using & caring for silver every day

Marian ParsonsAntiques, Cleaning & care51 Comments

A couple of years ago, I decided I wasn’t going to keep my pretty things hidden in cabinets and drawers.  I was going to either use them or let them go.  Since I didn’t want to get rid of it, I decided I would use the silver pattern I inherited from my mom, Oma, and both great-grandmothers as our everyday flatware.


There are moments when I cringe at how expensive each piece is, but then I remember that is all the more reason to use it.


We use it just like any other flatware, but we do have two “rules”.

#1 – We wash it by hand most of the time.  

It can go in the dishwasher, but there is some debate as to whether that will affect the finish over time, so I would just rather be safe.  We have other things we hand-wash, like our pots, pans, sharp knives, etc., so it’s not a big deal to wash the flatware, too.  It does go in the dishwasher sometimes, but I think it’s what we do most of the time that matters.

#2 – We don’t take them outside of the house.  

I eat on-the-go more than anyone else in the family, so this rule mostly applies to me.  I keep a stash of plastic forks and spoons to take with me, so one of our pieces of silver doesn’t inadvertently get left somewhere.  So, obviously, I don’t put the flatware in the boys’ packed lunches.

Because we use them every day, they don’t need to be polished very often.  They need a little touch-up maybe once a year.


The fork tines seem to show the most tarnish.  For those, I use Goddard’s Silver Dip.


This isn’t a sponsored post, but I can say that it’s the most magical silver cleaner for flatware that I’ve used.  I don’t know how it works on pieces that are really tarnished, but for some moderate discoloration, you just dip it in for a couple of seconds, lift it out, and it’s perfectly shiny.


You can really see how discolored your flatware is when you put one that is polished against one that isn’t.


Since it’s just a small container, I used it only for fork tines and spoons.  (Spoon heads?  Spoon bowls?  Not sure what that part of the spoon is called.)

For knives and large pieces, I use Goddard’s Silver Foam.  This takes a little more elbow grease, but it cleans pieces nicely and it doesn’t scratch the silver.


I don’t love polishing silver, but as I said, I only need to do it about once a year, so it’s worth it to me.


And, as I’m polishing, it reminds me of the women I inherited these pieces from.  My Oma, particularly.  She was not much of a housekeeper, but she loved polishing her silver.  My mom would laugh as she told me, “The entire house could be a mess, but Oma would sit there polishing the silver.”

As I always do with these posts, I want to encourage you to use “the good stuff” every day.  If you don’t have any family or wedding sterling or silver plate, find a pattern you like and start collecting it piece by piece from antique stores, eBay, Etsy, estate sales, etc.

Oh, and since I’m always asked, my pattern is Repousse by Kirk Stieff, but I also have some pieces of Chrysanthemum mixed in (like the ornate spoons photographed above.)


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

using & caring for silver every day

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51 Comments on “using & caring for silver every day”

  1. This is the same pattern as my sterling. I love it, but I’ve never thought of using it everyday- what a great suggestion!! I may try it!

  2. Many years ago I too decided to use all my “nice” stuff for everyday. I don’t wait for company. Why not treat yourself like company. Your silver is magnificent! I too like polishing silver. Instant success. Have tried many polishes but like Goddard’s Silver Foam the best. iIt is creamy not stiff and I believe it retards tarnish too.

  3. I inherited a few stray pieces of Repousse (so I’m biased); I think it’s so lovely. I also think your using her silver daily honors your Oma in the most beautiful of ways.

  4. I have Stief Rose, mine and my mom’s, used every dinner, goes in the dishwasher. I just polish if it tarnishes. Don’t let it touch stainless.i love the monogram on the back of yours.

    1. I wrote a similar post about why I use my fine silver every day, but this post was more about the maintenance of it.

  5. I have a similar suggestion for those who have a Christmas china pattern. Instead of saving it just for the holiday meal, pull it out and use it every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Maybe I’m showing my age here, am I the only reader who has a china pattern specifically for Christmas?

