Removing Tarnish from Silver

3 03 2013

Tarnish Removers

Forget the store-bought cleaners. Forget the chemical cleaners. Forget the pastes. They are dangerous to your health and dangerous to your silver. They are messy. They are hard to get into edges, corners, and loops. They can accelerate new tarnishing because they eat into the surface of the silver. They are bad for your skin, eyes, stomach, sinuses, lungs….

And, most importantly, they are unnecessary. I’ll show you a much better way!

Removing Silver Tarnish Safely

Here’s what you do instead.

1. Get a tray, glass baking dish, bowl, or bucket–something that will be large enough to hold whatever piece of silver you want to clean. Make sure it’s glass or plastic.

2. Put a sheet of ALUMINUM FOIL in the bottom.

3. Sprinkle on a liberal amount of BAKING SODA. 2 tablespoons will likely be enough, though I added an extra one for the piece below.

4. Add enough ALMOST-BOILING WATER, enough to cover your silver pieces. (You can do this with not-so-hot water, but it will take longer.)

5. Drop in your pieces. Make sure they are TOUCHING THE FOIL. The entire piece doesn’t need to touch the foil, which would be nearly impossible, anyway. But somewhere, make sure the silver touches the foil.

6. Wait A FEW MINUTES. Flip the pieces over after a couple of minutes, if you want. Doing so speeds up the process slightly, but it’s not necessary.

7. Take out the silver pieces and rinse them. Pour the liquid down the drain–it’s not a hazardous material, and toss the foil in the trash.

The Proof

PRE-TREATMENT: Here’s a piece that has been sitting on my shelf for years. The last time I polished it was about 2 years ago. I used a paste-type silver polish. It’s pretty badly tarnished. (As I found out later, the previous paste polish left a nasty residue on the silver. You can see how the tarnishing is uneven.) Click for larger images.

Front view, pre-treatment. very noticeable tarnish

Front view, pre-treatment. very noticeable tarnish

Back view, pre-treatment, very noticeable tarnish

Back view, pre-treatment, very noticeable tarnish

POST-TREATMENT: I soaked the silver vase in the baking soda bath for about 5 minutes. I used a big plastic bucket. Nothing fancy. During treatment, the only parts of the silver vase that touched the aluminum foil were the bottom edge and a point on the top lip. I flipped it over at around 2 or 3 minutes, mainly to look at it. The parts nearest the foil will lose the tarnish first, though eventually, all the tarnish will dissappear.  

Here’s the same silver vase after treatment. All the tarnish is gone. As you can see, the bath removed all the tarnish without any scrubbing and rubbing. No missed spots.

Silver vase post-treatment. All the silver tarnish is gone.

Silver vase post-treatment. All the silver tarnish is gone.

As I mentioned above, the silver had some residue on it. It was noticeable to my eyes. The vase was very hot from the water, so I let it cool for a few minutes. Then I washed the vase with some dish soap and dried it with a felt cloth.   This removed the residue, and resulted in this:

FInal result. Tarnished silver is now beautiful silver.

Final result. Tarnished silver is now beautiful silver.

I probably should have washed the vase before treating it in the baking soda / aluminum foil bath, but perhaps it didn’t matter. A quick soapy wash afterwards cleaned it up very nicely.

So, yes, it works.

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