Cleaning Silver

 

If your house is really a mess and a stranger comes to the door, greet her with, “who could have done this? We have no enemies.”

Phyllis Diller

It started with the sugar spoon at breakfast, I noticed how tarnished it looked.  We had company coming to stay with us, and really, all the silverware looked bad . . . it made me remember, just the other day, a girlfriend told me about this method she has of cleaning silver that she says definitely works, and gave me her recipe for it.

I’d heard of doing it like this before; I never really thought it would work, so I never tried it. But all my silver looked so terrible; what did I have to lose? What if it really works?  Way better than polishing every piece, one at a time.  Which I didn’t have time to do anyway. Then I thought, Maybe the girlfriends would like to see this scientific experiment! So out came the camera and here we are. Let’s see if it works!

I did what my friend suggested: I lined the sink with aluminum foil, the bottom and up on all sides.

Then I poured a half-cup of ordinary table salt and a half-cup of baking soda into the sink; filled it with really hot water, and dropped in the silverware.

You can see, if you look close, that I also dropped my wand in there.  Even though the wand is brass and not silver, I thought I’d give it a try. Joe came in, peered into the sink, and said, “what’s that?”  ”It’s my wand,” I said.  He looked at me, rolled eyes, and said, “Why didn’t you just wave it over the silverware and forget all this?”

So, how did it work? It worked pretty good!   I left it in the water for about a half hour.  Here are the before and after photos:  ”Before” is on the left, and “after” is on the right.  There’s definitely a big difference. I think you get more of a polish when you do it by hand; however, for speed-cleaning, and getting so many pieces done at once, this is my new, go-to way to do it.

  Then I polished my wand the old-fashioned way.

But here’s the real magic…I went to clean up, and look at this…the tarnish is all over the aluminum foil. Some sort of transference has occurred. Must have been the wand!

 

For this, I give myself the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval…

78 Responses to Cleaning Silver

  1. Ellie says:

    Try it!!!!…..You just never know if any of those wives tales work!!!!….Surprise!!!…It did!!!!!!

  2. Your silverware makes mine look like a walk in the park……….I will try this. And we only use sterling flatware (I don’t own anything else – it is the South afterall and we were raised this way!).

  3. Noel Blair says:

    I would love to use mine every day just because it feels so good in my hand and I think it makes any meal taste better. To have something so nice sitting in a drawer is a waste.

    • Lynn Maust says:

      I use mine daily….AND the method of Susan’s does the trick….it really works…did my whole drawer full of sterling….

  4. Theresa says:

    …can this also be done on bakelite flatware…will it ruin the handles?…made of stainless steel…but has tons of rust!!! bought them for a song fleamarketing

    • sbranch says:

      I’ve heard baking soda might work for that, just rub it on, like in a little paste, and see how it goes. The aluminum foil process might be too abrasive, but you could try just one piece if you have enough you wouldn’t mind if you lost one.

    • Valerie says:

      Back in the days when cars had a lot of chrome, which rusted quite a bit after a while, people used to polish the chrome with coca-cola. It will remove rust.

  5. shelly matter says:

    My grandma who is 87 and in wonderful health living on her own just down-sized and gave me some beautiful silver and I used it all the time! We have 5 children, 4 girls and one boy. The older three are girls are grown and now have homes of their own, 4th is our 18 yr old son and the baby is 13. We have 3 (going on 4) grandchildren and when my grandma comes for sunday dinner we have 5 generations! I’m so happy you shared your experiment with us as a short cut to polishing when time is of the essence is much appreciated. We try to get together for sunday dinners’ weekly and I LOVE using the silver and the serving utensils are soooo pretty too! We just turned our living room into a dining room for just such dinners’, and added a 10′ farm house table from our favorite furniture maker, Keith’s furniture. The top is old oak barn floor and the legs are huge and turned and distressed black. My son-in-law redid windsors in distressed black to match and we found a 6′ solid oak bench for one side and my gram had some darling black plank bottoms w/ painted design backs that we use for extra seating! All this to say that i’m thankful for the silver polishing tip?!

    • sbranch says:

      It sounds wonderful and very familyish!

