Silver has long been the metal of choice for so many beautiful things in the home. From delicate silverware cutlery to rings and chain necklaces, this attractive metal can glisten in many forms. However, silver is not as durable as gold and can tarnish and dull easily. When precious metal is subject to corrosion, it loses many of its valuable properties. However, you can stop tarnish in its tracks using these 8 easy ways to clean and polish silver at home.
Jewelry and silverware can easily get dirty, as they come into contact with our skin and various outside contaminants every day. Over time, layers of grime can build up in the cracks and crevices of silver items. This dulls their shine and luster, making silver look much less attractive. Fortunately, cleaning your silver at home is simple, and we're going to share a few easy methods to remove even the most stubborn dirt from silver.
What is Tarnishing?
Tarnishing is a chemical reaction that occurs when silver comes into contact with moisture. Oxygen in the air reacts with this humidity as well as the surface of the silver metal and creates a layer of silver oxide. This tarnish is actually a protective layer like rust, but it’s highly attractive. Luckily tarnishing is limited to the outer layer of silver items, and can usually be removed. Tarnish is different from dirt and needs to be remedied in a different way. However, by giving any silver in your home a thorough clean and polish, you can return it to its original glory.
In this article, we’re going to share eight different ways you can clean, polish, and restore your silver at home. All you need are some regular household items such as cornstarch, toothpaste, and laundry detergent. Using these techniques, you can remove even the most stubborn dirt build-ups and most unsightly tarnishing. Read on to discover all the ways you can clean and polish silver at home.
How To Clean Silver With Aluminum Foil and Laundry Detergent
There are lots of different items that could be made from silver in your home. When cleaning your silver belongings, make sure your method is appropriate to the item. You can clean slightly tarnished silverware (knives and forks) as well as silver jewelry using this technique. You’ll need aluminum foil as well as liquid laundry detergent, as well as a large bowl to put everything inside.
1. Line a large glass or metal container with aluminum kitchen foil. Ensure there are no gaps in the foil, so you cannot see the container peeking through beneath.
2. Fill the container with hot water, and stir in about a tablespoon of laundry detergent. Make sure you mix the solution thoroughly so that the detergent is evenly dispersed.
3. You can add your silver items for cleaning into the bowl a few at a time, so long as there’s enough room for each piece to be fully submerged. Leave them to soak for a minute.
4. Remove the items from the solution and place them in a kitchen strainer. Then, rinse your pieces of silver under lukewarm tap water to remove any traces of detergent or dirt.
5. Lay your silverware and jewelry on a soft surface such as a kitchen towel to dry. Ensure all your items are completely dried before returning your silver to storage.
How To Clean Silver With Aluminum Foil and Baking Soda
One of the most traditional home remedies for dull and tarnished silver uses baking soda and foil. This technique is ideal for jewelry, silverware, and any other dirty pieces of silver you may have. It’s especially effective for cleaning larger items which may otherwise prove difficult to properly restore. Here’s what you’ll need to clean your silver at home with aluminum foil and baking soda:
- A large flat container such as a ceramic or glass baking dish
- Aluminum foil
- Baking soda
- Kitchen salt
1. Line your large container with aluminum foil, with the shiny side facing up. It’s vital you use a container made from glass or clay, as metal trays can interfere with the chemical reaction.
2. Sprinkle equal amounts of salt and baking soda across the bottom of your container, ensuring an even layer of full coverage is achieved. You can start with two tablespoons of each, but the amount you use doesn’t matter as much as the ratio between baking soda and salt.
3. Lay each piece of silver you wish to clean on top of the white powder layer. Ensure each piece lies flat so it touches foil, salt, and baking soda. If you have a lot of silver items to clean, complete this process in batches/
4. Heat a pot of clean water to boiling temperature. Then, carefully pour the hot water into your silver cleaning container until all silverware is covered. You will see a chemical reaction occur as the baking soda dissolves in the water, and foam may rise up from the container. During this reaction, the solution you’ve created binds with the silver sulfide that causes tarnish and lifts it to the foil instead. You might notice that your aluminum foil has darkened after this process; that’s the tarnishing you’ve successfully removed form your silver.
