Visual Tutorial | A Natural, Non-Toxic Way to Polish Silver

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  1. When I started the “Things I Hope to Never Forget” feature on my blog many moons ago, it was to force myself to communicate in pictures. FAIL. I just can’t shut up.

    I’m cheating and using my own comments section.

    This is a fast, cheap, and non-toxic way to polish silver. It’s my go-to method for when company is coming and I don’t have time to polish everything I need. Oh, and when I say rub gently, I mean rub gently. You can see in the second to last picture how the tarnish rubbed off just by me picking the vase out of the water. Really, you are just wiping off the tarnish that didn’t adhere to the aluminum foil.

    A quick note–just like regular and frequent polishing of silver can damage it over time, so can this. You are supposed to store your silver in such a way that it doesn’t tarnish to begin with but, well, you know how it goes.

    My Latin mother is going to be very relieved to see I finally polished this vase. I just won’t tell her that it didn’t take me any effort to do it.

  2. Excellent idea! So this transfers the tarnish to the aluminum foil somehow? I’ve gotta try this – I have an incredibly tarnished silver teapot that looks almost copper now lol. So glad you shared this tip!

  3. My mom will thank you forever when I tell her about this and where I found it. She has a ton of spoons she’s collected over the years and groans whenever she even thinks of polishing them. Thanks!

  4. Christy–yes, you are exactly right. From what I understand, it’s the baking soda and aluminum pulling the tarnish (silver sulfide) off the silver thanks to a electrolytic current from the salt. The warm water speeds the reaction. If you smell a rotten egg smell, that is the sulfur. I have yet to smell anything, but I have never really tried it with mass quantities of silver. Of course, if I did, I would ventilate/do it outside and increase the amount of ingredients.

    Tenacious Textiles–I always thought this was perfect for loads of silverware. If any part of the item is stainless steel, like a knife blade, then only submerge the portion that is pure silver.

  5. Just had to stop by your site (i’m in BYW class!) and say what a great idea this column is- love it!! such good info…if only i could find the time to do it 🙂

  6. Lewis–it’s a long standing joke for regular readers. My mom, a Latin mother, hates it when I allow my silver to tarnish. I find most Latin women of her generation believe that a lady never lets her silver tarnish. 🙂

  7. Well done! It reminds me of the old Martha Stewart Living magazines which had wonderful simple instructions for household chores. (This is meant as a compliment.) I hate polishing silver. I am thinking this will work for silver jewelry? Chains etc.? With lesser amounts of baking soda and salt and foil? Your post may actually make me do it without using toothpaste.

  8. love this communicating via pictures instead of so many words – that IS a challenge! way to go! awesome tip btw, have this engraved pie server thing that I can never get the grooves polished. I gave up forever ago, so this may be my saving grace….maybe i’ll post about it, ha! ; )

  9. One hour! not necessary! Line the bowl with the foil, put in the Baking Soda, no salt needed, put in all your silver and gold and pour just off the boiling water over. It will froth up and in minutes, you’re done! Wipe with the soft cloth and smile.

  10. really, really love this…like juliette said…it is so fresh to read not all the time so much words…;)…and the tip is so great…i will try it, too…and love the last words, too…have conjured up a smile on my face…a good start for the weekend…thanks…;)…cheers ines

  11. Toothpaste also works very well. Rub on with your fingers and clean off with an old toothbrush under running water. Minty fresh and sparkling!

  12. Just popped over from BYW. This is a great idea for a weekly post and I love that this doesn’t use any nasty chemicals. In response to CC’s question about tarnished copper. My mother taught me to use vinegar and salt to rub copper pots – it really works! They come up shiny.

  13. A few notes from a professional jeweler. The same process works, slightly faster, using just “washing soda (sodium carbonate)” Found in the laundry aisle at the grocery store. No salt with that. Also, warm water speeds it up a bit. It’s important that the silver be in actual contact with the aluminum foil (you can also just use an aluminum pan rather than foil, the silver still has to be in contact with it. Plain aluminum, not anodized or coated. What this does is to cause an electrolytic reaction (like a battery) that reduces the silver and copper sulphides (the tarnish) back to silver. So it works on any silver, including jewelry, so long as it’s actually a silver surface. Much jewelry is rhodium plated, so it won’t work there. But that stuff doesn’t tarnish, so no confusion. Also OK for silver plate, not just solid silver. One important note is that this doesn’t polish the silver. It changes the black or discolored silver back to a white color. But that can look still less than clean. If it was badly tarnished, it will be a dull white to cream color. Then use any decent silver polish paste or cream, or a rouge cloth, to restore the actual shine. While this sounds like extra work, it’s a lot faster to just shine it than to have to actually remove the tarnish via that polishing. And for only slightly tarnished ware, you may not need to do anything else. And to the person who wanted to clean badly tarnished copper, try the commercial product, Tarnex. That does the same as the above process, through different and much more aggressive chemistry, so it works on copper and really heavy tarnish too. Also, you can try a mix of vinegar and salt. With a little rubbing, it can help clean copper. Don’t do that to silver (different chemistry involved). Cheers! Hope this helps.

  14. I did a school science fair experiment on this kind of thing and won first place and best in show! It really does work! Shows there’s no need for all those fancy products that smell awful!

  15. Jules,
    I use electrolytic solutions to clean everything metal except aluminum. I clean my costume jewelry chains, silver, silver-plate, stainless steel, surgical steel, and gold with them. They will clean aluminum, but the shine doesn’t last and the cleaned item will actually acquire a worse tarnish after it dries.

  16. I use water and lemon juice to clean a copper chain maille necklace I made. Put enough water in a small finger bowl to cover the necklace, add a generous splash of lemon juice and in less than a minute it comes out sparkling & beautiful. Rinse and wear!

  17. Thank you for this tip. I’m going to try this first thing tomorrow. I was to take my things to get them re-silvered. You may have just saved me some time AND money. Thanks again.

  18. Awesome! My mum constantly has to polish silver and she reacts sort of allergic to the polish, so I hope this will help.

  19. So does the tin foil just line the bowl? or float? or is it wrapped around the silver? Sorry first time doing this and its a one time deal so I want to get it right XD

  20. Loved this ‘tip’ and all the great comments! … can’t wait to try it on all my tarnished silver! Aside from cleaning up after kids, it’s my most dreaded job here is my ‘tip’ for the day. For those of you who have trouble sleeping at night, I found cozy p.j.s with negative ions…another simple solution! This fabric calms you down also is breathable to regulate temp…(night sweats suck) so you sleep better. it really worked for me (and my sister) oh almost forgot… the name is Goodnighties and you can find them on the web. I highly recommend them. Sweet dreams, Lisamomto4

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  23. So…it has been over two hours now…the silver cup is still tarnished. I added more baking soda and more salt…. I will leave it in for another hour, but so far, not terribly impressed. It does sort of work, took the worst of the tarnish off and the water looks very grey, …we shall see. But this has not worked to my satisfaction.

    Perhaps it is because I do not have a Latin American Mother in Law.

  24. Dear Jules:
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    “Emilia Castillo Mexico vase tall 12 inches three 3 lizards malachite silver
    or Best Offer” eBay entry 12/13/14 (really!!!!); has malachite lizards for legs–totally awesome! As is yours!

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  27. Does this smells odd? Is it sticky? I like it when its non sticky and helps me clean without making my hands a mess.

  28. I used the method as listed in the original post(minus the hour-long soak]. Worked like a charm, with exception to one or two items, which turned a little orangish and also left behind a film. I presume repeating the process will solve said issue. Thoughts on that theory either way? Thanks again!


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