You can’t make me buy more.

By Elizabeth Passarella
February 15, 2020
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A few months ago, I opened the cabinet doors under my sink to get the dishwashing soap, and it wasn’t there. Thinking it could have been shoved to a far corner, I stuck my arm farther in, reached around the entire cabinet, and landed on nothing but air. It was empty. What I’ve pieced together is this: My toddler, who has been known to throw things in garbage cans and toilets like he’s playing a sorting game with remote controls and socks, spent a few rare unsupervised minutes putting the dishwashing soap, hardwood-floor polish, Windex, and Bar Keepers Friend into the garbage can under the sink. Afterward, my sleep-deprived husband lifted out the trash bag, tied it, and then threw it outside without noticing that it contained a cabinet’s worth of household supplies.

I said a short prayer of thanks that he didn’t eat anything—we’re a little better at babyproofing now—and allowed myself to enjoy the clutter-free bliss of that emptied-out shelf for about 15 minutes. Then I realized that I had to repurchase everything. Well, almost everything. I’m not replacing the dang silver polish.

Is there anything more gross than silver polish? It’s the color of vomit, it smells bad, and it tends to crust relentlessly around the neck of the bottle so that you can never again get the cap on securely. Over the years, people have tried to hack silver polishing. I remember my mother buying a metal disk that she laid at the bottom of the sink; this was supposed to magically (magnetically?) remove tarnish from the silver that sat piled passively on top. Some say that ketchup works, but rubbing condiments all over your forks is no picnic either. I know people who pay housekeepers (extra, I hope) to polish the silver. My mom used to do it for me when she visited—but not anymore. Even a mother’s love has limits.

Somewhere in the Divine Ledger of Southern Housekeeping, there’s a mark next to my name. It says, “Allows tarnish on sterling asparagus server.” Also: “Doesn’t iron sheets.” But I’m going to let you in on a secret—my silver looks pretty good, even in its neglected state. I store my flatware in felt slots that roll up, and it appears almost as sparkly as the last time I polished it, which, by my account, was 2010. My gallery trays and Pyrex casserole holders are stored in the same tissue paper and large white boxes they came in, from Babcock Gifts and the Gift and Art Shop in Memphis, where I registered for my wedding. They, too, appear perfectly presentable, if a tiny bit dark in the crevices.

WATCH: Store Your Silverware With a Piece of Chalk To Prevent Tarnish

At my 20th college reunion last week, I went looking for vindication from my friend Holly. “I’m not polishing my silver anymore!” I told her. She’s the one who, during our senior year at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, made us homemade lollipops for fun on a Friday night.

She spent both evenings of the reunion weekend chitchatting while needlepointing with a headlamp on. I thought that if she, a heroine of the domestic arts, skipped polishing now and then, maybe I was onto something. “That’s so funny you bring it up,” she replied. “I just polished all of my silver last Saturday!” Of course she did. “But what about the unpleasantness of that polishing goo?” I asked. “Oh, I double glove,” she said.

I’m not double gloving, and I’m not buying more silver polish anytime soon. (At least until Angie’s List has a “Silver Polishing Service” section.) So what if there’s a tiny, barely noticeable bit of tarnish on an otherwise gorgeous treasure? We all have our flaws.

I called my mother, who actually does occasionally iron her sheets but (I thought) might affirm my new anti-polishing position. No such luck. She’s discovered a new product, a bucket of gel that you dip the silver pieces into. “It’s amazing!” she said. “And so easy—I’m taking some to your sister’s house to use this weekend.”