Over time, silver exposed to air and light naturally tarnishes. This discoloration is more common in displayed silver pieces than in pieces that are used regularly. Even though it doesn’t require extensive care, silver still needs to be periodically maintained to avoid heavy tarnish, which can make it appear old and difficult to clean. Luckily, there’s a simple yet effective method for cleaning and polishing silver. All you need are a few common household items to create a safe chemical reaction that’ll restore the tarnish-free shine to your silver pieces.
In this article, our professionals from Crown Cleaners will take you step by step through a quick but comprehensive guide on how to best clean and polish silver. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Prepare Necessary Materials
Most of the materials are common pantry and household items that you almost always have around. A few of the materials aren’t as common, but they’ll come in handy whenever you’re cleaning and polishing silver.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Glass dish or aluminium pan
- Aluminium foil
- Baking Soda
- Sea salt
- White vinegar (optional)
- Cellulose sponge
- Nitrile gloves
- A clean cotton towel
- Silver polishing cloth
Step 2: Line Container With Foil
If you only have a few tarnished silverware or pieces to clean, you should use a glass dish or an aluminium pan large enough to fit the items. You can even use a plastic container if it’s a suitable size. On the other hand, if you’re cleaning a large number of silver items or large silver pieces, you should use the sink. Whichever vessel you go for, you should line it with aluminium foil, shiny side up. Just make sure to cover the entire surface, including the edges. In larger containers, you can overlap several foil sheets if you need to.
Step 3: Make the Cleaning Solution
If you’re using a small container, bring one cup of water to a boil. If you’re going to use the sink, boil enough water to submerge the tarnished silver. Then, pour the boiling water into the cleaning vessel. Next, for every cup of water, add about 1 tbsp of baking soda and 1 tbsp of sea salt. Some people add 1/2 a cup of white vinegar to create a more acidic solution. Stir the mixture through, making sure that the baking soda and salt dissolve completely.
Step 4: Put Silver Pieces in Solution
It’s now time for the main attraction: the silver. Place the tarnished silver pieces in the cleaning solution container, pushing them down with tongs so that the silver touches the aluminium foil. Make sure that all of the pieces have enough space and don’t overlap. Immediately, you’ll notice some bubbling and fizzing, indicating that all of the elements are reacting to one another. When you put the silver pieces in the container, galvanic corrosion will happen. It’s a chemical action that occurs when dissimilar metals are mixed together in an electrolyte with a small amount of acid.
In this case, the dissimilar metals are aluminium and silver, the electrolyte is the water, and the acid is the mix of baking soda, salt, and vinegar. The silver’s tarnish coating is made from silver sulphide. The solution corrodes those atoms and transfers them to the aluminium, creating aluminium sulphide. Allow lightly tarnished silver pieces to soak in the solution for about 30 seconds. Silver pieces that are heavily tarnished, on the other hand, should be left in the solution for a few minutes.
Step 5: Rinse Silver Pieces
After the silver pieces have been in the solution long enough for the tarnish to lift, remove them from the water with tongs. Place the almost tarnish-free silver in clean water and use a cellulose sponge to remove any remaining tarnish. Some people recommend using a tiny bit of liquid laundry detergent to remove light tarnishing. If a silver piece is still heavily tarnished, you should place it back in the cleaning solution for a couple of minutes.
Step 6: Buff Silver Pieces
Wearing nitrile gloves, take the tarnish-free silver pieces and place them on a clean cotton towel. The gloves will keep the oils and acids from your skin from transferring to the silver, preventing tarnish. Lastly, dry the silver pieces gently until no moisture remains. Then, taking a silver polishing cloth, buff the silver pieces one by one until they’re gleaming. Because the cloth is designed to clean and polish silver, buffing your silver pieces with it should give them a brilliant shine. As a result of this eco-friendly method, your silver pieces are now gleaming and restored to their former glory.
Tips for Storing Silver and Preventing Tarnish
Silver will discolour as long as it’s exposed to air. There are, however, some ways to prevent tarnish and keep your silver lustrous.
- Wrap small silver items in acid-free tissue paper, unbleached cotton muslin, or silver cloth
- Store flannel-wrapped silver pieces in plastic zip-lock bags, removing as much air as possible before sealing the bag.
- For bigger silver pieces, line the storing chest or drawer with tarnish-resistant flannel
- Tuck a piece of regular white chalk into the bag, chest, or drawer. It’ll absorb moisture from the air and stop discoloration
- Always hand wash your silverware in a plastic container to avoid scratching
Knowing how to best clean and polish silver can save you a lot of effort and time. It’ll also help keep your silver pieces shining for many years to come. Silver reacts with sulphur in the air, causing it to discolour and tarnish. It stands to reason that the most effective way to bring back its shine is through another reaction: baking soda, salt, vinegar, and aluminium foil. Even the most heavily tarnished pieces should be cleaned and polished in just a few minutes in this solution. Next time you want to bring out the silverware, you won’t have to dread the cleaning and polishing process. Now you can quickly restore its gleam so that you can use and enjoy it.