How to Clean Silver-Plated Items Without Chemicals

tarnished silver plated flatware

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 hr
  • Total Time: 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Over time, all silver will eventually tarnish and dull. There are things you can do to slow this process down, but ultimately the item will need to be restored if you want it back to looking like new. Some people even avoid purchasing silver-plated trays and other items because of how time-consuming they are to polish. There are many commercial products on the market, but before you buy a silver polish, try out this natural method with items from your pantry. Not only will it save you money, but cleaning silver this way is much less labor intensive.

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Watch Now: How to Clean Silver Without Chemicals

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Bucket
  • Pot to boil water

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 or not 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—clean the item to your liking.

    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 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.

    We opted to lay the silver tray down before adding the other ingredients to minimize splashing. Some people wait to add the silver until after the water has been added. If you do this, be sure to use tongs to lower it into the bucket. 

    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. In this example, we sprinkled the mixture on top of the silver-plated tray since it was heavy and already in the bucket. 

    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. Add enough water so that the item is completely covered.

    Warning

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

    adding boiling water to the foil

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

  6. Allow Silver to Soak

    In most instances, you'll notice the tarnish start to dissolve immediately. If some tarnish is being stubborn, add more salt, baking soda, or water. Make sure that the aluminum foil is in direct contact with the silver-plated item. 

    Some people let their silver sit for just a minute or two. Others leave it 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 re-tarnish rather quickly.

    letting the silver items dry

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida