes pollution and dirt - you do not want to rub this into the surface of your silver and scratch it)
  2. Apply silver polish  with a moist sponge.  Polish silver in an up and down motion, and turn the piece regularly.  Do not rub the silver in a circular motion!  The abrasive particles in your tarnish remover will leave a circular pattern behind. 
  3. Rinse Sponge Regularly.  Use only a little polish with each application. 
  4. When finished, rinse the piece in warm water
  5. Dry and gently buff the piece immediately with a soft, lint-free cloth. If the surface is still dull, buff again with a cloth impregnated with rouge. 

Cleaning silver which includes a wood, bone or  felt :

  • Do not subject to water at any time in the cleaning process.
  • Polish these pieces with a cream polish, then
  • Buff the cream off with a soft lint-free cloth.

N B. Goddard's Long Shine Silver Polish is perfect for this as it is designed to be buffed off whilst most other polishes are rinse off.



If you only bought one polish, O'Meara Sterling recommends: Wrights Silver Cream

Steve's Scottish grandmother used Wrights Silver Cream.  It is a medium abrasive.  For very light tarnish (yellow tint), use a tiny drop on the sponge and rub lightly, and for medium tarnish (light to medium brown) use a medium amount and rub a little harder.  For heavier tarnish, (inky black and purple) use it twice and scrub harder still. 

Other polishing creams can be categorized below:

  • For light tarnish removal (yellow tint) always use  a less-abrasive polish.  The best is Tarni-shield, as it is gentle and has a good tarnish barrier.  Other creams which fall into this category include 3M's Tarni'Shield and Twinkle Silver Polish.
  • For medium tarnish removal (light to medium brown)   you can use a slightly more abrasive polish, such as Wright's Anti-Tarnish Silver Polish.  Other creams which fall into this category include Goddards' Long Shine Silver Polish / Silver Wash.
  • For heavy tarnish removal (only use for inky black and black-purple stubborn stains) use Bon Ami or  Hagerty's Silversmiths' Wash.  Use Bon Ami under a trickle of water from a tap.

* Tip*. "It is best to polish your silver once a month with the less-abrasive polish, rather than letting the tarnish build up and having to use more abrasive polishes on it."



  • DO NOT use a polish that is very old or has dried up - the dry abrasives will damage your silver.
  • NEVER use toothpaste or baking soda to clean silver.  These are very abrasive and will leave minute scratches all over the surface.
  • DO NOT use the following on silver:  steel wool, scouring pads, sandpaper, Scotch-Brite (all too abrasive and will mar your pieces)
  • WE DO NOT RECOMMEND putting silver in the dishwasher, even flatware.  Dishwashers are too hot, and dishwasher soap too abrasive.  Also, when silver touches stainless steel items in the dishwasher environment, black spots are produced from a chemical reaction which have to be professionally cleaned. Dishwashers will dull the surface of your silver, remove carefully applied oxidization applied by the silversmith for  highlighting detail, and cause some repaired pieces to break along seams.  Silver can also be scratched by the water action banging pieces together inside the machine.
  • ONLY use a very mild silver polish on gold plated areas, as more abrasive cleaners can remove the plating over time.
  • METAL SINKS can scratch your silver - so do not put your pieces in the sink directly. 
  • CERTAIN FOOD left on flatware and serving piece after a meal can cause stains, tarnish and even corrosion.  Always wash your flatware and serving pieces as soon as you can after finishing the meal.  If you can, put it to soak until you can wash it properly.  The most common foods which cause staining are eggs and food which  contain eggs (mayonnaise, custards, puddings, flans etc ), and onions.
  • TRY NOT to leave salt in your silver salt shakers for extended periods of time, as the salt causes black corrosion marks which are hard to remove.  It is best to empty and clean salt shakers after every use, and store empty.
  • DO NOT store silver in newspaper, plastic wrap, paper which contains acids, or bind your silver with rubber bands.  This will cause discoloration which will have be be professionally removed.  Store instead with acid-free archival tissue paper in sealed polyethylene bags.  See the Storage section for further information.
  • Chemical Dips - Chemical silver dips are harmful to your health, and are best not used.  They also remove oxidization which has been deliberately applied by the silversmith to highlight details in the piece.  Do not use a chemical silver dip if your piece contains: wood, bone, stainless steel (ie knife blades), niello, bronze or your piece has sealed hollow areas such as hollow handles and candlesticks, as the chemical dip can get leak inside.  If you are going to use them, ALWAYS  wear nitrile gloves and work in a ventilated area.  It is easy to forget that the skin absorbs everything it comes into contact with and transfers it to other organs of the body.  Wearing gloves stops chemicals being transferred to your blood system. Also, Chemical dips are too toxic to use on pieces which are used for food such as teapots, flatware and serving pieces.  The state of California has determined that many chemical dips cause cancer.
  • Electrochemical Cleaning - Traditional manual silver polishing works much better than this method.  Electrochemical cleaning, where your silver is placed in a warm solution of sodium carbonate on an aluminum plate, only removes light tarnishing, and the process encourages acceleration of tarnishing once the object has been cleaned.  The solution can also leak into hollow areas.  Your silver can be scratched coming into contact with the plate, and if the plate is not cleaned regularly, the object being cleaned will be pitted.  All good reasons for opening the tried and trusted jar of silver cream instead.  Conservators are fond of this method, but they have very elaborate professional equipment, very different from the plate we put in our kitchen sink. 



