Caring for Silver Salt & Pepper Shakers

Silver salt and pepper shakers and/or grinders are beautiful pieces to own and use in one’s home.  They enhance, beautify and provide wonderful table settings which can be either formal or informal.  Depending on the style and type of shakers or grinders one wants to use, a table that offers at least one of each will undoubtedly make the dining experience a more pleasant one.  I find them to be one of those little good things that my table much nicer.  Although I don’t have an extensive collection of silver salt and pepper shakers, (since I enjoy using my salt cellars a lot) I do have some nice pieces that I take good care of.  

It’s always recommended that you never store salt or pepper in a silver container.  Salt is corrosive and will pit the silver rather quickly; pepper won’t have this effect, but I find it best to treat both vessels in the same manner.  If you’re going to use them for a dinner or luncheon, it’s always best to fill the pieces on the day of the occasion.  After the meal is over and you begin to clean up, the shakers must be emptied and cleaned out.  I know it may seem rather fussy and involved, but I prefer to prevent pitting and corrosion on my pieces of silver.  There is no need to wash the vessels, but you should wipe them down thoroughly to remove any traces of salt & pepper.

This is what I do in my home.

This small sampling of silver vessels is a mix of contemporary, vintage and antique silver.  The small screw top set of 6 shakers is sterling and the lovely quails are silverplate.  They come from  King Richard's Antiques.  The salt shaker & pepper mill are from Martha by Mail.

Most newer pieces will be lined with plastic to prevent contact between the salt and silver.  Even if this is the case, I still recommend that you empty the shakers after your dinner or lunch is over.

You can see a closeup of the quails with their caps off.  The lining has kept up well and I don't want to damage it by getting it wet.  Remove all of the salt and ground pepper and return it to a more suitable container. 
The diminutive sterling silver shakers are not lined so therefore it is imperative that they be wiped thoroughly.  These need a little bit of polishing so I will use my method which requires no creams.

After I've emptied out the salt and pepper back into my storage containers, I begin to wipe out each vessel with a cotton swab.  I reach into all of the corners starting at the bottom and work my way up.  The perforated caps get treated the same.  Wipe both the tops and the bottoms making sure that there is no trace of salt or pepper left.  If your environment is humid and there is salt left on the shakers, that salt will dissolve and cause the silver to react.  Over time it will begin to pit.

The other pieces which are lined with plastic get treated in the same manner.  I don't like to leave anything to chance when it comes to this.

If you come across a silver salt shaker or pepper grinder and wish to purchase one at an antiques fair or flea market, make sure that the piece itself isn’t highly corroded.  Ask the dealer if you can open the cap to inspect the inside of the vessel.  If they seem well taken care of and only have minimal pitting or corrosion then you may want to get them.  If the pieces are highly pitted and seem unusable, you can still have them restored by a silversmith, but keep in mind that it may cost you more than what you’re paying for.  

Silverplate will always be cheaper than sterling silver, but it isn’t any less beautiful.  As to the styles and forms to choose from, antique stores and online auction sites abound in them and it’s up to you to decide what is best for your home.  Silver salt and pepper shakers & grinders are nice to have on one’s table every once in awhile.  It isn’t necessary to have vintage or antique ones because I’ve seen many well appointed housewares stores who offer them; don’t overlook these pieces.  If you already own a pair or two, now you know how to take care of these gorgeous vessels.  May you have years of wonderful meals with them! 


  1. What a lovely post- thank you.
    Your beautiful blog has been very inspirational. I wish I could be AS tidy and organised as you, but it's hard with 2 small kids (well, 3 if you count my husband). Your fantastic posts have given me new ideas and I've even found the energy to do those mundane tasks such as cleaning my Kitchen aid and re/organising my larder (pantry).

  2. Tasha, how kind of you to consider my posts inspirational (I try my best)!! I know what you mean about those tasks which never seem to get done. I have a mudroom that could use some organizing so I think that's on my to-do list for the moment.

    Thank You for reading! I take it you're in England judging from the fact that you use the word 'larder'. Lovely!


  3. I need to clean mine but it has blue on the sliver so it will need more than a cotton swab? What should I do?

    1. If you have a blue tinge to it, then it is tarnish setting in. Apply a little bit of silver polish to a cotton swab and work it gently over the problem area. You should then rinse the piece in hot, soapy water to remove all of the polish, and buff dry with a clean cotton rag or towel.

      PS: I have dark kitchen towels that I use for the sole purpose of buffing dry my silver after it's been washed.


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