Silver is a lovely, elegant looking metal used to make a wide variety of decorative and utilitarian items. Whether you own a treasured family silver tea service or a new punch bowl, you will want to keep your silver bright and shiny. However, over time and with usage silver will tarnish. This is a guide about cleaning silver.
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It is always a good idea to wipe your silver off as soon as you are finished with it. For instance, my silver omega chain gets wiped after every use. The oils on your fingers and skin cause silver to tarnish.
Here is a tip my mom gave me for removing that tarnish, if you forgot or just got too busy. Ideas for things that can be cleaned this way are: silverware, plates, things that are put away for holidays, literally anything silver or sterling, including jewelry.
Place a sheet of aluminum foil in a bowl, spreading and molding it to the bowl. Sprinkle the foil with salt and baking soda, then fill with warm water. Take any tarnished silver or "sterling" items and soak them in the water.
As the item soaks the tarnish will migrate to the foil. It is almost like magic. Take out of the water, rinse, and buff with soft cloth.
To think how much time and money everyone will save is exciting, but the first time you see this happen is priceless. Enjoy your clean silver.
Source: My mom, Luana McD.
Use toothpaste (not the gel) to clean and polish silver. Put some on a clean rag and cover the area you want to polish with toothpaste. When dry, buff with soft, clean rag. It will shine just as well as if you have used silver polish, and its so much cheaper.
Another way to use toothpaste is to remove grass stains from clothes. Put some on the stained area and scrub with an old toothbrush. Rinse with water, launder as usual. Both tips work really well, they are cheap and done without a lot of work!
By dwedenoja from New Creek, WV
To clean silver, pour hot water into a mug and add 3 Tbsp. salt (to make an electrolite) and some aluminum foil. Leave items in this to soak a few minutes. Take them out and rinse with clean water, then polish with a clean soft cloth. Hey presto, clean silver!
By jayfeather from Australia
Why buy expensive jewelry cleaner for my tarnished silver pieces? Now I use white toothpaste with an old used toothbrush. Give it a few swirls inside the crannies, and my silver jewelry now sparkles as if I got it professionally cleaned.
By cipi2000 from Miami, FL
I was going out on the town and wanted to wear my sterling silver necklace. I noticed it had tarnished. I did not want to get out a rag and silver polish. I recalled that when we visited Mexico, the silver jewelry shop owners all sat around all day, polishing their silver jewelry with lipstick! SO, I grabbed the tube of lipstick I was going to wear, put some on a tissue and proceeded to polish my necklace, removing the tarnish with the lipstick! It worked like a charm!
By Sharon from Southern Illinois
This is a great tip on how to keep your silver polished.While visiting the "Juliette Gordon Low" historical mansion in Savannah last month, we found out how they keep all the silver (lots and lots!) looking so beautiful. They told us they polished it as usual then put a coat of "future floor wax" over it, and it just keeps on shining. I have never heard of this, but if it works for them, I'm going for it. Obviously it wouldn't be for things you use, but for all that silver just sitting around tarnishing, why not!
Source: Information was given to me by the Representative at the "Juliette Gordon Low" historic museum in Savannah. Juliette founded the Girl Scouts of the USA in 1912 and opened her home up for the meetings. The home is incredible.
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Here are questions related to Cleaning Silver.
I am looking for home remedies for cleaning silver plated items.
By Carolyn from Albemarle, NC
By Nancy (Guest Post) 10/30/2008
I have one of those electrolitic cleaners sold on television some years ago.The instructions call for "washing soda" not baking soda.You can achieve the same results with some aluminum foil, very hot water and Arm and Hammer washing soda. You can find the washing soda in the laundry product section in your grocery store.
I have used barbecue sauce. Just rub it in the silver and rinse off. Works amazingly well!
My two favourite methods:
Make a paste of lemon juice and table salt. Use a soft cloth to dip into the paste and rub on the silver. this works best if you're maintaining the shine.
If you have a lot of tarnish, I like Tarnex. It stinks like crazy when it contacts the tarnish (a bit like rotten eggs), but it's tolerable and it works fast and easily. I keep a bottle handy as well as always having lemons and salt available.
I learned this because I have several silver goblets that are used regularly.
Would anyone out there have the recipe for silver cleaner using the tin foil method?
I've cleaned old silverplated forks (to use in crafting) by lining a cake pan with a big sheet of aluminum foil, liberally sprinkling on baking soda, and pouring boiling water over it to cover, then let it sit awhile until the water cools enough to remove the items. Takes some tarnish off, but you still have to buff it all with a soft cloth to get it really shiny. Replace the foil to do more, as it darkens and stops removing tarnish. Though it works somewhat, I'd not really want to use this method for "good silver".
