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Easy Way to Clean Silver Heirlooms

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Here is an easy way to clean pieces, sterling and/or plate silver with a large pot of hot hot water and baking soda! Full tutorial, credits and additional resources are in link at bottom. As with any cleaning technique, test this process on a small piece.

I started with a sterling silver pitcher. My thought was go big or go home. It was covered with decades of tarnish.
First take a large pot of water on a slow simmer setting. Add approximately 1/4 cup baking soda . Some tutorials suggest adding a little salt.
Add small sheets of aluminum foil to the water. Once water is simmering, turn off heat. I made the mistake of shaping the foil into a ball which caused the aluminum to rise to the water' surface. I needed the foil to get to the crevices with high concentrations of tarnish. Place sheets along the sides of the pot worked for me. Here's the foil after I removed the sterling pitcher
This is a few minutes later. I repeated the process and weighted the pitcher with a tea kettle. As you can see the full submerged bottom of the pitcher got the best results.
Full tutorial and credit to where I first found the idea is included on blog. I also included a tutorial that includes salt.
Thank you! Laura

Materials I used for this project:

  • Baking soda, aluminum foil

To see more: https://notatrophywife.com/2017/06/heirloom-silver/

Ask the creator about this project

  • William
    William Burbank, IL
    on Feb 8, 2017

    I sell a lot of silver, gold, copper, brass on Ebay. I tried the foil and baking soda on vintage sterling silverware and the results were not that good. The silverware had a grey film that still had to be cleaned off and the fine scrollwork still had some tarnish. I eventually found that white toothpaste (not gel) work the best with very little effort. For large items a dab of white toothpaste and a damp cloth, a little rubbing and tarnish was gone. For intricate scrolls a damp toothbrush worked great. And it works on all metals. I have even used it on jewelry and also polishes all types of gems and doesn't harm them. I needed one cleaner that would work on all metals and white toothpaste does the job. Chemical polishes and dips, like Tarn X tend to remove some of the metal.

    • William
      William Burbank, IL
      on Sep 26, 2017

      Strange to hear that! I have cleaned silver serving sets that were over 100 years old and had no problem. Did you use a damp toothbrush and /or cloth. It won't work dry?! needs to foam up. White toothpaste has fine powdered marble in it. Works on teeth and a lot of other things.

  • Suzanne
    Suzanne Gloucester, VA
    on Feb 8, 2017

    I have found several lovely pieces of of silver at the local Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill stores. The pieces are usually extremely tarnished. I could spend an hour polishing with good silver polish, or use this method and have 90% of the tarnish gone in minutes. I still use the silver polish to put a beautiful shine on the piece and maybe touch up any intricate pieces of molding. Saves tons of time, and I still get a beautiful piece. It also saves on silver polish, which can be expensive (especially if I have found 6 or 7 large platters).

    • Not a Trophy Wife
      Not a Trophy Wife
      on Feb 8, 2017

      Thanks Suzanne. I agree it didn't require the time and mess and the results were immediate. I will try William's suggestion of toothpaste for the intricate detail. Thanks for comments!

  • Brenda  S.
    Brenda S. North Brunswick, NJ
    on Feb 9, 2017

    Great tip!!

  • Annette
    Annette Otis, CO
    on Feb 19, 2017

    Does this method destroy the pot u boil the baking soda/foil mix in?

  • Cathi Oakes
    Cathi Oakes
    on Feb 19, 2017

    I have used this method, works pretty well. To get what is left I've tried all types of cleaners and MAAS is the best. It's not hatch and doesn't smell bad, it has a lavender smell. I found it in some hardware stores and online.

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