How to Clean Silverware

Through constant use, your stainless steel forks, knives and spoons can become dull and spotted, even if they’re washed regularly by hand or in the dishwasher. Fortunately, there are things you can do to get them really clean and looking their best again. Got to impress the neighbors at dinner parties after all.

Before you worry about the spots and streaks, you have to get the silverware clean in the first place. There are two ways to do this: by hand or with the help of the dishwasher.

How to Wash Silverware by Hand

Cleaning your silverware by hand takes basically the same process as that of washing all other dishes. Fill the sink with warm (not scalding) water, stop it up, and add a squirt or two of dish soap made for hand washing. Be especially conscious of the water temperature if your silverware has plastic handles. You don’t want them to detach or melt.

To protect your family’s health, you may want to use an all-natural dish soap, such as Method dish soap. Check your local grocery or health food store for similar products. Do not use harsh cleaners, such as those that contain bleach, on your utensils.

Mix the soap and water with your hands to create a uniform solution. (You can wear rubber gloves if you want to to protect your hands from the water or the knives). Then put the silverware in the water and give it a good scrubbing with a clean sponge. To remove tough particles, let the silverware soak in the water for about 10 minutes. Avoid scrubbing it with anything too coarse (steel wool pad, your fingernails) since you don’t want to scratch the finish. You can always soak it for longer than 10 minutes if you need to.

Once you’re done washing the silverware, rinse it off with lukewarm water and dry it with a dish towel. When it’s completely dry, you can put it back in the drawer or wherever you want to store it for its next use.

How to Wash Silverware in the Dishwasher

The most important detail to remember about washing your silverware in the dishwasher is to pick off any excess food or sauce with your hands or a sponge before you put it in the machine. Just give them a quick rinse and scrub in the sink. You don’t want these substances sitting on the flatware until you run the next load of dishes, especially if that won’t be the same day. Foods such as tomatoes and some condiments can eat away at the silverware’s finish if they are left to sit.

Once you’re done rinsing off the food and condiments, place your silverware in the cutlery bin of your dishwasher with the head side pointed down. ((If you have actual silver silverware to wash as well, it’s recommend that you wash it in a separate load.) Run the dishwasher as normal when it’s full. Try to use a gentle dishwasher soap. Acidic cleaners, such as those with citrus cents, should be avoided to protect your flatware. If your silverware is delicate, turn the heat for the drying cycle off.

After you’ve run the dishwasher, make sure that the silverware is completely dry before you put it away. If it’s not dry when you remove it from the machine, give it a good rubdown with a kitchen towel, or a paper towel can do in a pinch. Putting the flatware away while it’s wet could lead to streaks, not to mention, a mildewy silverware drawer.

Removing Streaks and Spots from Silverware

The main problem you probably have with keeping your stainless steel flatware looking its best is streaks and spots on the surface, which stubbornly remain even after it is clean. These spots can be caused by mineral deposits in the water from hand-washing or from the dishwasher, or they may be present if you didn’t listen to the above advice and put the silverware away wet anyway.
A good way to remove streaks from silverware is to dip a rag or kitchen towel in olive oil and rub the surface of the utensil with it. You only need about a teaspoon of olive oil to dip the rag in it. Douse your silverware in the stuff and you’ll have another cleaning nightmare on your hands. Be sure to rinse and dry the silverware before you put it away.

Not brave enough to try to wipe your silverware down with olive oil? You can use vinegar instead. This miracle cleaning solution can also be applied directly to the silverware via a rag or towel. Just put about a cup of vinegar in a bowl and dip the rag in it as needed. The rag needn’t be dripping wet, just damp. No water is necessary for this process; you want to use the vinegar straight. However, you’ll probably want to rinse the flatware off before using it again, or you food may taste a little more acidic than you’re used to.

One final way to remove spots and streaks is to use club soda, another basically universal cleaning agent. Just follow the steps above, substituting the club soda for the vinegar.

Don’t like any of these ideas? Then use a cleaner made exclusively for stainless steel. You can find one of these at your local hardware store. Or, if your silverware is rusty, try a metal polish.

Keeping Your Silverware Clean

Rinsing it after each use is the most important advice for keeping your silverware in good condition over the long term. Also, kick rust to the curb as soon as you see it; otherwise, it could get worse and do some serious damage.

With proper care, your stainless steel silverware should last for several years. It’s quite hardy for a little dish if you treat it right.


  1. Clark says:

    Hey Guys,

    I was setting the table for Turkey Day and couldn’t believe how many water spots were on the silverware I had just run through the dishwasher. I tried vinegar like this blog recommended and it worked great! It took all of the spots off in a matter of minutes!

    Happy Turkey Day,

  2. Razz says:

    If egg, cheese, or any other hard-to-remove substance dries on your forks, soak the tines for 5 minutes or so in hot water & dish soap, then take a plastic mesh scrubber and poke the tines in & out a few times. Cleans between the tines beautifully!

  3. Karen says:

    I have a beautiful silverware set, but it was very inexpensive and is not silver-plate or stainless. It has been dipped in some kind of a coating that makes it lovely, but now spots have occurred on especially the spoons. I have always washed it by hand and would appreciate any tips for cleaning. It seems to me it could have been “dipped” in a coating of some sort.

  4. Peter says:

    If you put away the utensils, such as knives and forks, while still wet without wiping them individually, can this lead to the spreading of a communal virus/disease?

  5. Carole says:

    I just cleaned with Cerama Bryte, which I use for my flat stove top and it didn’t clean that great. Put some Comet on the little pad I use on the stove, gave a little rub, washed, and it came out beautiful.

  6. Jose says:

    I have many scratches on my Oneida flatware spoons, knives, etc. I imagine that this is from other silverware being placed on top. Is there anything I can do to eliminate these scratches? Please advise.

  7. Melanie says:

    This is the article that you need: How to Remove Scratch Marks from Stainless Steel.

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