By Nolasandy (Guest Post) 02/15/2008
This came out of the Times-Picayune of New Orleans: In a large glass baking dish, put in foil, shiny side up. Add one tablespoon salt and one tablespoon of baking soda. Add enough boiling water to cover. Tarnish will drop off of silver pieces. Remove silver and buff.
Where can I get a reliable cleaner that will not etch/damage the original surface? Or how can I make a safe cleaner?
I have used the salt and baking soda cleaning method for cleaning silver. However, many pieces were so tarnished and old that they have what looks like a tarnish stain. I have used commercial products to no avail. Does anyone know something I can try?
Sadly, it could be that it is not residual tarnish, but just the silver plating wearing off. Unless you know for sure that you have pure silver, you may want to take one of the pieces into a jeweler's and ask their advice, so you don't ruin the pieces. (Even if they are pure silver, you may want to take one in to ask how to get it clean.)
What is a homemade way to polish a silver dish?
By Holly from Lancaster, WI
Toothpaste (not gel toothpaste) and you can find it on the cheap at a dollar store ;-) I have an antique ornate solid silver butter dish my grama gave me as a gift for high school graduation almost 40 years ago and that's what I use. Apply the toothpaste on cotton balls and gently rub in a circular motion with the balls. Then a quick dish soap wash and water rinse and a thorough dry :-)
What can I use for a natural silver cleaner?
Toothpaste (not the gel kind) is what I use and you can buy it on the cheap at the dollar store. ;-) Just dab it on with a cotton ball or soft cloth and gently rub in circular motions, wipe off and rinse and you're done. :-)
Is there an easy or homemade way to clean silver and where do you suggest to sell for the most honest price? I have sold at jewelry stores in past, but that was over 15 years ago.
I did not beleive anything less than old fashioned muscle and scrubbing would ever work, But like all of us, I hoped! So when I tried this, I had little expectations. I was pleasantly surprised at the results. All you do is line your sink with aluminum foil, add to that 1/2 cup of table salt, 1/2 cup of baking soda, and a gallon of VERY hot or even boiling water and submerge your silver!
Now wait...in 20 minutes or so (when the water is cool enough to reach in and retrieve your treasures) you will be amazed! For the reallly really oxidized silver I use a product called "eagle One" also sold under the name "Never Dull" ( a lot of military folks will know this one, as it woks on medals, brass, etc, etc) It's 3.89 in your automotive dept at wal-mart! What a steal!..( use gloves, as it will smear fresh nail polish!)
I have a collection of sterling silver napkin rings, which are almost all 100 plus years old. Most have intricate designs in the Art Nouveau style. I have used the aluminum foil/baking soda and salt in hot water method. However, I now have a cloudy white residue left in the creases and indentations of the Repousse Nouveau designs.
How do I get this off without scratching the silver?
By Barbara A
How do I clean silverware? I am trying to polish it. You can mix something with Arm and Hammer cleaning soda. What is it? Thank you.
By Brenda from Orangeburg, SC
What is the best way to clean?
By Tom T. 
I have a lot of silver pieces from my family. I've read here before about cleaning silverware, but don't remember anything about cleaning the larger pieces. Could someone help me with this one? The thought of cleaning them, by hand, piece by piece, is overwhelming. Also, how best to store them afterwards? Right now I have them wrapped in cloth and then in heavy plastic, which seems to do OK. Thanks.
How do you remove lacquer from silver and silver plate?
I have a silver heartshaped bowl with lid. I put a rubberband around the bowl to keep the lid on. Now there is a mark on the lid and base. What suggestions do you have to remove the rubberband mark?
By Sylvia K.
What is best way to clean silver and silverplate?
By Connie N.
How do I remove old lacquer from silver?
Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the comments that were provided then.
Tips for cleaning silver: I have a collection of silver mustard spoons that are beginning to look a little tarnished and yellow. Does anyone have any ideas on how to clean silver?
Many thanks to you all in advance.
Be very careful with this method since the solution along with the aluminum foil can totally ruin your silver, especially if you have any plate it will be destroyed, the sterling can be pocked marked when done. (02/06/2005)
My daughter would spend hours cleaning the silver service in our home. I decided one day to surprise her and clean it all in a few minutes. Here is what I did.
