How to Clean Silver, Easily!

3 Materials
$15
30 Minutes
Easy

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...
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!
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Have a question about this project?

3 of 102 questions
  • Roa
    on Dec 4, 2019

    I have an aluminum pot. Do you think it will do the job equally good instead of crumpling an aluminum foil? Thank you

  • Dorothy
    on Jul 14, 2020

    Can you use this method to clean silver jewelry?

  • Paula
    on Aug 10, 2020

    How to clean gas stove burner grates.

Join the conversation

4 of 170 comments
  • V Smith
    on Dec 5, 2019

    When the tarnish leaves the silver and goes to the foil it takes molecules of silver with it. Over time this will damage silverplate. Better to use a good silver polish and keep the silver where it belongs. After polishing, silver should be stored in plastic bags to minimize tarnishing. And it is even better if you use your silver often.

    • V Smith
      on Dec 7, 2019

      Using it more means it gets cleaned more and therefore less time for tarnish to buildup. Tarnish isn't something that sits on top of the metal it is the metal reacting to the environment.

  • Camilla
    on Dec 6, 2019

    I'd suggest buying "silver cloth", available at most fabric stores. I make drawstring bags with the cloth so polishing is a rare event. Silvercloth may also be used to line drawers of a chest, and the lay a piece over the top before closing the drawer.

    • Camilla
      on Apr 4, 2020

      I bought Pacific Silvercloth at Joann, years ago. It's a preventative, not for polishing, though I know what you are talking about, as I have the small polishing cloths that have a polish embedded in the cloth for silver jewelry. You might try online search if looking for the silvercloth to prevent tarnish of silverware, even silver jewelry. Most silver chests are lined with silvercloth.

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