    1. Linda,
      My wife has an inexpensive set bought one year on the clearance table. It was 4 – 4 piece settings for $5.00, so she bought 4 of them and we love using them at every get-together from day after Thanksgiving thru the new year. 10 years and counting. We use the large set of white with gold edge set inherited from mom for serving pieces and dessert plates.


    2. Linda,

      My sister and I use Cuthbertson Christmas china. When our mother passed away we divided her set.
      It’s the prettiest classic pattern found anywhere!

  6. No you aren’t, Linda, we use and love our Spode Christmas Tree! It is my kids’ favorite sign that the holidays are on the way. And, Marian, your family pattern is just lovely. I was fortunate enough to inherit my beloved Aunt Lou’s Reed & Barton Francis I and it is one of my favorite possessions. I, however, am not brave enough to use it every day like you. I have fished too many (everyday flatware) forks out of the garbage as my kids accidentally toss them out with the food scraps when they empty their plates.

  7. Beautiful. I’ve always been told not to put the knives in the dishwasher because they aren’t one solid piece like the rest. But better yet don’t put any in the dishwasher as I believe they tarnish faster.

    1. I was told that as well about hollow handled knives. I have my Mom’s set of William and Mary, most of which were purchased in the 40’s and wouldn’t chance putting them in the dishwasher.

  8. I think it’s a great idea to use them everyday. My mother’s and grandmother’s sets are both plate, but I still love using them. I notice that nowadays one can pick up whole sets of silver plate at estate sales cheaply. It rather breaks my heart that most people don’t seem to want them.
    If I had solid sterling I’d be in heaven.

  9. Since you first posted about this, I have put aside the stainless and am using my mother’s Gorham Etruscan every day. It is lovely, and makes every meal feel special. We don’t have a garbage disposal, so that cuts down my anxiety about mishaps!

  10. I have a set of silver plate from my husband’s grandmother. I hate to say it, but she gave it to us when we married and it’s been in a box for 40 years, except when I’be taken out pieces for my daughters’ wedding receptions. I need new everyday flat wear and I could use my company set and make the silver the setvI use for company. But here’s my question: I have Fiestaware and a set of white dishes and a set of “china” (not an expensive set). Will my silver look OK with those dishes? I have company fairly often and use all three sets for different kinds of meals. So what do you think? You’ve inspired me to get it out and stop saving it for one of my girls to leave in a box for 40 years, too.

    1. I love polishing silver also. I have a beautiful set of Lunt silver that I love. It really goes with everything.
      I am especially fond of your Chrysanthemum. Glad you are hand washing, it turns a little yellow with repeated dishwasher use.
      Love the spirit!

  11. Check on eBay for silver. Plate especially is quite cheap. I got 12 place settings, serving pieces, and a box to fill in my mom’s plate to use for everyday – and it was under $100. And I too, love using pieces with memories attached. Somehow the silver just seems to go with all the china – plain white, handmade pottery and Christmas!

  12. My mom recently passed away, and my dad just gave me her wedding silver. I can count on one hand the number of times she pulled it out over the decades. Even though it’s not my style (mid-century and rather small in scale), I plan to dedicate a drawer to it and begin using it frequently. I have two daughters who will someday inherit it from me. I hope they will remember her (and me) each time they use it.

  13. I have the exact silver handed down to me as well! It belonged to my Great Aunt. I love using it too! I polish mine by lining a sink with foil and then adding 1/4-1/2 cup of powdered Tide and hot water. I let the silver soak for 10-15 minutes. It comes out polished! Then, I just simply rinse and hand dry them. I do all of my silver twice a year in a matter of minutes!

    1. What’s the purpose of the foil? To keep the silverware from touching a stainless steel sink? So if I’m hand-washing it for daily use, I can’t let it touch my sink bottom? I’m confused.

      1. A chemical reaction happens between the silver, Tide-though baking soda is the usual ingredient, and the foil that actually removes some of the silver and with it, the the tarnish. Everything I’ve read recommends that we don’t use this or any of the silver dips because it is very easy to remove too much of the silver plate, which is very thin. I’ve only used these methods on very heavily tarnished silver. I once bought a tea set that was absolutely black with tarnish-a result of never begin used-and ended up using a silver dip to help remove the worst of it followed by a traditional silver polish. I did end up with a couple of spots of exposed metal where the silver was eaten away but I was pleased in the end.

