One of the greatest challenges when cleaning a sterling silver bowl, teapot, compote, shaker, or kettle on stand, is cleaning it without damaging it. When the weight of the individual cleaning it is incorrectly applied to the piece, it can easily result in dents, or one area being pushed into the other.
Among the most vulnerable pieces are footed items, such as a sugar castor or a footed bowl, and raised pieces, such as a compote or trophy. If they are cleaned incorrectly, they can have damage ranging from a wobble, to pushed-in feet, to a completely tilted bowl. Sadly, some of these problems cannot be repaired, or, if repaired, have significant soldering lines. Certainly, the thick mid-century Gorham serving bowls, for instance, would be hard to dent on any occasion, but far less robust are the delicate walls of the sterling open work of turn-of-the century bowls and baskets.
One fabulous pointer for polishing silver is having leather on hand as a polishing tool. Leather can be purchased at a good fabric store. Its durability makes it a great choice. Cut the leather into several thin strips. For example: 1 ½ inches, ¾ inch, and ¼ inch wide. Apply some polishing cream on the strip’s center area if your piece does not already have polish on it.
The leather can be fished through a hole that has severe tarnish on all sides. For instance, try this method on large tea trays with open-work handles. In fact, this method of cleaning is remarkably rewarding for handles in general. Try it on teapot, kettle, and urn handles. Another common problem area these items have is on the main body of the pot, snug under the handle. Try out leather here also, wrapping the leather around the body and then rubbing it back and forth.
How about that awkward area between the finial and lid of your teapot? Some teapots have finials that easily detach, giving you the option of removing the finial to clean the teapot. Others have finials too risky to be removed. Try using a very thin strip of leather, wrapped around the small stem on the finial, and rub it back and forth.
Have a rattan handle you don’t want to get wet? You can use leather as an almost dry way to clean the hinges and body around your handle.
Leather is certainly an asset for safe hollowware cleaning.