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Cleaning partyware: Brass, Copper, Pewter, Silver and Stainless steel

Your partyware - brass, copper, pewter, silver, and stainless steel - each requires special care to look their best on your festive table.

First, however, you'll need to know a few basics for cleaning partyware safely.

Rinse your pieces under warm running water and use a mild soap such as dishwashing liquid to remove surface dirt. Resist the urge to submerge. Less is more with these precious metals!

Wear gloves to protect your hands from the metal polish and the metal from fingerprints. Cotton is best, but rubber works as long as you wash a new pair first. (Any sulfur that remains on the gloves could tarnish the silver.) 

Always test a small area first to make sure the polish is compatible with your piece before tackling the entirety. Finally, polish the utensils dry with a clean, lint-free rag such as an old T-shirt or well-worn towel. 

These tips for cleaning partyware by metal type can restore the lovely finish of special pieces.

Cleaning Partyware: Brass Basics

Place the tarnished brass item in a pot, pan, or plastic container. Cover it with ketchup, Tabasco sauce, or Worcestershire sauce. (Seriously!)

If you don't have these ingredients, try vinegar or lemon juice, both of which have the acidity to remove oxidation or tarnish.

Allow the brass to sit for two hours. Then scrub it with mild dishwashing liquid and a soft fingernail brush or toothbrush under cool running water.

Dry the brass with a smooth, lint-free cloth. To retard future tarnish, rub the bass with a cloth moistened with olive oil.

Cleaning Copper

Wash copper with soap and warm water, and polish it with a commercial copper polish such as Wright's Copper Cream following the label's directions.

Or make your own polish by moistening salt with vinegar or lemon juice to make a paste for a bright finish, or a paste of Rottenstone, (a soft, decomposed limestone that is used in powder form as a polishing material) and olive oil for a dull finish.

Here's an important tip: Never use your copper utensils or pans with copper interiors to store acidic foods such as fruits, salad dressings, tomatoes, or anything containing vinegar. 

Pewter Partyware

Cleaning partyware of pewter with rubbing alcohol will get rid of most of this metal's grime.

And it's a cinch to care for: It's supposed to look aged! The only major caveat for this very thin metal: Avoid serving acidic foods on your pewter, because they eat away the metal.

Spotless Silverware

Place a clean cotton tube sock on your polishing hand. Dampen the sock slightly under cool running water.

Squeeze a pearl-size drop of toothpaste on your "gloved" fingertip. Apply the toothpaste to the silver using up-and-down rather than circular strokes until the tarnish is gone.

Use a twisted bit of rag or a toothbrush to get between silverware tines and other tight spaces. Rinse the silver thoroughly and polish it dry with the clean, dry side of the sock.

Store silverware in an airtight plastic bag or a chest lined with tarnish-resistant flannel. Avoid serving sulfur-containing foods such as mayonnaise and eggs from your silver platters - they'll cause tarnishing. 

Stainless Steel

This material is aptly named, thankfully. It resists stains, but it can retain oily fingerprints. You can throw (or even gently place them) into your dishwasher.

If marks persist, wash stainless steel silverware by hand with phosphate-free dishwashing liquid to remove stains, or use club soda to remove streaks or heat stains,

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› Cleaning Party Ware