Perhaps you wish to store your favorite flatware service for once-a-year use only, or save a special family piece for when a child comes of age.  In this case, you can create your own archival quality environment fairly cheaply and easily in your own home.

If you need to store pieces for a long time, the best storage method is to:

  1. Wearing cotton gloves, wrap the freshly cleaned pieces individually in acid free, archival tissue paper.  Jewelry supply stores sell special anti-tarnish tissue paper which is perfect for this.  You can use individual tarnish-absorbing cloths in place of tissue paper, such as Pacific Silvercloth, which will also offer more protection against accidental scratching while in storage.  These cloths come in different sizes to suit your needs.  Newspaper, plastic wrap, or paper which contains acid IS NOT a suitable alternative, as they will cause discoloration which will have to be professionally removed. 
  2. Put these wrapped pieces in sealed polyethylene bags such as Ziploc.  
  3. Put in a safe, non-humid environment where it will not be dropped, banged or get wet.  If you wish so put silver in a box, make sure it is acid free, and mark it  so people know what is in it and don't mistreat it at any time.

If you are going to use your silver regularly, but wish to store them in a safe place and keep them free from tarnish between uses, store your newly cleaned pieces individually in a soft anti-tarnish bags in a drawer or cupboard.  You might like to attach  hand-made labels on string with a pin to the outside of the bag, so you can easily see what's inside.  ("Sauce Boat", "Serving Ladle", "Trifle Dish" etc. ) Flatware can be placed carefully in a cloth-lined drawer without bags, just make sure they are stable and do not bang against one another. 




Cleaning tiny pieces requires special adaptations, which are suggested below:

Using a polishing cloth impregnated with rouge is by far the easiest method for cleaning your miniature silver.  These can be bought from many stores, and you simply take the cloth and rub your silver with it gently and consistently, in a side-to-side motion.  Each piece needs about 4-7 seconds work, and this is usually only needed twice a year.  For tough tarnish stains, or a gentle Sunday afternoon diversion,  the following 6 steps can be taken to clean miniature silver:

  2. Rinse the pieces one by one in a bowl of warm water or under the tap and place on the side. (removes pollution and dirt - you do not want to rub this into the surface of your silver and scratch it).  Do not be tempted to rinse them all together, as they will bump up against one another and scratch.
  3. Apply silver polish  with a moist sponge, soft baby toothbrush or cotton bud. Polish silver in an up and down  or side-to-side motion and be consistent.    Do not rub the silver in a circular motion!  The abrasive particles in your tarnish remover will leave a circular pattern behind.
  4. Rinse Sponge/toothbrush or change cotton bud regularly.  Use only a little polish with each application.
  5. When finished, Rinse each piece separately in a bowl of warm water or under the tap and place on the side.
  6. Dry and gently buff each piece immediately with a soft, lint-free cloth. If the surface is still dull, buff again with a cloth impregnated with rouge. 



Silver Strips - 3M and other companies produce anti-tarnish strips which are designed to be placed in an inconspicuous place and absorb the gases which cause silver to tarnish.

Pack of  Silica crystals  - these tiny packets  absorb humidity which can cause tarnish.  Alternatively, use a silica gel canister.



Dried polish in hard to reach areas

Use a wet toothbrush brush briskly and gently, and the end of a wet toothpick can help.

Black tarnish will not come off 

Heavy Tarnish that will not remove with an abrasive cream like Bon Ami  is probably firescale, found in some older pieces, and is permanent to the piece.   You may wish to get professional advice on this.