Take a deep pan of water and heat it quite hot. Add a piece of tinfoil with the shiny side up and pour a blob of salt in the middle along with a blob of Cascade Water Softener. Stir and just dip your silver for a few minutes and wolla, all clean. Rinse with warm water and dry.
She was quite upset with me! =) (03/09/2005)
One of the best ways to keep silver serving forks, spoons, etc. looking polished & tarnish free is to simply use them & carefully hand wash & dry often, at least twice a month. (03/09/2005)
Absolutely the best way to clean silver: Line a sauce pan with aluminum foil, fill it with water and add 1 Tbsp. of baking soda per 2 cups of water; heat over burner to boiling and remove. Lay silver items in pan, touching aluminum foil. Remove, rinse, and polish lightly.
By Brenda Cole (05/08/2005)
Cleaning Silver Request and answer from NEWTON
Text: I teach middle school science, and one of my colleagues, who thinks I know everything, asked why the following recipe works. (I was at a loss, so in order to continue to appear brilliant I need help!) Tarnished silver can be cleaned if placed in a glass bowl which has warm water, salt, and aluminum foil. I assume that in some way the Aluminum displaces the Ag, but, what is the role of the salt?
Author: Robert Topper
Text: I will try to confirm or deny the displacement theory. Basically, it sounds like the silver oxide on the surface is reduced by aluminum, and brought into solution. The salt raises the ionic conductivity of the water and makes it easier for electron transfer to take place (oxidation/reduction, as the other readers may not know, is the chemical term for the loss/gain of electrons from a chemical species). The way I will check out the displacement theory is to look up the thermodynamics of the situation, i.e., to check whether the half-reactions, added together, give a positive or negative EMF/free energy for the reaction. But I think you are right about it being a displacement reaction. Thanks for asking this question! I never knew this way of cleaning silver...now my wife is going to want me to clean all our silverware.
Text: The reaction is a redox reaction but not a displacement per se. The half reactions are Ag+ +e- ---) Ag and Al ---) Al3+ + 3e- When added together the cell potential is +2.48. This positive number indicates that the reaction will be spontaneous (the number is in volts). The silver oxide is reduced to silver metal and the aluminum foil is oxidized to aluminum ions. The salt is present to help the transfer of the electrons (usually called a 'salt bridge'). If the aluminum actually displaced the silver, you would not have silverware after you cleaned them...they would all be aluminumware! So it is the electrons that are being shuffled around, and not the elements themselves.
Source: NEWTON (05/08/2005)
I have a collection of CLEAN silver mustard spoons in 5 minutes! The warm water - aluminium foil - glass bowl and salt method really works! (Must call my friends and let them know!) Thanks everyone! Brilliant advice! (05/08/2005)
By Julie UK
Wow! We sure do attract an educated crowd on this site. Never thought I'd be getting a chemistry refresher course. I am amazed at the things I have learned from you all! Thanks! (05/10/2005)
I need to know a easy way to clean silver, is there a homemade recipe or what product will not scratch it.
Laureen from CA, Napa
I have just cleaned my silver ware in time for Christmas dinner. I used cheap toothpaste and an old toothbrush. It certainly works and I preferred it to using the aluminium foil method. (12/04/2006)
Cleaning Tarnished Silver: I need a quick method of cleaning badly tarnished silver and silver plate. A while ago, I moved and then had surgery and by the time I unpacked, all my silver was badly tarnished. Nothing I have tried so far has been very successful, and I cannot stand or sit for long at the present.
SheilaMay from Bronx, NY
I read somewhere that to clean silver you put them in the sink with a few polident tablets and pour hot water on them and let them set for 1 hour. I hope this works but it surely will not hurt to try. (01/06/2007)
The hot water foil method does work but please folks be careful. It can ruin your silver. The best fastest creme is Wrights silver polish and it not only cleans but protects your silver also. If you have silver that you don't use everyday, Why not invest in some Silvercloth? You can buy it by the yard and make some drawstring bags to store your silver in. Lots of Places on the internet sell it. It is impregnated with silver so when you store your silver in it It does not tarnish. This is the safest way to store your silver. The fabric sells for about 17.00 a yard but a yard of fabric makes alot of bags. Plus some internet sites run sales as low as 6.95 a yard it is called Silvercloth or Pacific Cloth. Good Luck. (01/06/2007)
By Debra in Colorado
I swear by a product called Never dull
It comes in a can, looks like dryer lint that has been infused with some cleaning solvent-but works great and never scratches-is very easy to use and then toss the dirty pieces. Purchase at True Valu Hardware for about $5 per can