Madeleine Winnett lets you in on a trophy cleaning secret
I have decided I am domestically challenged. I like to think I have lots of skills – I’m OK on the piano and the guitar, I can hold a tune if it comes to singing in public, and I’m pretty nifty with a pencil if you want a work of art cloning. (I can also copy anybody’s signature, but that’s another story!) However, being a domestic goddess doesn’t come naturally to me. In fact, it doesn’t come at all.
So, when I heard a handy tip on the telly for cleaning silver that was supposed to be completely effortless, my ears immediately pricked up. Silver is lovely when it’s all glittery and shiny, but it is a pain in the neck to keep it looking that way. So I don’t!
Actually, that’s not entirely true, because when I have to return any trophies I may have won to the golf club for the annual presentations, in order to save embarrassment when they are re-presented, I do dig out the rather unpleasant blue cloth which seems to do the trick, but turns your fingers black at the same time.
Fiddly things are even worse, and as they are non returnable, they don’t even receive the annual cursory treatment.
Take medal spoons, for example. Now, I don’t know what you do with yours, but mine are Blu-Tacked to the wall. Bearing in mind that I have now been playing golf for nearly 30 years, I seem to have acquired a few, and I had no idea what to do with them. Apparently, silver is the most reflective element, reflecting 95 per cent of the visible light spectrum – but not in my bedroom!
I’ve never had a coffee morning, and even to me, it would seem a little pretentious to invite people round just so you could place the fruits of your glory days on their saucers. A dinner party would be even better, to slip a few spoons surreptitiously into the condiments, but as I can’t cook, that’s out.
So, I began Blu-Tacking them in a neat line along the wall of my bedroom a long time ago, and they have stayed there ever since, occasionally being added to.
In a forensic study very similar to the ones pathology students are treated to in examining different stages of bodily deterioration according to time, I am now an expert in determining what happens to silver over the years when it isn’t cleaned. It begins to look a little tarnished, then it goes a progressively darker shade of brown, before finally going black.
And I mean really black.
Now, I don’t know what you do with yours, but mine are Blu-Tacked to the wall Naturally, this look has never impressed my mother, who likes everything to look immaculate at all times, but it never seemed to offend me. I could spend hours fretting over the fact that the greens were too slow, or that someone left a rake on a downslope in a bunker giving me a ridiculous lie, but I’ve never managed to lose sleep over an undone domestic chore.
However, when I flicked through the TV channels aimlessly one day and discovered the answer to silver cleaning, I couldn’t wait to give it a try. The presenters made it look ridiculously easy, and I knew the method would never face a sterner test than my blackened spoons, so off I went to prise a couple off my wall to see if it did work.
The only flaw in my plan was that I had forgotten that ancient Blu-Tack sets like concrete when it lies undisturbed for years, and thus it has a habit of removing wallpaper at the same time as itself!
Undeterred, I separated silverware, adhesive and bits of wall, and began with a trial of three spoons to see how it would go. I am not going to take responsibility for anyone’s priceless antiquities dissolving away if you decide to try this, but for anyone out there who fancies a go, this is what I learned:
Line a plastic box (an added benefit of takeaways and microwave meals!) with tin foil. Add hot water and salt. Actually, I have forgotten how much salt, because when it started to sound like a recipe, I immediately switched off, so I put in a couple of dessert spoons, and that seemed to work fine.
Then add tarnished silver and leave for a couple of minutes! It couldn’t be simpler. All the black then magically turns to some sort of revolting creamy slime which wipes off with no effort at all. It’s brilliant.
The only downside is it smells like an experiment you used to do in the chemistry lab at school to create stink bombs, but that’s a small price to pay to create magic. After it worked for my first three spoons, I then proudly re-Blu-Tacked my shiny new trophies back onto the wall and worked my way down the rest of the line. It never failed, and my grin grew ever broader as my dazzling line of spoons expanded.
Naturally, as I am mindful of health and safety at all times, I feel duty bound to advise you not to drink the water afterwards. We all know that too much salt isn’t terribly good for you, but consumption of too much salt can be deadly. Having researched it, I can tell you that you need to take about 1 gram of salt per kilogram of weight in order to die, and apparently this was used as a method of ritual suicide in China – especially amongst the nobility as salt was so expensive.
I only mention it in case you have just had a really bad round of golf, and as well hiding all sharp implements, the salt cellar now needs to be squirrelled away as well!
Happily, I am able to report that weeks later, my spoons are still glittering!