How to Clean Silver and Bring Back the Shine

Best Of Hometalk
by Best Of Hometalk

From family heirlooms to the perfect yard sale silver serving piece, the brilliant shine of silver eventually fades and starts to tarnish. That foggy black tarnish is called silver sulfide and rather than cover the surface of the silver, it is the surface of the silver as it ages.

How to clean silver (Shawna Bailey)

See post: Shawna Bailey|How to Clean Silver, Easily

This tarnish, or silver sulfide, is the result of a chemical reaction between the silver and sulfur in the air it is exposed to. As disappointing as it may be to watch the shine disappear from your favorite silver platter or jewelry, it is so easy to learn how to clean silver without damaging it! The best part is that it doesn’t require strong cleaning agents or hours of polishing to actually remove some of the silver in the process.

Look no further than two ingredients you already have at home—baking soda and aluminum foil—to transform your black coated silver back to the gleaming finish it once had. In a matter of minutes, the baking soda and aluminum create a chemical reaction of their own to reverse rather than remove the tarnish and will leave your silver shining. Check out this no-rubbing-required solution for how to clean tarnished silver. Get ready to turn your kitchen into a chemistry lab and prepare to be amazed!

How to Clean Tarnished Silver With Baking Soda and Aluminum Foil

Start by gathering all of your tarnished silver pieces, a deep pot, one to two cups of baking soda, and a roll of aluminum foil. If you have a very large number of silver pieces that are tarnished or an oversized piece that cannot be fully submerged in water in a deep pot on the stove, consider lining your sink with foil and following the steps outlined below using your sink as the hot water container.


Step 1: Heat a Pot or Sink of Water

On the stovetop, bring water to a boil in a very deep pot or, if you have too many pieces of silver to clean, line your sink with aluminum foil and use extremely hot tap water to fill it. Please note that the hotter the water temperature used, the quicker the chemical reaction that reverses tarnish will take place, so tap water temperature may require the silver to be submerged in the baking soda solution used in the following steps for a longer duration.

Cleaning silver with aluminum foil and baking soda(Danielle B)

See post: Danielle B|Cleaning Silver

Step 2: Crumple Sheets of Aluminum Foil and Add to the Pan

(If you have chosen to line sink with aluminum foil, skip to the next step)

Add sheets of foil to the boiling water. It is best to crumple the foil into loose balls because there needs to be enough surface area to be in contact with the silver. Also, if the foil is formed into too tight of a ball it could end up just floating to the surface. Reduce the heat to simmering or remove from heat completely and place the pot into the sink.

Cleaning silver with aluminum foil(Everyday Edits)

See post: Everyday Edits|Easy Way to Clean Silver Heirlooms

Step 3: Add Baking Soda

Carefully add baking soda to the simmering water or to the water in your foil lined sink. Use a cup of baking soda—added one tablespoon at a time to prevent it from spilling over. Keep the water on high heat but not boiling. If you are cleaning many pieces of silver, you may need to add an additional cup of baking soda but plan to use approximately one cup of baking soda per gallon of water. The baking soda is essential for creating the conditions for the chemical reaction to occur between the aluminum foil and the tarnish and how to clean silver any other way will never seem this simple!

Cleaning silver with baking soda(Shawna Bailey)

See post: Shawna Bailey|How to Clean Silver, Easily

Step 4: Place Silver Into the Mixture

Fully submerge larger pieces of silver into the water so that they are in constant contact with the aluminum foil and hold any smaller pieces against the foil with tongs. The silver must be in contact with the aluminum foil in order for the reaction to take place and for the process to work. The amount of time the silver will need to stay in contact with the aluminum foil in the water depends on how severely the silver is covered with tarnish. A light coat of tarnish may only require a quick dip into the mixture, but a heavily tarnished piece will need at least a few minutes. If you are reading this tutorial for tips on how to clean silver jewelry, use tongs in this step. Watch as the chemical reaction changes the tarnish back into silver!

