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How to Clean Silver, Easily!

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My tarnished silver was getting me down, but there was no way I was doing all that polishing! Instead, I decided to try this baking soda silver cleaning trick I've been seeing all over the internet. I'm sure you've seen it too, but there are several versions of it, and I wanted to know which version was the one that actually worked - and why. So, after doing some research, I chose to use baking soda, aluminum foil, and a pot of boiling water. Here's how...
Time: 30 Minutes Cost: $15 Difficulty: Easy
Turns out, silver tarnish is actually what happens when the air interacts with the silver and turns its outer layer into silver sulfide (which is black). You could take some silver polish and use a lot of elbow grease and polish off the layer of silver sulfide, which will rub away some of your silver each time, or you can sit back and use science to turn that silver sulfide back to shiny silver. Step 1: Boil a Pot of Water This step is fairly obvious - I just filled a pot with water and turned my stove onto high heat. Step 2: Add a Ball of Aluminum Foil
For the second step (equally easy), I ripped a piece of aluminum foil off my roll, crumpled it up into a loose ball, and tossed it into my pot as it boiled. You don't want to crumple it up too tightly, because your silver will have to be touching the aluminum foil for this trick to work. Step 3: Add a Cup of Baking Soda
Once the water came to a rolling boil, I added a cup of baking soda (a tablespoon at a time), and turned the flame lower. I had a lot of silver, so I wanted to water to stay hot for a while, but you could turn the stove off completely if you have less silver to shine. Step 4: Dunk Your Tarnished Silver into the Pot
Now, here's where the fun starts! I slipped a silver tray into the pot, letting the whole piece slide right in. Because it was big enough and would be touching the foil on its own, I didn't need to hold onto it. For the smaller pieces, I made sure to place them carefully in the pot or to hold them against the foil. Remember, as long as your silver piece is touching the foil, this trick will work.
For something with a light tarnish, a quick dip is all you'll need. For a thick coat of tarnish, like my grandmother's silver tray, you may have to leave it in for a few minutes. If you're doing a large amount of silver in more than one shift, you may have to add another half a cup of baking soda. Step 5: Wipe Your Silver Dry
When my tray was looking really bright and shiny, I slipped on a heavy glove and removed the tray from the pot. Silver is a great heat conductor, so make sure to use a glove or tongs to retrieve your sparkling pieces. Using a cloth, I buffed off the water, to prevent my newly-shiny silver from getting any water marks.
And here's the difference! One dunk later and my fingers aren't even a little bit tired. Look at that crazy shine, all thanks to science!

Materials I used for this project:

  • Tarnished silver   (Grandma)
  • Gallon of water
  • Piece of aluminium foil   (Grocery Store)
See all materials
  • Hannah V
    Hannah V Brooklyn, NY
    on May 22, 2016

    Fabulous! I always see cool tarnished silver platters at Goodwill and have been wanting to collect some and incorporate them into a gallery wall. This will be good to know! :)

  • JamieLynne Honley
    JamieLynne Honley Denver, CO
    on May 22, 2016

    Wow!! I have a ton of silver that needs this treatment.

  • Dawn R Fischer
    Dawn R Fischer Uniontown, PA
    on May 23, 2016

    I've used a very similar technique to remove tarnish from my sterling silver jewelry for several years. As the pieces are smaller than the plates, I use a Pyrex custard cup, line it with foil, place my pieces in the cup, sprinkle with about 1/4 cup of baking soda (I don't measure; I just cover the pieces), and I pour in very hot/boiling water (hotter than hot tap water). I also add a few drops of Dawn dish liquid. I stir with the handle of a wooden spoon, or a popsicle stick (non-reactive; plastic works, too), and let it sit to work and cool; I remove the pieces after about 10 minutes. I rinse the pieces with cool water, and dry & polish with a soft cloth. Works a treat!! Heavily tarnished items might need a repeat 'bath.'

    • Barbara
      Barbara Metuchen, NJ
      on Sep 29, 2017

      it makes a caustic mix and causes soft stones to lose their luster.

  • Carol Cummins Parker
    Carol Cummins Parker
    on May 23, 2016

    Thank you for this post. I have two small silver trays my stepson gave me 25 years ago. He passed away ten years ago and now I can display them.

  • Ruheena
    Ruheena
    on May 23, 2016

    Amazing idea. Thanks for sharing . You forgot to mention baking soda in material list.

    • Shawna Bailey
      Shawna Bailey West Orange, NJ
      on May 25, 2016

      @Ruheena click on the "see all materials" it's there just further down the list

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