  14. I love that you use your family’s silver everyday! Thank you for the polish recommendation. We have heirloom silver as well and I’ve been looking for a good tarnish remover. Can’t wait to try it!

  15. I collect Victorian-era silver — the big old pieces no one uses anymore — and they are on display, so almost constant silver-polishing is a reality at our house (and not one of my favorite chores). I would urge you a) not to put your sterling-handled knives in the dishwasher EVER, and b) if you do put sterling spoons/forks in the dishwasher, to be sure they do not touch any steel flatware. There are several brands of “tine cleaner” that work well, and several brands of excellent silver polish, but hand rubbing/cleaning with a low-abrasive polish is really the key to creating and maintaining a lovely patina. I’m sure you know, but I’d like to add that one should NEVER use a “dip” or the tarnish-removing method involving aluminum foil and baking soda (which will remove all the darkness in the crevices of the pattern, which serve to accept the design).

  16. I love using my silver. It was my mother’s. We were very poor but had fine china and silver, always kept hidden away to use for “good”. I still tend to do that. It’s a shame to not use the beautiful things we have and hard to remember to do so. I think I will use my china for Thanksgiving this year. And, BTW, I like polishing silver as well.

    1. It’s kinda fun to polish silver if you can set aside the time to do it in a quiet kitchen with Christmas music (if it’s that time of year) playing! Sets the mood! Love, love my silver!

  17. Marian – I love this post and your silver….I joined the Use Your Silver Every Day Club and I never looked back…your pattern is beautiful. I use a crazy mix of patterns and the girls like to decide who gets which piece when they set the table. 🙂 Because it’s used every day, it doesn’t tarnish that easily. I will have to try your polish recommendation. When I first starting using the “good stuff” I found that the plate scrappers were inadvertently throwing the pieces in the trash…Ugh…Guess you don’t happen to have a tip for that? 🙂

    1. Oh, those plate scrapers! My sterling baby spoon was mistakenly tossed into the trash after my first grandchild ate from it one Sunday. 🙁 When we discovered it missing, it was too late. Sure made me sad, but it couldn’t be helped. I used my sterling, my mother-in-law’s sterling and my mother’s vintage silver-plate at my son’s wedding rehearsal dinner. I had written down the # of items used and thankfully insisted that the garbage not be put out until I inventoried the pieces. There would’ve been several pieces gone!

  18. Two things: About the dishwasher, I ruined a serving spoon about a hundred years ago by putting it in the dishwasher with stainless. Where the sterling rested against the piece of stainless during the cycle, the silver was ruined. I later learned that there is a disclaimer on the dishwasher packaging that warns against mixing sterling with stainless. Lesson learned.

    Also, I have my own flatware, but also have what was left to me by my husband’s mother (it’s also engraved on the back – a very common practice in the early 20th century, I think). Don’t remember where I saw/heard it, but I keep about a dozen pieces of sidewalk chalk inside the drawer with my sterling and it prevents tarnish!

    My mother always saved things for company/good. Then she died at 38 years old. My father remarried 3 yrs. later. Yep!!! Stepmom found the stash. We kids were horrified when we came home from school and found S-mom drying her dog with the “good” towels. (mom did NOT like dogs either).
    I learned right then and there…..USE it if you love it!!!! ENJOY it. Life is short. Stuff is meant to be used and enjoyed.

  20. You made my day! Exquisite. Marion, did you get my email about water coloring, the second Sat in Nov?

  21. My aunt gave me a set of four Williamsburg mugs about 25 years ago. I was “saving them” for special occasions. About 5-6 years ago, I decided that I would use them every day. Every day when I reach for one, I think of her and I appreciate them so much more. They are nice and they also remind me of our relationship. She knew I liked a certain style and was always right on with her Christmas gifts. When she got on Facebook a couple of years ago, I told her of my decision and that I was using them daily and thinking about her. She was very pleased. So glad I did it. I still haven’t gone to using my inherited silver every day, but it’s more because I am not wild about the pattern. It’s a Stieff pattern and very ornate, but my style is more streamlined. Decisions, decisions!

