The growing popularity of coffee in the late 19th and earlier 20th centuries meant the appearance on the market of many beautifully crafted coffee sets, consisting of fine porcelain cups and saucers, silver pots, milk jugs, sugar basins and spoons. Many antique collectors and coffee connoisseurs appreciate these sets for their attractive appearance and history, and continue to use them for serving coffee on special occasions. As every coffee lover knows, though, coffee does tend to stain pots and spoons in regular use, and with antique sets it’s even more important to keep them in good condition.
The outside of silver coffee pots can be cleaned with silver polish. If possible, use a brand recommended for antique silver and clean according to manufacturer’s instructions. For spoons and the inside of pots and for spoons, though, silver polish would leave a taint that could affect the taste of the drink, so a different cleaning method is called for.
Put on protective gloves, and mix a solution of one teaspoon of borax with 600 ml of hot water. Domestic borax, otherwise known as sodium tetraborate decahydrate, is a mild alkali and looks a bit like bicarbonate of soda. If you have trouble tracking down borax, it can be found online or you could use Borax Substitute, a natural alternative available from larger supermarkets or chemists.
Fill the pot with the solution, and let it stand for about an hour. Occasionally swish the mixture round the pot, taking care not to get any on your skin. When the hour is up, pour out the borax solution and wash the pot with warm water and a dash of washing up liquid. Dry the pot carefully with soft towelling, and when thoroughly dry, buff to a shine with a clean cloth. For spoons, immerse them in the borax solution for an hour then wash and dry.
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