Minnesota History Center
345 W. Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102
Hours and Admissions

Metallic Objects


La Belle
  • 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.

Other Metals

John Karl Daniels, Minneapolis sculptor, with a clay model for the bronze statue of Leif Erikson to be on the State Capitol grounds, about 1947.  Photographer: Reed.  MHS Collections, Location no. N1.1 p57 Negative no. 38897
John Karl Daniels, Minneapolis sculptor,
with a clay model for the bronze statue
of 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.

Other Resources

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 conservationhelp@mnhs.org.