  22. Beautiful setting Marion! And such a timely post for me. We are remodeling our kitchen which wil give me a much more organized space and I thought I’d bring out the silver given to me by my grandmother. My dear Gram passed last year at 95 yo. I’ve had this set for probably twenty years and have never used it. It is ornate as well. It belonged to her mother. I’m anxious for the room to be done and will definitely be using it.

  23. I tend to not agree w/ur cleaning method of silver. Chemicals. Wash with soap and water in kitchen sink.
    Line the sink with aluminum foil run very warm water in onto and drop all sterling pieces in. Use a sponge on cloth after sitting for 1/2 hour to rub each in the water-you will be amazed how clean and shinny. Remove from sink hand dry/polish each dry.Done.
    I love your site and all that you do-such talent.

  24. Your silverware is THE most gorgeous pattern! I just inherited my mother in laws sterling silverware that she purchased piece by piece before she got married….will have to give some serious thought to using it everyday….make so much sense!

  25. I discovered sterling silver flatware at a local antiques show when I was in my 30s and began my collection then. Since then (I’m 66 now), I have also discovered vintage sterling/silver-plated trays, pitchers, and various hollowware items. I haven’t gotten comfortable with washing my flatware in the dishwasher, and actually enjoy the hand washing. My husband laughingly calls me “the miser” when I’m polishing silver, saying that’s what I make him think of. I find it a relaxing chore!. My favorite polish is Hagerty’s silver foam. It’s light and gentle. Clean the tarnish off the piece, then wash it in warm, soapy water for a beautiful shine.

  26. Marian, what a beautiful pattern your silver flatware has! Yummy! I have a set of silver plate that was my grandmother’s. We ate with it regularly at family gatherings and I confess, I don’t use it much for every day. I have stainless in a pattern that I really like, but I do get out the silver for family dinners. I guess I will try using it more often and thanks for the tips about the kind of silver cleaner/polish you like. I’ll go get some, cause I know I’ll need it!

  27. Hi Marian,

    Before the hubs and I got married, his mom kept telling me not to register for silver. She said no one ever uses it, or wants to clean it, and it was too expensive to ask for as a gift. She said she had plenty to hand down to us someday…

    A couple of years later, her daughter was getting married and she insisted that she register for her same pattern. She then gave all of her flatware to her – 2 complete sets of 8 place settings (16 total) plus 2 complete sets of all the serving pieces you can imagine!

    Thankfully, a Great-Aunt said she wanted to give us a spare set of flatware. She didn’t mention/know the name of the pattern that belonged to her late sister and I had no idea what it would look like but I really appreciated the thoughtful gesture. The set is incomplete but I’m so grateful it was your same lovely floral Repousse by Kirk Steiff!

    Thank you so much for reminding us to enjoy beautiful things everyday!

  28. Thank you so much for your post on caring for silver. This led me to finding a gorgeous repousse pastry server. I purchased it as a wedding present. Here is the cool part. I live in Brisbane Australia. I found the present in Pennsylvania, and it was sent to West Sussex in th UK. Your blog and inspiration makes the world a smaller place!

  29. Years ago Erma Bombeck, a wonderful humorous writer, spoke about just this topic! Use these wonderful possessions! NOW is the special occasion!

  30. I read some where that mustard seed helps silver from tarnishing. You just sprinkle them in the silver flatware drawer. I wonder if it is true. I heard the same about bay leaves too!

  31. Wow…gorgeous silver! Was googling to see if I will totally ruin the silverplated flatware I inherited from my mother in law, (brought from Germany) if we used it daily. Mind you, they did use it daily in the ’40’s, 50’s & 60’s.. Some does show some wear but still beautiful, but I am tired of saving it for who knows what. After reading this I packed the stainless away…might donate it. 🙂

    1. That is right! Use it every day! You don’t ruin it, but if any pieces are worn, at least it will be from lots of good use. 🙂

  32. I am planning to use my mother’s silver plate flatware for every day use. Is there anything to put in the flatware tray or drawer to keep it from tarnishing? I noticed the wood trays in your photo. Is wood better for silver?

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