- Use your silver. Active use and gentle cleansing prevent the build up of tarnish.
- Wash silver with mild soap and warm water. Dry completely with a soft cloth. Be careful not to leave moisture inside hollow items.
- When necessary, gently polish by using a mild silver polish, such as 3MT Tarnish Shield®, Goddard products or Hagarty products. Follow polishing by rinsing away any remaining polish with a mild soap and warm water.
- Silver polishing cloths, such as Birks Silver Polishing Cloth, are a gentle alternative for polishing.
- When tarnish first forms on silver, it may be yellow or gold colored. At this stage it is easily removed without polish. Simply wipe with a clean, soft cloth.
- Handle silver with clean hands, a clean, soft cloth or cotton gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints.
- Keep silver away from corrosive materials like acidic food, salt, newspaper, wool or rubber.
- Store silver items in soft cloth bags or wrapped in a soft cloth such as cotton flannel. Pacific Silvercloth® is a soft, specially treated fabric that greatly retards silver from tarnishing Usually sold by the yard, it is used to line drawers or boxes and to make bags.
- Another product, 3MT Silver Protector Strips®, will retard or even prevent tarnish when place is a drawer, box or bag with silver items.
John Karl Daniels, Minneapolis
with a clay model for the bronze statue
Leif Erikson to be on the State
Capitol grounds, about 1947
- When polishing is necessary, use the least abrasive polish that will do the job.
- Learn to distinguish active from inactive corrosion. Bronze, brass, copper and metal may have a natural patina that has built up over many years. Often this protects metal from damaging, active corrosion.Wipe these carefully with a damp cloth then wipe dry.
- Gold does not tarnish, so it only requires dusting or occasional wiping with a damp cloth.
- Bronze, brass, copper may have an applied patina or finish including gold plate, silver gilt or a gold varnish. Polishing may damage or destroy them, so check with an expert if you are not sure about your item.
- Pewter is metallic grey in color and can be mistaken for silver. The natural patina that forms on pewter is not a problem and should be preserved, so dust or occasionally wipe with a damp cloth and dry thoroughly.
- In general, refrain from cleaning coins. To remove dirt, wash in warm water with a mild soap and a soft brush. Rinse in distilled water and then soak in alcohol.
- Handle valuable coins only when necessary. Use clean cotton gloves.
- Store valuable coins in archival materials, such as polyester sleeves, polyethylene bags, or polyester or acrylic boxes.
- Curatorial Care of Firearms, Minnesota History Interpreter Tech Talk, September 1998. (pdf)
- Conservation Treatments of Firearms, Minnesota History Interpreter Tech Talk, December 1998. (pdf)
- How to Care for Silver Canadian Conservation Institute
- How to Care for Brass, Copper and Bronze Canadian Conservation Institute
- How to Care for Iron Objects Canadian Conservation Institute
This handout is being distributed by the Conservation Outreach Program of the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) as a public service. The distribution of this handout does not constitute a recommendation by MHS of any specific vendor or their products, nor will MHS assume liability for products supplied by a vendor. Each application must be evaluated individually and materials selected that best suit the condition of the object and how it is to be used. If you have questions about a particular application, treatment, or service, please contact the MHS Conservation Outreach program at: 651-259-3465, 1-800-657-3773, FAX at 651-296-9961 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.