If you're tired of having to polish your good silverware every time you pull it out or are looking for a way to clean those tarnished silver pieces that you found at an antique store, we have good news. You can now ditch the store-bought tarnish remover and try this simple and inexpensive remedy that's void of harsh chemicals and doesn't require any elbow grease.
When salt, baking soda, aluminum foil, and water are combined, they create a chemical reaction known as ion exchange. During this process, the tarnish on the silver (silver sulfide) is converted back into silver, and the sulfide becomes aluminum sulfide on the foil. If your silver is tarnished enough, you may even see brown or yellowish tarnish flakes on the aluminum foil. Though this process works well, the chemical reaction doesn't smell very good, so make sure there's plenty of ventilation wherever you choose to do this project. You may need to soak badly tarnished silver a second time.
How Often to Clean Silver
Use this method for sterling silver as well as silver-plated items any time you need to eliminate tarnish. Experts recommend cleaning silver at least once a year, though that may be more or less often depending on how frequently you use your silver pieces. Note that this method may be too harsh for very fine or delicate finishes of antique silver pieces.
Equipment / Tools
- Washtub or glass baking dish
- Tea kettle or pot for boiling water
- Aluminum foil
- 2 tablespoons Table salt
- 2 tablespoons Baking soda
- Hot water
- 1 Soft, clean white rag
Watch Now: How to Clean Silver Without Chemicals
How to Clean Silver with a Homemade Solution
Put Foil and Water in the Washtub
Line the bottom of a washtub or glass baking dish with a large piece of aluminum foil. Fill the container with hot (preferably boiling) water.
Add Salt and Baking Soda
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of table salt and 2 tablespoons of baking soda into the container. You should notice the mixture start to bubble.
Washing soda added to hot water also makes for a great silver polish. Buff with a soft cloth to bring out the shine after the tarnish fades.
Add the Silver
Place your silver pieces into the water. Make sure they are touching the aluminum foil and completely submerged, but the pieces themselves should not touch each other.
Turn over the pieces of silver using a wooden or plastic utensil (not metal, and avoid using your fingers in hot water) so that as many surfaces of the item touch the foil as possible. The chemical reaction going on in the container should be enough to eliminate tarnish from all nooks and crannies.
Soak the Silver
Allow your silver to soak for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Soak as long as 5 minutes for heavily tarnished items. If the water cools down during this process, add more hot water and refresh the baking soda and salt.
Remove the Silver
Remove your silver items, being careful not to drag them across the foil, and rinse them with fresh water. The tarnish should now be gone from the silver. Buff dry with a soft, clean white rag.