How to clean silver naturally, even if it’s really tarnished. The tarnish just melts away with this trick to polish your silver.
Do you ever notice how those store-bought silver polishes have all kinds of death and disease warnings all over them? I’ve always felt like there has to be a better way to clean silver naturally! Well, I’m pretty paranoid about harsh chemicals, so maybe that’s why I let some of my grandma’s beautiful antique silver get to looking like the photo above.
Or maybe it’s just that I usually have no time for scrubbing and buffing and polishing. It seems that most people don’t, especially around the holidays, when they start to realize that it’s time to polish the silver.
I used to use toothpaste as a silver cleaner, actually, which works great. It does, however, require a bit of elbow grease, so that just isn’t the right solution anymore for this time in my life.
Science to the rescue!
More cleaning tips for precious metals and stone: DIY Jewelry Cleaner
How to Clean Silver Naturally
Here’s what you need to do if your silver is in a similar state:
First, line the bottom of your sink with aluminum foil with the shiny side up and add your tarnished silver pieces.
Next, add in as much tarnished silver as will fit and sprinkle it all with about a cup or even a bit more of baking soda.
I should note that I clean my favorite silver pieces this way once a year or so, and you can see that some of the items pictured above aren’t that bad, but they do need a little touch-up. Here’s a photo from a few years ago when I tried this for the very first time. You can see things were in a very sorry state at that time.
For the next step after sprinkling the baking soda, you’ll need some boiling water. I boiled about 10 cups on the stove.
Another favorite cleaning hack: How to Clean an Iron to Remove Mineral Deposits and Scorch Marks
Next, pour that into the sink and then top the water level up with hot tap water until everything is covered.
A side note for all of you country dwellers: I used good ol’ well water and not the fancy filtered bottled water we have for drinking, which worked just fine. The mineral deposits in well water don’t affect the science of this process at all, which makes things a bit easier.
I originally read about this technique from quite a few different sources, and some said that you need to leave your silver to soak for 30 minutes or so. This isn’t true! The chemical reaction that occurs happens instantly! There’s a strong sulfur smell at first, and you’ll actually be able to see the silver turning brighter as the water level in the sink rises and covers more tarnished surfaces!
Once that reaction happens, you just need to either pull your silver pieces out with some tongs or wait until the water won’t burn your hand. Then rub them quickly with a soft cloth or a silver-polishing cloth if you have one, and they’ll be as good as new! Or better than new really, because they don’t seem to make things this pretty anymore!
If you have any more ornate silver pieces or a piece of silver with intricate details to deal with when you’re cleaning silver, the baking soda and aluminum foil trick is perfect because it’s so gentle. You may find that the tarnish clings just a bit to the very delicately decorated portions of your piece. A soft toothbrush can help loosen that up when you’re in the final polishing step.
More cleaning ideas: 12 Simple Homekeeping Tools That Will Change Your Life
This trick to clean silver naturally is so fun to play around with! It’s so neat because you can actually see the tarnish transferring to the aluminum foil! I’ve also read that some people say you should add salt and vinegar, but that seems almost unnecessary to me. I’d say keep the recipe as simple as possible!
Do you have a favorite way to polish all of your best silver pieces?
Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.