How to Clean Silver-Plated Items Easily and Naturally

This baking soda and water mixture restores shine

tarnished silver plated flatware

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 hr
  • Total Time: 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0 to $5

You can do things to slow silver from becoming tarnished and dull, but ultimately the item will need to be cleaned if you want it to look like new. There are many commercial products to clean silver and silver-plated items, but you also can clean silver naturally. Using common household items will save you money, and cleaning silver this way is much less labor-intensive.

Use the following steps to clean your silver naturally.

Tips

Toothpaste is a mild abrasive, often made with baking soda, that can double as a cleaning remedy for many things around the house, including silverware and jewelry. Other household items that you can use successfully to polish silver include vinegar, lemon juice, and ketchup. Each has weak acids that can get rid of tarnish.

1:14

Watch Now: How to Clean Silver Without Chemicals

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Bucket, washtub, or baking dish
  • Pot to boil water
  • Tongs

Materials

  • Aluminum foil
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Soft rag

Instructions

materials for cleaning tarnished silver

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

  1. Assess the Silver Item

    Before you clean silver, evaluate the basic characteristics of the item. Is it solid silver or silver plate? Is it old? How much is it worth? If you inherited antique silver, check with a local antique dealer to determine its value. If you want to sell the item, the dealer can help you decide whether it's best to leave the item in as-is condition.

    Restoring silver is a hotly debated topic in the antique market. Some people think polishing causes damage and reduces the value, while others want the item to look as new as possible. Some leave only a portion of the tarnish intact to show character. 

    If you aren't planning on reselling the silver-plated object any time soon, then how you restore it is entirely up to your discretion.

    examining tarnished silver

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

  2. Gather Required Supplies

    You'll need roughly 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of baking soda for every gallon of water used. Pick a bucket or tub that is large enough for the silver to lay flat and be covered in the liquid.

    gathering silver-cleaning supplies

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

  3. Line a Bucket With Aluminum Foil

    Place a few sheets of aluminum foil on the bottom of your container, and make sure that the shiny side is facing up. For this process to work, you'll need the silver to be directly touching the foil.

    lining a vessel with aluminum foil

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

  4. Sprinkle Salt and Baking Soda on Foil

    Sprinkle equal parts salt and baking soda on top of the aluminum foil.

    adding salt and baking soda to foil

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

  5. Add Boiling Water

    Bring water to a boil, and carefully pour it into the container. Make sure the bucket you're using is deep enough to withstand the fizzing that occurs when the water hits the baking soda and salt. Boil enough water to cover the items you will be cleaning.

    Warning

    When pouring, stand back because the steam could potentially scald your skin, and the smell is not pleasant.

    adding boiling water to the foil

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

  6. Allow Silver to Soak

    Use tongs to add the silver into the container. In most instances, you'll notice the tarnish starts to dissolve immediately. If some tarnish is stubborn, add more salt, baking soda, or water. Ensure the aluminum foil is in direct contact with the silver item. 

    Some people let their silver sit for just a minute or two. Others leave it to soak for up to a half hour. You'll be able to tell how long your silver needs to soak based on how much tarnish is still left on the piece. To see if the silver is ready, carefully remove it from the hot mixture with tongs, and wipe with a soft rag. If there is still tarnish, place it back in the bucket for additional soaking.

    Tip

    Be aware that some darker spots might be the base metal showing through the silver plating. This is common on older pieces where the silver plating has been worn down over time by polishing.

    letting the silver soak

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

  7. Rinse and Dry

    After removing the object from the bucket, rinse it thoroughly with clean water. The goal is to remove any leftover salt and baking soda residue that could speed up the tarnishing process in the future.

    Dry the piece with a soft rag. And make sure there is no moisture left, which could also cause the silver to tarnish again rather quickly.

    letting the silver items dry

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Antique Silver. The British Antique Dealers' Association.

  2. Burns and Scalds. United Kingdom National Health Service.