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Real Simple China & Silver Tips

The holidays will be here before you know it.

Under REAL SIMPLE magazine's mantra of making everything in life as easy as possible, Managing Editor Kristin van Ogrop tells The Early Show how to best clean all that fancy tableware you only pull out for the holiday season.

You may be surprised to discover that cleaning your crystal, china and silver is not as difficult as you once thought.


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Believe it or not, you don't have to dry each piece by hand! The key is in the rinsing. Most spots are the result of residual detergent; if you rinse thoroughly in warm water, you can let the stemware drip dry.

Another way to insure shiny glasses: Add a fourth to half of a cup of ammonia to your sink of warm water. Ammonia is harsh and can corrode metal, so don't use it on crystal with gold or silver leaf.

For stains like red wine dregs that have been left sitting, fill the glass with warm water and toss a denture-cleaning tablet into the water. As it dissolves, the stain will disappear.

No matter what you use to clean your crystal, be sure to set a rubber mat in the bottom of your sink first. Then, if glasses topple, they won't break.


The key to washing china is using hot, hot water - the hottest water you can stand. A temperature of less than 90 degrees will leave behind a greasy residue.

Also, try changing the water frequently as you wash. Because detergent breaks down the gunk on your plates, your job will be easiest if you always have a sinkful of suds.

To get rid of those pesky coffee and tea stains in your fine china, swish two tablespoons of vinegar around in the cup, then wash as usual. Vinegar acts as a bleaching agent.

Again, if you rinse well, you should not have to dry your china. If your dishrack doesn't hold all the dishes from your holiday feast, use your dishwasher as a drying rack.


Ah, the dreaded silver. Luckily, there are lots of products out there now that make polishing your flatware easier, if not painless. Try Twinkle Silver Polish ($4, It foams, and requires less elbow grease than other polishes.

If your silver is very intricate and you worry about polish getting stuck in your patterned handles, try Hagerty Silversmiths' Spray Polish ($13,

For last-minute touch ups, Hagerty also makes spot-polishing wipes. Very convenient!

Whatever you use to polish your silver, remember to apply it in long strokes - not circular motions, which can cause tiny abrasions.

After using your silverware, rinse as soon as possible with hot water - especially if your sterling was in contact with acidic foods such as salt, mayonnaise or eggs, which can discolor your silver. Wash in warm, soapy water and dry with a dry cotton cloth.

You'll find all the above tips helpful when handwashing your fine wares. In general, it's not recommended that you put your crystal, china or sterling silver in the dishwasher. However, if you absolutely insist on running dishes through the machine, take the following precautions:

  • Use less detergent than usual to help prevent erosion of the decorative details on your china.
  • Choose a powder detergent, which is gentler on china.
  • Separate your stainless and sterling flatware in the dishwasher - when metals mix, electrons move between the surfaces, causing etching or burning.

    During the holidays, even your everyday kitchen items may receive more of a workout than usual. REAL SIMPLE also has smart ideas for cleaning up these tools.


    After washing your wooden salad bowl and servers, dry them completely. Allowing water to sit on the wood may cause it to crack or warp.

    It's fine to use a sponge on your wooden kitchen items, but reach for a clean sponge or a soft-bristled brush when washing your wooden cutting board. This will prevent you from transferring bacteria from an older sponge to the crevices left on the board from cutting and chopping.

    To get tough stains off the board, rub a freshly cut lemon over the wood.


    If your pots and pains are plagued by tough grease, starch or mineral stains, try cleaning them with Bar Keepers Friend ($2.50 at supermarkets) - a nonabrasive, bleach-free powder. Sprinkle on the powder and add enough water to make the solution soupy, as opposed to pasty. Scrub and rinse.

    If you have copper pots, it will be more effective to mix equal parts flower and salt with enough vinegar to make a paste. Apply the paste to both the outside and inside of the pot, let it sit for ten minutes and rinse with hot water. You'll get a shiny pot, and the solution will release any grease or bacteria that seeped into the metal when it was hot.

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