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Party pieces

(article, Melanie Mesaros)

With the holiday party season over, it’s time to put away those serving pieces that showed off your homemade cobblers and casseroles so nicely. But please, don't just stack them at the back of a cabinet. Take the time now to care for your flatware and china, so you can use them at future holiday festivities.

Substances such as egg, lemon, mayonnaise, and salt will discolor silver. When it starts to lose its luster, silver will appear yellowish or darkened by tarnish. Without regular polishing, you can damage pieces. About.com spells out the steps for proper polishing, advising washing pieces by hand in hot water and using a silver polish, such as Wright’s Silver Cream, to wipe away tarnish. Because rubber can also react adversely with silver, wear plastic gloves while polishing.

Silver that is bent, broken, or damaged should be cared for by a professional. Estes-Simmons in Atlanta, Georgia, has been restoring family treasures for 100 years. They recommend only re-plating or repairing pieces that were made before the 1940s, because most items manufactured in the last 20 years are of questionable quality. 

When it comes to storing silver, look for a material called Pacific Silver Cloth, which is especially designed for keeping silver safe. The cloth can be used to line drawers or made into pouches or wraps.

Unlike silver, which requires quite a bit of maintenance, fine china is relatively easy to care for. For newer pieces of china, patterns and colors are fired into the glaze, which means they won’t fade with repeated washings. Some manufacturers, such as Lenox, say it’s even safe to wash pieces in the dishwasher:

bq. Load china securely on racks so that the pieces do not touch, and so they won't be dislodged by water action. Ensure that the dishwasher is in good working condition and has no exposed metal racks. Also ensure that metal objects (pots, pans, utensils) do not come in contact with the china. Use a mild wash cycle, and let pieces cool before removing.”

One exception to the dishwasher rule is if your china has metal or gold plating. Abrasive scrubbing can wear away the finish. 

When clean and dry, stack your china pieces with some sort of cushion between each piece to prevent scratching. Napkins and coffee filters work nicely.