- Be gentle. Polishing wears off small amounts of metal each time, a crucial consideration for plated pieces—you can eventually rub right through the plating. Don’t polish away patina: If you work hard to remove the tarnish from every crevice in a silverware pattern, for example, you’re reducing the contrasts of dark and light that show off that pattern.
- Use a good-quality product formulated for the specific metal (“all-purpose” polishes can be too harsh). Chemical dips are generally too strong and should be avoided.
- Look for a previous polishing pattern—often up-and-down on cutlery and circular on pots or other large pieces—and follow it.
- Use soft cotton cloths to polish; old T-shirts work well. Reserve a different cloth for each metal so you don’t mix products.
- Don’t be afraid to enjoy your metal treasures. Using silverware, for example, means that it’s getting washed more often, which helps keep tarnish at bay.