1. Archive

Cleaning and polishing metal items

(ran HC edition)

You can choose from a variety of commercial metal polishes, or even make your own, to bring back the sparkle in copper, brass, pewter or silver.

Here are some cleaning and polishing tips:

Most commercial polishes contain tarnish retardants, so they help maintain a shine as well as remove tarnish.

To avoid damaging the finish, choose a polish designed especially for the metal that needs cleaning.

Buff or wash away all polish. Any remaining traces will hasten tarnishing.


Fine silver should be used frequently, not packed away for special occasions. Constant use enhances its beauty.

As soon as silver flatware has been cleared from the table, wash it in hot sudsy water, then rinse it in clear hot water.

To prevent water-spotting, don't allow silverware to air-dry. Dry with a lint-free towel.

Antique or oxidized silverware may not be dishwasher-safe. Hot water can loosen hollow handles on antique (or even modern) flatware.

Dip polishes will also remove an oxidized pattern. Use a commercial cream or paste polish.

The outer layer of a silver-plated item is soft and thin. Avoid harsh rubbing and frequent polishing. Use a dip polish instead.

Brass and Copper

Don't use polish of any type on lacquered objects. Wash them in lukewarm sudsy water, rinse, dry and buff with a soft cloth.

For unlacquered bright finishes, wash in hot sudsy water and rinse. Apply brass or copper polish with a soft cloth or brush. Let the polish dry thoroughly, then buff with a clean, soft cloth.

For dull finishes, mix rottenstone and linseed oil (available from hardware stores) to form a heavy cream. Apply with a soft cloth and rub vigorously. Wipe off the excess, then polish with a clean, soft cloth.