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You’ve gathered together essential serving platters and dishes. Napkins and tablecloths have been chosen and are in the linen closet, and your grandmother’s silver is sitting in a box in the garage. Now what? You need to learn how to care for your entertaining essentials. Without knowing how to take care of them all of these pretty items will sit there unused. I don’t think grandma wanted her silver collecting dust and never again seeing the light of day. So let’s get on this.
What if I’m a more casual entertainer?
Entertaining these days is surely different then it was back in the 1800’s. Silver was polished regularly, and linens were ironed for each meal. That isn’t the world that most of us live in any longer. That doesn’t mean, however; that we shouldn’t have a nice set of items that are ready for entertaining, or even just to make dinner on Monday before Cub Scouts a little more special. Once you have your entertaining essentials on hand, you need to understand how to properly care for them.
I am fortunate enough to have inherited a lot of silver from my mother-in-law. I have full sets of silverware, serveware, and many decorative pieces. In our last home there was absolutely nowhere to display these pieces, so they sat in a box in the basement (gasp). Now that I have more room, and invite people over whenever they’ll come, I use these pieces more often. It was so special to take out silverware for Thanksgiving that had pearl handles.
Although I’m generally a casual hostess, I love the interplay of a pretty silver pitcher with unsweet tea on the table with my everyday white dishes. Here’s how to keep these pieces in tip top shape:
- Wash your silver by hand only, and do not let it soak. Unless you’re planning on service for 20 – (#dreamday for me), it doesn’t take that long to get it all done. There are times when you’ll need a brush to use for your smaller, more intricate pieces.
- Dry silver thoroughly. This is an important step so that water doesn’t sit anywhere it isn’t supposed to. So make sure to get into the cracks and crevices of all of your pieces
- Store your silver with acid free paper. This seems like a lot of work, but honestly, it’s pretty easy. You can pick up your acid free paper right on Amazon. Be careful with it and you won’t need to replace it very often. Never ever use newspaper. This can ruin silver. Trust me on this one. (Ahem).
Linens are a favorite of mine. I have holiday linens, every day linens, just for a girls weekend linens – you name it. I usually pick napkins that have pretty, detailed edges and in all different colors. You could say I have a napkin problem. I don’t have as many tablecloths, although I do think it’s essential to have a few on hand. Placemats are another way to dress your table, and I do appreciate how they can offer a different look to a table – casual or more formal.
- Prepping for wash. After using a tablecloth or napkin remove any leftover pieces of food and treat any stains on the fabric. I use a gentle mixture of Dawn dishwashing liquid (the blue one), and water. If there is a stain or two present, then simply let them soak for a little while before laundering.
- Wash linens ONLY on the gentle cycle. The machine is too harsh for table linens on any other setting.
- Drying time should be cut short. What I mean by this is make sure that you take the napkins or tablecloth out while they are still slightly damp.
- Ironing your linens. Have you ever gone to use your linens only to find them in a mangled mess because you didn’t feel like ironing when they came out of the dryer? Me too. There’s nothing like a nice, crisp napkin to finish off your table, so try to prep in advance. When ironing linens here are a few tips:
- Make sure your iron is set to the hottest setting that the fabric will allow.
- Iron the napkin on the “other side” so that it doesn’t get shiny with ironing.
- Before ironing spray with water lightly so that the fabric is damp.
- Fold the napkin into threes and iron the crease right into it. This will give you a napkin that will lay flat in storage.
- For tablecloths use the same process and follow up with hanging on a plastic hangar for storage or wrapping around a tube like those used for wrapping paper, or even a plastic pvc pipe. The latter requires quite a bit of storage space, but if you can do it, you won’t have any folded lines when you are ready to dress your table.
I love, love, love serving pieces. I have some that are silver, some from our wedding registry at Pottery Barn, quite a few from my grandmother and mom, and a bunch I’ve picked up along the way. My favorites are plain white in different shapes and sizes. How to care for these entertaining essentials is mainly all about storage.
Figure out storage for serving pieces. Keeping serving pieces chip and crack free is easy when you care for them properly. I generally hand wash my platters, dry them completely and put them away. Storage of all different sized platters is the biggest problem. If you place them on top of each other they can easily chip and aren’t easy to access. In fact, I’ve avoided using certain platters in the past because it was just too hard to get to. What I suggest is converting a cabinet with a shelf to a cabinet with a separator. This one by YouCopia is adjustable and is a lifesaver! I don’t use it for pans right now – only for serving pieces, and it has made them much easier to store without damage.
How do you take care of your special items? Do you have any other questions about how to care for your entertaining essentials that I haven’t answered? I hope you aren’t waiting for a special day to use them! Every, single day should be celebrated. Life’s too short to keep China in a box.