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

71 Responses to “Visual Tutorial | A Natural, Non-Toxic Way to Polish Silver”
  1. patricia says:

    You got me with the ease of this idea but specially with the comment on the last photo (totally get it). Will implement today! Thanks for the info!

  2. Sara Jane says:

    I LOVE polishing silver but I hate the smell of the silver polish! Thanks for a non-stinky solution!

  3. Miss B. says:

    I suppose I am a Latin mother in training because this little magic trick made me GIDDY!!! Thank you!

  4. Michelle says:

    This is awesome. How have I never heard of this before?!?! I am so trying this tonight.

  5. Jules says:

    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.

  6. christy says:

    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!

  7. 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!

  8. Jules says:

    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.

  9. Natalie says:

    That is simply amazing! I have plenty of silver things that could use love like this! Thanks for sharing

  10. Lewis says:

    Maybe I’m slow…but what did you mean by appeasing latin mother everywhere. Thanks.

  11. Such a nice tip!! And I loved the last comment – I’m also a latin mother!

  12. Piper says:

    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 :)

  13. Jules says:

    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. :)

  14. Ani Tashjian says:

    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.

  15. Juliette says:

    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! ; )

  16. There’s something so satisfying about this kind of project. But, you know, I never knew Latin mamas had a thing for polished silver. I learned something today!

  17. Jules says:

    Meredith–the ones over 60 seem to be very passionate about it. ;)

  18. Suzanne says:

    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.

  19. Bethany says:

    does this work well on jewelry?

  20. ally says:

    Really? Why have I not heard of this? I’m going to spend my day tomorrow mixing salt and baking soda.

  21. I have an entire cupboard of beautiful silver. Flatware, serving pieces etc.
    Please come over.

  22. frauheuberg says:

    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

  23. Aqilla says:

    My god, that vase is gorgeous, any chance I can find one of those around anywhere, or is it an antique?

  24. Jules says:

    The vase is by Castillo. My parents bought it for me as a gift when they were in Cancun. I think you can find some of their pieces on ebay.

  25. robin says:

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

  26. bridget says:

    Holy shmokes I knew nothing of this!! LOVE it!

  27. cc says:

    OMG! I have to try this! Do you know of anything that would clean badly tarnished copper? Thanks for sharing this!

  28. Thea says:

    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.

  29. great tip and I love your sense of humor :)

  30. Peter W. Rowe says:

    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.

  31. you can avoid silver tarnishing if you store it with pieces of white chalk.

  32. Excellent idea for a post…and you cracked me up.

    Cheers from another BYW student!

  33. Jenny Hoople says:

    Wow! Super tip :) I have a large, tarnished silver necklace, can’t wait to try it out!!

  34. Thanks for the tips on cleaning silver, I like to use toothpaste, I works quite well.

  35. eileena says:

    Great!!! have you tried this on jewelry?

  36. Jules says:

    No, I haven’t. But, one of the comments is from a jeweler, and he had some advice on using it for jewelry. Good luck! :)

  37. Margaret says:

    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!

  38. Bo Kalvslund says:

    Great tip Jules

    -and great comment Peter.

    Thanks for sharing.

  39. wrightskill says:

    great and simple technique to polish silver.Anyone can do this.Is it applying with gold
    jewelry?.Thanks for nice blog mom!

  40. Olivia says:

    what an amazing sollution to a problem…thank you xx

  41. Annacrome says:

    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.

  42. Denise says:

    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!

  43. Zara says:

    this is amazing i just stumbled in here and now i know what to do with that choker i havent worn in a year.

  44. Great idea! The pictures tell the perfect story.

  45. Sundari says:

    It sounds too good to be true! Thanks a ton! Will definitely try it out. :)

  46. Debbie says:

    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.

  47. Jules says:

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

  48. Elizabeth says:

    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

  49. lisa richardson says:

    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

  50. Seth says:

    Brilliant! now all I have to do is buy some silver pieces!

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  52. Amanda says:

    Thanks for the post, I used this technique to polish a old silver ring that I had. The ring looks brand new now.

    Jewelry Rage

  53. kace says:

    I am taking a class that requires that i get people to fill out surveys would you mind helping me out?

  54. Laurie says:

    That is super neat! I cant wait to try it with something silver! Wonder if it works for anything else??

  55. Lisa says:

    You know, if you do this on the stove with boiling water, the reaction only takes about 10 seconds!

  56. kamal says:

    Thank you for this tip. I wanna try it first at my mom house. I can make her happy.

  57. Sharon says:

    Unfortunately this did not work for me, must be doing something wrong.

  58. Leather Bags says:

    That’s awsome! I will try this evening…

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  61. Sharon J says:

    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.

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  67. madhurya says:

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

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  1. […] me look like tarnished silver.  Hey, maybe I should dip my head in a plastic bowl filled with warm water, tin foil, and salt and make it all […]

  2. […] received a lot of emails after I posted my tutorial on how to polish silver last February, but the most frequently asked question was whether you could use the same technique […]

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Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.