7. Allow your pieces of silver to soak in the baking soda solution for several minutes. Some items may need up to 5 minutes if they are heavily tarnished.
8. After they soak, clean your silver with warm soapy water, before rinsing it under the tap. Once your silver pieces are gleaming with cleanliness, you can set them aside on a soft cloth to fully air dry.
How To Clean Silver with Vinegar
If you have a particularly stubborn build-up of grime and tarnish on your silver jewelry or pieces, you may want a stronger cleaning solution. This method is similar to the previous technique except it employs the acidic power of vinegar to help rid your silver of dirt. This method works great on soiled silverware, but we wouldn’t recommend using it on delicate jewelry and especially antique items. Vinegar can be quite a strong chemical to apply to precious metals such as silver, so use this cleaning technique wisely. You’ll need the same supplies as our precious way to clean silver, as well as distilled white vinegar.
1. Using an appropriate container made from glass or ceramic, line your pan with aluminum foil.
2. Add a tablespoon each of salt and baking soda to your foil-lined dish, spreading it in an even layer across the bottom.
3. Now, measure out half a cup of white vinegar and pour it into the dish. The solution will bubble as the vinegar dissolves your baking soda.
4. Heat a pot of water in a kettle or on your stove until it boils. Add one to two cups of boiling water into the vinegar solution, and stir them together. You need enough liquid that any silver pieces you add later will be completely submerged. If you need t use more than two cups of hot water, increase the quantity of baking soda, vinegar, and salt to match.
5. Carefully place the silver you wish to clean into your container, making sure no items overlap. A lightly tarnished or dirty silver item may only need 30 seconds to soak, while several minutes may be necessary to remove more stubborn stains.
6. After they’ve soaked for a maximum of three minutes, use tongs to remove your silver from the cleaner. Allow the items to air dry after rinsing under clean warm water.
7. Once your silver has dried completely, you can improve the shine by buffing it. Take a very soft cloth such as a microfiber cloth and gently rub the surface of the metal in small circles. This buffing will help remove any residue from the cleaning process, and make your piece of silver shine like a mirror!
How To Polish Silver with Cornflour and Water
The methods we’ve listed so far are great if you’ve got an old silver piece that’s seen better days, and needs to have dirt and tarnish removed. However, if your jewelry or silverware is still in good condition, you can increase its luster and add shine by polishing with cornflour! We’re going to share this sneaky trick telling you how to polish silver at home using only everyday items from your kitchen. All you need is cornstarch and water, and your silver will be as good as new!
1. Take a small bowl and add a significant quantity of cornflour. Then, add small amounts of water, little by little, until you achieve a thick paste consistency.
2. Wipe the cornflour paste all over the silver item you want to polish, pushing your mixture into every crevice. When the item is completely covered, set your piece of silver aside to dry completely.
3. After a few hours, your cornflour paste should turn into a crusty layer on the exterior of your piece of silver. You now need to take a towel and rub away at the item, carefully removing every trace of your DIY silver polish. When you’re finished, the shine of your silverware will blow you away!
How To Polish Silver with Ketchup
One surprising tip we want to share with you is that you can use ketchup to clean silver! The acidity of the tomatoes reacts with the tarnishing on silver jewelry and cutlery to help work against marks and stains. This method isn’t the most effective way to clean silver at home, but it works well in a pinch if you don’t have anything else on hand. All you need is a bottle of ketchup and some basic supplies.
1. Fill a ceramic dish with tomato ketchup, at least a few centimeters deep.
2. Submerge your silver item in the sauce, ensuring all parts of the metal are covered with ketchup.
3. Let your silver sit in the ketchup for 5 to 10 minutes. To make this method more effective, you can gently rub the ketchup into the silver with clean hands.
4. After it has soaked, remove your piece of silver from the ketchup and rinse under warm water. Then, use a soft cloth to buff dry the item and enjoy it’s renewed sparkle.
