I like to make my home as beautiful and welcoming as possible during the holidays, and one way I do this is to polish all the silver, pewter, and brass, so it reflects the light of candles. Here are the formulas I use to polish safely and without chemicals:
If you have a small job, the best silver polish is white toothpaste. Dab some on your finger, and rub into the tarnish. For bigger pieces, use baking soda and a clean, damp sponge. Make a paste of baking soda and water. Scoop the paste onto the sponge, and rub the paste into the silver. Rinse with hot water and polish dry with a soft, clean cloth. For badly tarnished silver, leave the baking soda paste on the silver for an hour or so, before cleaning off with the help of the sponge and hot water.
There are easy, good ways to clean brass without using a synthetic commercial cleaner that may have toxic ingredients.
Most commonly used kitchen cupboard or refrigerator ingredients that contain a natural acid, such as vinegar, Tobasco Sauce, ketchup, tomatoes, milk, and lemon or lime juice, will remove tarnish on brass. The tarnish washes away with an acid rub or soak. You might have to remove the lacquer cover if the brass is new. Do this by submerging the brass in boiling water with a few teaspoons each baking soda and washing soda (available in the laundry section of the supermarket). Once the lacquer has peeled off, polish dry.
It is hard to clean pewter, but the tarnished look is part of its appeal. The best folk formula I know to clean pewter is to grind up a piece of chalk and add enough vodka or gin to make a paste. Massage the paste onto the metal, rinse, and polish dry with a clean cloth.