Cleaning sterling silver(Shawna Bailey)

See post: Shawna Bailey|How to Clean Silver, Easily

How do you clean silver (Danielle B)

See post: Danielle B|Cleaning Silver

The tarnish transfers from the silver pieces onto the aluminum foil. This demonstrates how to clean tarnished silver using two simple ingredients you already have at home in your kitchen and does so without removing any of the finish in the process.

Step 5: Remove from the Solution and Dry Silver Pieces or Silver Jewelry Completely

Use gloves or tongs to carefully remove the hot pieces of silver from the water and immediately use a soft cloth to gently dry the water from the surface. This will prevent water spots from forming on the newly brightened silver finish.

The best results can be expected from silver that was fully submerged in the solution and in constant contact with the aluminum foil. So get those family heirlooms or yard sale treasures out and get to work!

How to Clean Silver with Baking Soda and Foil: Before and After Photos

Before Cleaning 

Cleaning silver with baking soda and foil (Jennifer @ Decorated Chaos)

See post: Jennifer @ Decorated Chaos|How to Clean Silver

After Cleaning

How to clean silver jewelry (Jennifer @ Decorated Chaos)

See post: Jennifer @ Decorated Chaos|How to Clean Silver

How to Clean Silver Jewelry

This same tutorial can be used for anyone interested in how to clean pieces of silver jewelry. It’s valuable to know, and important to remember, that cleaning or polishing tarnished silver by rubbing abrasives into the surface actually removes some of the top layers of the silver. Keep in mind and help others discover how much safer baking soda and aluminum foil are for cleaning sterling silver or deciding how to clean silver jewelry.

Do you have a friend that collects yard sale silver or spends hours polishing tarnished silver? Share this tutorial for how to clean silver using two commonly found kitchen items and save them all of the work! Protect the silver in your home by ensuring the finish doesn’t get removed by harsh cleaners or rubbing. The combination of baking soda, hot water, and aluminum foil combine to restore the bright shine of your silver without the risk of damaging it. Remember, the next time you discover that one of your favorite pieces of silver has tarnished, instead of trying to remove the tarnish, reverse it!

Share your best before and after photos of your favorite pieces of silver after trying this amazing solution to reverse tarnish and find many other simple solutions to everyday cleaning problems on Hometalk!

Written for the Hometalk community by: Kate Griffin | Eating in the Shower Blog

Frequently asked questions
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  1 question
  • Hom69492544 Hom69492544 on Aug 29, 2022

    a point of clarification.

    'you state that silver must be in contact with foil; but you do not have any indication as to what extent and what manner.

    eg, if parts of silver item/s are in contact with some of foil, will whole item be de-tarnished? answering that should answer similar related questions.

    on a side note, i actually enjoy cleaning silver with polish (albeit i now only have the smallest (literally) piece left now.

Join the conversation
2 of 5 comments
  • Swan Road Designs Swan Road Designs on Sep 08, 2019

    No, steel wool, toothpaste or ajax do not work well. In some way, they are ll abrasive. That's not what one wants to do with precious collectible pieces, especially heirloom pieces.

    As a piece of advice, avoid all these treatments. Go gently.

    Again, go the extra mile and use Maas Metal Cleaner. Gentle, non-abrasive, no smell and easy to use.

    Before anyone gets hinky and thinks I have something to do with the Maas folks, I'm just a very satisfied customer who was put in touch by a friend who was a high-end jeweler and specialized in silver cleaning. He did it for estate people who treasured their heirloom pieces.

    If you purchase this stuff, you will discover that one container lasts a long, long, time and the silver stays tarnish-free for a long while.

    Just my humble opinion.

  • Kristie Everton Kristie Everton on Jan 08, 2022

    After doing this de- tarnish to your pieces- wrap the larger less used items in dry cleaning bags to keep them from tarnishing again.