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The 12 Days of Christmas Countdown: Day 10

We're in the final stretch now, and pretty close to finishing up our list of pre-Christmas chores. Today, we're making that holiday silver shine.

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, silver to be shining, , , , ... ... , , and 

In my house, the good china and silver is brought out exactly 2.5 times a year – Thanksgiving, Christmas and on the rare occasion when every other fork and bowl seems to be in the dishwasher.

Whether the set of fine china was a wedding present, or the silver a family heirloom, these items are pretty special and need extra special care to preserve their gleam for years to come.

Sterling Silver

Now, if you don't have silver polish on hand, you probably don't want to brave a store just now to buy some. Believe it or not, you have everything you need right in your house.

Care2.com suggests tooth paste for the smaller jobs and baking soda for the big pieces. With the tooth paste, dab a small amount on your finger and rub it into the tarnish. This can be easily rinsed off after the tarnish is removed.

For the baking soda, you'll want to add water until a paste forms. Use a clean, damp sponge, or soft-bristled tooth brush to rub the paste into the silver and rinse it off with hot water. The silver can be dried with a soft, clean cloth.

A more extreme fix is the boiling method. DoItYourself.com recommends placing a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of a pan, adding 2-3 inches of water, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 of teaspoon salt, and bringing to a boil. Silver pieces should be boiled two to three minutes, making sure the water covers the pieces. Then rinse, dry, and buff with a soft cloth.

China

You may not remember what flowers were on the table or who you sat next to on a particular year, but there's something about "mom's good china" that sticks with you forever.

In our house, we have the "good china," which is used on Christmas, and the "Christmas china," which isn't really china, but is used throughout the holiday season because of its festive design.

Cleaning both is a process.

While many china sets are dishwasher safe, if you're not sure, don't risk it. The heat of the dishwasher can do some serious damage to the durability and appearance of your china.

Hand-washing is your best bet. Again, baking soda mixed with hot water is great for removing stains, but if you happen to have denture-wearers in the house (grandma, grandpa, great-uncle Mel), another quick-clean option is to drop a denture cleaning tablet in a pan of hot water with your china.

LifeOrganizers.com offers some great step-by-step washing techniques. First, if you're washing in a sink, Life Organizers suggests placing a dish towel at the bottom of the sink to protect your your fine china from your metal sink. Use a soft sponge and don't let anyone with a scouring pad near you.

Everyday dish detergent (not dishwasher detergent) shouldn't harm your china. Life Organizers suggests adding a tablespoon or two of vinegar to the water to "power boost" the detergent action. A tablespoon of vinegar can also be added to the rinse water for extra shine.

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