Sunday, June 6, 2021

The Easiest and Best Way to Clean Silver


In December 2018, I wrote another article on how to clean silver. 

In that article, I discovered a product my husband uses to clean the chrome on his tires called Mothers Mag and Aluminum Polish. The product is excellent for cleaning silver, but the way I'm about to divulge is far superior.

The Easiest Way to Clean Silver that Doesn't Involve Manual Labor

In the 1980's I purchased an Electrolytic Silver Cleaning Plate

The directions for using that cleaning plate are simple: 

Put the plate in the bottom of your kitchen sink, fill the sink with boiling hot water, then add Calgon water softener. Rest the silver piece so that it's touching the plate, and leave it for a few minutes to fifteen minutes, then wipe clean.

However, I could no longer find Calgon (except for a ridiculous price on Amazon), so I began to do a bit of Google research.

There Are Many Ways, According to Articles on Google, on How to Clean Silver

Some articles involve dish soap and vinegar. However, I found the instructions on these methods to be too cumbersome.

I figured, if a silver plate with Calgon can clean silver, there has to be an equivalent DIY alternative method. Thanks to Google research, yes, there is.

Here's the Easiest and Best Way to Clean Silver

Items Needed:

  • Your kitchen sink
  • Baking Soda (several boxes depending on how much silver you have to clean). I'd pick three boxes, so you don't run out
  • Tinfoil
  • Boiling Hot Water

Directions:

1. Put the drain plug in your sink.

2. Line your entire sink with tin foil, shiny side up. Don't leave any sink exposed. Instead, bring the tin foil right up the sides of your sink all the way around. However, if you're only cleaning silverware and small pieces, you could try just lining the bottom of the sink.

3. Pour boiling water into the sink. I used mostly boiling water from the kettle, but I ran super hot tap water when the water needed more heat. However, just keep boiling water coming. I re-filled the kettle and boiled more water every time I emptied the kettle.

4. I filled the sink to the highest level because I had many silver pieces to clean, with some pieces being quite large.

5. Place a piece or pieces of silver in the sink touching the tin foil. For larger pieces, just rotate them so that all the sides get covered with water at some point. If the piece isn't in the water, it won't clean.

6. Pour baking soda into the sink. I poured it on top of the silver in the water, but I don't think that matters. Since I had a lot of silver to clean, I used several boxes of baking soda. On the first silver items, I probably dumped half a box in the water. I wanted to make sure it worked. Next, I cleaned a silver tea service, silver platters, silver candles, and a silver serving dish to clean. Judge for yourself how much baking soda you need. If you feel it's not cleaning fast enough, simply get the water up to boiling again, and add more baking soda.

7. The cleaning process takes care of itself. You don't have to scrub anything (just wipe it off when you take it out of the sink). In fact, it's interesting to watch the silver clean itself right before your eyes.

8. Dry, wipe and shine up your silver with a cloth. That's it, you're done.

9. I cleaned all these pieces in less than an hour. 

I prefer the above method because it uses everything I have in the house; a sink, hot water, tin foil, and baking soda - boom, that's it. Oh, and it's unbelievable how clean the silver turns out.


Here are the pieces I cleaned (and they were completely tarnished before):


This tea set was so tarnished it looked brassy-black. The tray was tricky to clean in the kitchen sink, but I managed to clean it simply by turning it around and around until all the areas were submerged.


The piece on the top left was also severely tarnished with dark black, as were the two serving dishes in the bottom middle.




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12 comments:

  1. I have used this simple electrolytic method for removing tarnish from silver for decades, so I can attest to its effectiveness on mild to moderately tarnished silverware, silver serving pieces, silver jewelry, etc. The only times it didn’t worked well for me was on old sterling candlesticks and serving pieces that were very heavily tarnished after being stored improperly for a few decades. Even after repeated attempts to clean each heavily tarnished piece this way, using fresh aluminum foil and a fresh baking soda and boiling water solution for each attempt, that heavy layer of built-up tarnish wasn’t budging. But for silver with less stubborn tarnish, this method is awesome!

    Using boiling water definitely produces superior results (it affects the electrolytic reaction that pulls the tarnish from the silver to the aluminum foil, like a magnet. It’s also helpful to have more of the silver in direct contact with the foil, if possible.

    Obviously, this won’t work as well with nonstick foil! 🤣

    It’s also worth noting that patina is often used on pieces of silver that has been etched or engraved or has another type of texture or detailed design to create a dark contrast that brings out the details or texture against the brightly polished surface of the rest of the silver. That type of patina is created by intentionally speeding up the natural development of tarnish to darken the silver (and then polishing it off so it remains only in the recessed areas). So, if you want to polish a piece of silver without losing the contrast of the patina in the recessed areas, this method will remove the patina (intentional tarnish) along with the unwanted tarnish. For those pieces, the best thing to use is a silver polishing cloth impregnated with polish.

    One of the best things about the electrolytic tarnish removal method, in addition to how cheap and easy it is, is that it’s fun to watch the tarnish “magically” lift off the surface of the silver and deposit itself onto the aluminum foil! 😊

    This is a terrific trick to have up your sleeve. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Margaret, excellent tips to help people navigate the best way to clean their silver based on the type of silver they own. Greatly appreciated.

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  2. I think I will have to give my kids these instructions along with all the silver pieces they will get in time....In the meantime, thank you for this easy way to do a chore that I really don't like doing. I have several pieces that are very detailed and I never get them clean enough. This sounds like it will work for me! Lifesaver Barbara is your new name! Thank you for this!

    ReplyDelete
  3. A timely article indeed as I have my grandmother's silver tea service which is in need of cleaning. I had no idea there was a cleaning alternative to silver polish. Thanks, Barbara.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow! This is fabulous Barbara! So much easier than rubbing until my arms are sore. I think what I would like most, aside from beautifully clean silver, would be that when I am done, I could throw everything away. Very cool! Thanks for sharing this wonderful DIY silver cleaning method.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much - Margaret also added some excellent additional tips above to consider

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  5. Oh wow! If it weren't you writing this how-to, I wouldn't believe it. This is an awesome hack. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wow!! What a easy way to tackle a difficult and tedious task with simple household items. Thanks Barbara for this easy method.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wonderful ideas and practical applications here for how to clean Silver! These sound easy and effective methods and will be fantastic for anyone who has a silver collection. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete

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