Flatware Has Black Stains After Use

Certain foods such as eggs and onions very quickly tarnish and even corrode your silver.  Make sure you wash it with a phosphate-free detergent within a few hours of finishing the meal, and try and soak immediately after the meal.  This will avoid unsightly tarnish after your use your flatware.

Removing Tea & Coffee Stains

It is wonderful if you use your silver tea service enough to build up a stain on the inside.  Many people will argue that this stain improves the taste of the tea or coffee, and should be there, but if you wish to remove it, of course you may, especially if you are in the habit of changing the type of tea or coffee you drink.  In China, they have different tea pots  for different types of tea, as the blend of one tea can contaminate the subtlety of another.  Yes, I'm giving you a legitimate excuse to buy a set of O'Meara Sterling Tea Services.  

Do not be tempted to use a more abrasive silver cleaner to remove  stubborn tea and coffee stains, as this will only leave tiny scratches and encourage future stains to become even more engrained.  Instead, a good solution is to use Wrights Silver Cream and a sponge and clean in the usual way, or if you cannot fit your hand inside, devise a swab of some sort.  (We keep a tall wooden spoon with a sponge tied to it in a drawer at home for this very purpose.)  To remove stains from the spout, try applying the cream on a cotton bud or a home-made swab (flexibly wire wrapped completely in a soft cotton cloth with a loop at one end works very well.)  Remember to rinse well as this will be used for food stuffs.

For very stubborn tea and coffee stains, you may need to try filling the interior with warm water and adding 5-minute denture cleaning tablet.  Let this do its stuff for 10 minutes, then rinse.  You'll need one tablet per 2 cups of water to do a proper job.  The stain will now be completely removed by finishing with a wet brush along the sides and bottom and giving it a final rinse.  Only use this method if the first method does not work.

Salt Shaker has Black spots

Salt is very corrosive to silver, which is why many pinch salts and shakers are either lined or gold-plated.  If your  shaker has silver directly exposed to salt, it is best to empty and clean tit after every use, and store empty, to avoid unsightly black corrosion spots which occur.

Removing black corrosion spots can be done in three simple steps:

  1. In a well ventilated area, and wearing nitrile gloves, fill a container with ammonia, and place inside your empty salt shaker.  Put a lid on and check the progress of the stain removal every 10 minutes.  If, after 30 minutes, the corrosion still remains, your shaker will have to be professionally cleaned.
  2. If your shaker has turned slightly grey from the ammonia, clean the inside and outside  in the usual way with an cleaner for heavy tarnish removal (such as Bon Ami or Hagerty's Silvermsiths' Wash)
  3. Buff with a rouge cloth

How to remove wax from candlesticks

  1. The best and least messy method is to use a common household hairdryer to melt the wax just enough so that wipes away with a cloth or kitchen towel.  In tight areas, wrap the cloth around your finger or use a cotton swab.  This is a very swift, easy  and efficient method, and is great for candlesticks which are weighted.  Do not get the silver too hot with the hairdryer as excessive heat can damage  lacquered pieces. 
  2. Alternatively,  you can put the candlestick in the freezer for 20 minutes and chip the wax away with a plastic knife.  A metal knife will scratch the silver.  Do not put weighted candlesticks in the freezer, but instead use the first method.

Did you know that "dripless candles" are now produced?  These wonderful inventions and have avoided many spoilt tablecloths.



Purchase of the following items will keep you  stocked for any silvercare eventuality for the next few years, and should cost around $30.00 or less.

For Cleaning:  

  • Wrights Silver Cream 
  • Pack soft cellulose sponges (for use with Wrights cream, but one comes in pot)
  • Pack soft lint-free cloths (to buff silver and remove cream)
  • Toothbrush (used wet to remove dried cream in intricate areas)
  • Wooden spoon for tea and coffee pot interiors.  Tie sponge to wooden spoon with string.
  • Cotton swabs - short and long (for hard to reach areas and coffee spouts)
  • Silver polishing cloth impregnated with rouge (for buffing and great for miniatures)
  • Ammonia (for getting corrosion stains off salt cellars)
  • Nitrile Gloves (for handling Chemical Silver Dip and ammonia)

For Storage:

  • Ziploc bags
  • Roll of anti-tarnish tissue paper
  • Cotton gloves
  • Individual anti-tarnish cloth bags in varying sizes (optional)



Website Designed by H Jnr.

Valid HTML 4.0 Transitional