China, linens and silver are commonly brought out and dusted off for special meals during the holiday season. Some may be seldom-seen wedding gifts, while others may be treasured family heirlooms. With Grandma coming for dinner, you'll probably want to show off the antique silverware she bequeathed to you. The problem is that sitting in a cardboard box for 11 and a half months a year doesn't do much to preserve the quality of these items. Here are some tips for getting that special dinnerware into proper shape for guests.
Unless you live in a palace and have a personal butler, chances are your fine china only makes special appearances on your dining table. Fine china is too delicate to toss into even the nicest dishwasher, so don't be tempted to give it a try, even if you space it out from other dishes. There are a couple of homespun ways to get your china clean and shiny without chipping or breaking it. The first method is to soak it in a warm milk bath overnight. The next day, gently hand wash it with warm soapy water. Another similar method requires a dip in a bath of warm water and one cup of vinegar. This will help remove grease and leave the china nice and shiny. Use a paste of water and baking soda for stubborn stains.
Silver, which is really a mix of silver and copper, tarnishes when exposed to air. There are different ways of cleaning silver, depending on what kind and how valuable it is. Silver with detailed carving should be hand cleaned with a high quality silver polish. Be sure to wear cotton gloves instead of rubber gloves while polishing, because rubber promotes tarnish. If you don't want to use the silver polish, you can substitute a paste of baking soda and water instead. Toothpaste is another trick that you can use in a pinch. Just coat the silver with the paste and rub it under warm water. You can help avoid tarnish by how you store the silver as well. It's best to keep your silver flatware in a tarnish-resistant flannel or an airtight plastic bag. Most silver flatware chests are lined with this flannel.
Your fine, lacy linens that you only break out once a year might need a little TLC as well. You may find that your table liner has yellowed from oxidation or is spotted from a previous use. Under no circumstances should you try to clean it in a washing machine, because it really needs to be cleaned by hand. Also, it's best to avoid any liquid detergents or bleaches. Soak the linen in some warm water before adding a mixture of hot water and powdered detergent. Let the linen soak for two to seven days, depending on how soiled it is. Rinse the linen two times in clean warm water, and place it in a towel to squeeze out the water. Never twist or wring the linen. Hang it up and let it air-dry, then use a steamer to get out the wrinkles.