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How to Clean Silver Candlesticks

Kathy Adams
Chemicals in the air, on skin and household materials contribute to tarnishing.

Silver candlesticks are the type of possession that you may stash away in a cabinet for a while until a special occasion comes along. They may be forgotten until it's time for that holiday gathering ... and then you notice the tarnish. It doesn't take much for silver to get tarnished or to need a good cleaning: Chemicals in the air can cause tarnishing, as can paper, rubber, wool or even oils left behind from hands touching the candlesticks. Cleaning silver keeps it looking shiny and elegant, but you should do it only when necessary, as each cleaning removes a bit of silver from the surface.

Step 1

Wash a dirty silver candlestick completely with a damp sponge dipped into warm water containing a squirt of dishwashing soap. Avoid getting water onto any non-silver areas of the candlestick, such as a wooden decorative piece or the felt pad on the bottom that may hold water and cause tarnishing over time. Rinse the sponge and wipe the candlestick down again with a sponge. Dry the candlestick with a cotton cloth.

Step 2

Rub dirt or tarnish off of grooves and details on the candlestick using cotton swabs. Press a toothpick into fine details such as engraving to remove buildup left even after washing. Remove loose debris with a soft artist's or makeup brush.

Step 3

Remove candle wax by using your fingernail rather than a sharp object. If the wax is hard to remove, warm the wax with a hair dryer, then blot most of it up with a cotton cloth. Repeat the heating, blotting and scraping process with your fingernail until the wax is gone.

Step 4

Clean and buff the candlestick by applying a dab of silver polish to a damp, soft cotton cloth. Frequently alter the areas of the cloth used to avoid rubbing previously removed dirt or debris back onto the candlestick. Rinse off the polish right away and dry the candlestick thoroughly with a soft cotton cloth.


Wear cotton gloves during general handling of silver candlesticks to prevent skin oils from interacting with the silver and causing eventual tarnish.


During long-term storage, wrap silver candlesticks in acid-free archival paper to prevent tarnish. Other papers may cause a reaction with the silver, resulting in tarnish.


A non-abrasive toothpaste, rubbed onto the silver with a soft cloth, is another safe cleaning method for silver. Rinse the silver under warm water afterwards, drying with a soft cloth.


Some strong silver cleaning and polishing products contain hazardous chemicals such as petroleum distillates. Check any silver-cleaning products for warning or the word "danger" on the labels to find out if yours contains harmful substances. Safer alternatives do not have "danger" on their labels.