Silver is a beautiful and versatile metal that is used to create things like lovely serving pieces or treasured jewelry items. However, all silver becomes tarnished over time thanks to exposure to light and air. You may be dismayed to see your lovely silverware or favorite platter covered with dingy tarnish, but there are actually several simple ways to restore your pieces to their shiny glory. Though you can purchase polish or other commercially-available cleaning solutions, there are even some methods can be done simply at home with items most people have around the house.
You can use aluminum, another metal, to quickly and easily remove tarnish from silver pieces. However, please note that this method should only be used on pieces that can be boiled, like sturdy silverware. Simply bring one liter of water, one tablespoon of baking soda, one tablespoon of salt, and one piece of aluminum foil to a boil. Using tongs, and protecting your hands with oven mitts, drop your silver item in the pot and wait around ten seconds. It helps if the item is actually touching the aluminum foil. The tarnish should vanish from your silver.
If you prefer to clean your silver by hand, you can make your own polishing paste with baking soda, which makes an excellent gently abrasive cleaner. To get started, mix 1/4 cup of baking soda with two tablespoons of water. If this paste seems too thick and sticky, you can add a little more water to thin it out. Though baking soda is gentle, test a small spot on your silver item to make sure this paste isn't too rough. Rub it gently onto your silver item to remove even tough tarnish spots.
It may sound silly, but ketchup is actually a great way to gently remove tarnish from delicate silver pieces like jewelry or intricate pieces like engraved plates or candlesticks. Tarnish is basically caused due to your silver reacting with chemicals normally found in the air, like sulfur, forming dingy silver sulfide compounds. The mild acids in ketchup help remove the sulfide tarnishes, and ketchup can be gently scrubbed into grooves and other engraved areas to clean them thoroughly.
You can use cornstarch or corn flour like baking soda in order to make a mildly abrasive paste for cleaning off tough tarnish. Making the paste is simple; just mix a few tablespoons of corn starch with a few tablespoons of water. It doesn't matter exactly how much you use as long as you stick with equal amounts of each. Rub the paste on gently with a soft cloth, then let it dry. Remove it with water using a scrub brush or other rough-surfaced item for better results.
Great for smaller items that can be soaked, the laundry detergent method is an easy way to remove tarnish from silver items using something you probably already have at home. To use this method, pour a little hot water in a bowl and add a small amount of liquid laundry detergent until it becomes foamy. Drop your items into the bowl and soak for at least five minutes. When you remove the now tarnish-free items, wipe them clean with a soft cloth.
For this method, all you need to do is grab vinegar from the kitchen pantry. Because vinegar is actually a weak acid, acetic acid, it reacts chemically with the silver sulfide compounds that cause your silver items to become tarnished and discolored. Pour some vinegar into a bowl and soak your items until the tarnish lifts away.
Here is another method that involves an ingredient commonly found in your kitchen - soda. Most popular sodas contain acid, typically citric acids, carbonic acids, and phosphoric acids. These acids can actually cause tooth decay over time, eating away at the hard enamel that protects the tooth's surface. Fortunately, these mild acids are also effective at removing silver tarnish. Soak for about ten minutes for better results.
Toothpaste is pretty good at removing buildup from your teeth, and as it turns out, it can also do a good job of removing tarnish from your silver. This is due to the mild abrasive properties that it has. Apply toothpaste to tarnished silver items with a lot of nooks and crannies that need to be cleaned out. However, only use a brush to rub it in once you've tested to make sure it won't scratch your silver.
This one sounds a little odd, but it's possible to get great tarnish-removal success by combining one tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 1/2 cups of water, and 1/2 cup of instant dry milk. Since it requires so much lemon juice, this method is probably best used for small items, like rings or earrings. However, it does require an overnight soak, so only use this method when you have plenty of time before you need to use your silver items.
If you try these methods and you're still left with stubborn tarnish, or if you're just not in the mood for a DIY, there are many commercially available silver polishes. Typically, these products need to be applied with a sponge or cloth then rinsed away, or you can choose a convenient silver polish wipe if you are in a hurry and have a lot of silver to restore. One bonus to using silver polish is that many polishes claim to have ingredients to prevent future tarnishing too, although storing your silver in a dark, confined space also helps since it's not exposed to light or air.