How To Polish Silver with Hand Sanitizer
If you’re out and about wearing a piece of silver jewelry and notice an unsightly spot of tarnish, you can use hand sanitizer to quickly polish it up. This speedy solution is perfect for rings and bracelets, which can easily get a spot of dirt stuck on. Just be careful you never use hand sanitizer on items such as rings which may have gemstones attached; certain chemicals in this hand cleaner can damage the precious stones.
1. Take a paper handkerchief or soft tissue and apply a small drop of hand sanitizer.
2. Use this to gently rub your piece of silver, focusing on any spots where you notice discoloration.
3. Simply continue to buff your silver jewelry item until the hand sanitizer evaporates, which should leave behind a shiny and lustrous piece! You can repeat the method as many times as necessary to remove small amounts of dirt and tarnish.
How To Polish Silver with Toothpaste
Another classic DIY technique to make your silver shine uses toothpaste. We’re going to share how to clean your silver at home with toothpaste and polish it to perfection. This method won’t be effective on large dirt build-ups or tarnish, so you’ll need to use one of the more vigorous cleaning techniques we’ve listed first. However, once your item is clean, you can use toothpaste instead of silver polish to return its original luster. It’s vital that you use regular toothpaste for this method; gel won’t work, and tooth cleaners containing abrasives could scratch your silver. You can also use this technique to clean silver coins.
1. Squeeze a small amount of toothpaste onto a soft paper towel. Use small circular motions to apply the toothpaste to your silver item, making sure you hit each surface of the metal. You don’t want to just layer on the toothpaste; make sure you rub it in to really lift away that tarnish.
2. After a few minutes of buffing, set aside your silver piece. Let it sit with the toothpaste covering for around 5 minutes so the chemicals can do their work.
3. Place your now cleaned silver into a kitchen strainer and rinse it under running tap water. Ensure every trace of toothpaste has been washed away before setting your piece of silver on a soft cloth to air dry.
How To Polish Silver with Ammonia
Although it’s not generally recommended to use harsh chemicals on silver, ammonia can be a highly effective way to restore shine. You should never use this way to polish silver at home on antique silverware or jewelry as it’s simply too strong, but flatware and accessories can benefit from this treatment. One important note to remember is that ammonia is a dangerous chemical, one which poses risks to human health. If you’re working with this chemical, ensure you’re in a well-ventilated space so that the fumes cannot harm you. Additionally, any silverware that was polished with ammonia needs a thorough clean before anyone uses it to eat.
1. Carefully measure out your ammonia, and mix it in a solution with two parts water.
2. Soak any silver you wish to polish in the mixture for ten minutes.
3. Remove your silver from the solution carefully using tongs, as ammonia is not a substance you want on your skin.
4. Wipe the silver items dry with a clean cloth, and then use a piece of soft cotton to buff up the surface. After a few minutes of polishing, shine should be restored to your silver.
How to Keep Your Silver in Perfect Condition
The best way to remove tarnish is to avoid silver polishing all together and simply store your silverware correctly. If you store silver in the correct environment, away from humidity, then oxidation will never have a chance to occur. Tarnishing is the result of a reaction between silver, oxygen, and humidity; since it’s impossible to avoid the first two, it’s the moisture you must work to avoid. Anyone who invests into precious metals knows that home storage is a great option, but there are certain steps it’s important to take.
No matter what type of precious metals you own, from sterling silver jewelry to antique knives and forks, you can keep it in good condition by storing it with no humidity. One easy way to achieve this is by placing a piece of chalk in a sealed container with your silver, which will absorb any moisture in the environment. Packets of silica gel work in the same way, removing any humidity from the air so that your silver can rest safely.
Never put tarnished pieces of silver flatware in the dishwasher, as this can permanently damage the metal. Instead, you can get rid of tarnish using one of the 8 easy methods we listed above, and safely restore shine and luster to your belongings. Cleaning silver is easy using our techniques! Combined with an informed approach to storage, use, and wear, you should be able to keep your silver in perfect condition for generations.