How to Restore Shine and Deep Clean Your Silverware

We use our silverware every single day, and I’m assuming you probably do, too. But is it really as clean as you think it is? Sure, you pop them in the dishwasher after eating and you use the best dishwashing detergent money can buy. Good enough, right?
Time: 30 MinutesCost: $50Difficulty: Easy
  • how to restore shine and deep clean your silverware
Over time, silverware gets a little gunky. If you look hard, you’ll notice your flatware is kind of foggy. Or at least not as shiny as it was when you first bought it. That’s a buildup of hard water and tarnish. By deep cleaning your flatware once every few months, you’ll always be eating with the cleanest utensils possible and they’ll always look as good as new.
  • how to restore shine and deep clean your silverware
First you’ll start by filling a big ol’ pot with water and pop it on the stove to heat to boiling.
  • how to restore shine and deep clean your silverware
While you’re waiting on the water to boil, plug the sink drain and line the basin with aluminum foil.
Yes, I realize this sounds crazy. But there is a method to my madness.
  • how to restore shine and deep clean your silverware
Sprinkle in quite a good amount of baking soda (to clean the flatware) and iodized salt (as a safe abrasive cleaner) directly onto the foil.
Then pour in a little bit of distilled vinegar and stir it around with your hands.
(Don’t use a spoon, it will rip the foil)
This will activate the baking soda and form a thick paste.
P.S. You can use leftover vinegar for my DIY Streak-Free Glass Cleaner Recipe on my blog!
  • how to restore shine and deep clean your silverware
Plop all your silverware right on top of your paste.
This is also a good time to take the divider tray out of the drawer and wash it, as well as wipe down the inside of the drawer.
You’d be surprised how many crumbs end up in there. I still have no idea how this happens, but it’s very frustrating.
  • how to restore shine and deep clean your silverware
Be very very careful when pouring in the water. Make sure you pour away from you, not towards you.
There’s going to be an enormous amount of steam, so don’t worry if you need to take a break halfway through to keep from overheating your face. (Or fogging your glasses and not being able to see what you’re doing. That was my problem!)
Once you’ve emptied the pot of water into the sink, just let it hang out for a bit.
I let mine sit for 15 minutes, but you can do more or less depending on how dirty your flatware is. If you’ve owned them for twenty years and never done this before, you should probably let them hang out for thirty minutes.
  • how to restore shine and deep clean your silverware
Again, be super careful here. The water is still hot.
Use tongs (silicone lined tongs would have been better but mine weren’t long enough for this) and remove the silverware from the water to the other side of the sink.
If you only have a single basin sink, you can move the silverware into a large roasting pan or large pot.
  • how to restore shine and deep clean your silverware
Rinse the silverware with cold water to remove the cleaning mixture and lower the temperature so you can touch them.
After you rinse them, just let them hang out in the sink while you lay out a large bath towel onto the counter.
You’ll want half of the towel on the counter and half of it hanging off, like the photo below.
  • how to restore shine and deep clean your silverware
Move the clean silverware to the towel in a single layer.
Then just flip the other end of the towel up and over the utensils and lightly rub them dry. This is way easier than drying each individual one.
Don’t skip this step! If you don’t dry them, you’ll end up with water spots and they won’t look as clean and shiny as they could.
  • how to restore shine and deep clean your silverware
After the sink water has cooled, you can pull out the foil and empty the water.
By lining the sink with foil, it acts as a transfer for the tarnish on the utensils. You can see by my foil sheet how the ickiness just moves right onto the foil. Gross, but pretty cool.
You’ll be even more grossed out when you look at the other side of the foil and see how dirty your sink was…
  • how to restore shine and deep clean your silverware
To keep your flatware nice and clean, and to prolong the life and shine of them, you can repeat this process every three to six months.
It only takes about thirty minutes and it’s a cool science project for your kids to join in on.
  • how to restore shine and deep clean your silverware
You can see all of my cleaning tips and tutorials on my blog, and get shopping links for supplies and my favorite budget-friendly utensil sets while you're there!

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Lela @inthenewhouse

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

  • Ene19230
    on Nov 11, 2017

    This is not a good idea for cleaning your sterling silver. Why, you're probably wondering? It causes a chemical reaction that actually abrades the pieces removing a thin layer of silver every time you do this. I learned this from a silversmith. Thankfully I had only done this once before I found out what it was doing to my heirloom sterling silver!

      • Sheila Ryan
        Sheila Ryan Oak Harbor, WA
        on Nov 23, 2017

        Actually this is a much better way to clean sterling silverware! For exactly the same reason you said not to. Every time you use cleaners that rub on & off, you’re taking off silver. But you make a bit of a change to her directions. I do it alllll the time for silver. Put foil in sink & then silver (any type that can get wet) then dump some baking soda in on top, then enough boiling water to completely cover. It’s in chemistry books, the silver tarnish forms a chemical reaction with the soda & bonds to the foil. Horrible smell, but worth the effort. The worse the tarnish, the worse the smell. Hardest part is waiting for water to boil. Just be sure if it is a stainless sink it is completely covered by foil or it takes tarnish off the sink & you’ll have a line! Works fantastic, but no salt needed! And with silver plate it is hit & miss with how well it cleans. Love ve it!

      • Ene19230
        on Nov 18, 2017

        That may be your understanding, but it certainly isn't universal. I took it to mean silverware, not every day flatware. I have seen this method recommended on multiple web sites when doing a search for cleaning tarnish from sterling silverware. My every day flatware does not tarnish so I wouldn't have any reason to use this method to clean it. Further, the advice still stands - this method of cleaning any metal etches a layer off of it.

        All of this being said, I do see that in the photos it appears that they have used this method to clean every day flatware. They use the terms flatware and silverware interchangeably which can be misleading.

          • Penny
            Penny Syracuse, NY
            on Nov 24, 2017

            you are so right about not using it on good silverware...i always used a cleaner made for sterling silver..but, on my everyday flatware, i buy a product called dip it...i use it to clean my coffee pots and just put the flatware in a pan of water with dip it in the water and bring it to a boil on the stove and let it simmer for a while...rinse and dry and it is all like brand new....with the coffee pots you just have to run it through with water and dip it in the pot and it cleans any coffee stains...