      • shelly matter says:

        susan, we just love you! When the new grands arrive the new mommy gets your baby love book. Rarely does a birthday go by without the girls’ receiving another susan branch book to add to their collection. Christmas cards and names tags are made with your stamps, your scrapbooking papers and stickers adorn our scrapbooks, your calendar guides us through the year, your days’ books hold our daily memories and your address book sits on the kitchen counter by the phone:) You’ve been part of our family for many many moons and for that we, as a family, are thankful<3 Can't wait for the new book!!!

  6. CATHERINE says:

    Thanks for the great tip. I have a sterling silver and gold charm bracelet, that means the world to me. My jeweler in Newport, R.I., (never met them, but they do great work!) told me never to use the “dip silver cleaner”, because it can actually take the silver off. Also, with a lot of gold on it, I was afraid it would ruin. I just tried your method(I have to admit, I did hold my breath) and I know 2012 is going to be a good year! THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN! By the way, I did wave to you when I was on the Cape last month Susan, I figured my hand would just know the way! Great time, if it were up to me, I would cross the Sagamore Bridge, and never look back. Best in 2012. I would like to share with you and all women, my favorite saying. LIFE ISN’T ABOUT FINDING YOURSELF. LIFE IS ABOUT CREATING YOURSELF.
    Catherine

  7. Ruth Brisbin says:

    We used this method of polishing silver at a country club I waitressed at – it really does work well! I will have to do this for our home silverware – just getting more tarnished sitting in a drawer!

  8. Lady Jayne says:

    Interesting, so can you clean silver jewelry this way? Any tips??

  9. Wanda Styrsky says:

    Susan, I use aluminum foil pans and fill them with very warm water. I pour salt in like you do, but instead of the baking soda, I use a capful of Woolite. It works beautifully! I love cleaning my silver!

  10. Joy Pence says:

    I just received from my mom a sterling silver tea set (I saved my money when I was 16 and bought this for her from a jewelery store, I am 49 now!!) Being that these are not silverware, could I still try this method? What would the ratio of salt/baking soda to water be? Thanks, Susan.

    • sbranch says:

      Oh yes, that silverware in the photos is all sterling. I was just told to fill my sink to cover the silverware, which was about half way — you’d have to put more water in to cover your pieces, so I would add another half measurement of both.

  11. Stephanie R. says:

    Love this!! I was wondering if you can use this on brass? Or do you know another way of cleaning/polishing them?

    • sbranch says:

      I don’t think it works on brass. The little star on my wand is brass and it didn’t work on that. For brass, I just use the brass polish I get at the supermarket. But the silver thing is great!

  12. Jessie says:

    3-28-2012 Tried this today on a number of decorative and serving items. It worked noticeably well on the flat/smooth pieces like plates and bowls. On the more decorative items, it didn’t look like it worked, but it seems like it helped make the polishing work easier compared to a couple pieces I didn’t put in the bath.

    Thanks for saving me some of the work! My mother-in-law gave us all of the silver, and she will be here in a few days. Whew – so glad to be done!

  13. Aileen says:

    Supposedly ketchup is great for cleaning brass, copper and silver, glop on, let sit then clean off. You might try that for your wand.

    • sbranch says:

      That is slightly scary! :-)

      • Janet says:

        Can totally vouch for the Ketchup Method. The acid from the tomatoes is apparently the magic ingredient! Will not help for sterling, silverplate or pewter but have used it many times on brass candlesticks etc. Just be sure to wash item thoroughly afterward in hot soapy water, buff well etc. Hope this is helpful… :>)

    • KimberlyGreenman says:

      Ketchup works GREAT on any tarnished metals! Cover the piece generously with the ketchup, let it sit for an hour or so, wipe off with paper towels, and buff with a soft cloth (old t-shirt).

  14. Mhairi Williams says:

    I discovered an easy method of removing tarnish from silver, using stuff we all have at home. You’ll need an inert bowl (such as glass or ceramic), 2 cups very hot water, a teaspoon of table salt, a piece of folded up aluminum foil, and a tablespoon of baking soda. You can also add a teaspoon of vinegar to acidify the solution and speed up the reaction and it also intensifies the solution.. trust me, the vinegar included is magic!!!

  15. SHERI says:

    Just tried this and it worked like a charm…I really does beat spending 2 hrs polishing by hand!!!

  16. tamartime says:

    What is the pattern name of your silver flatware, please?

    • tamartime says:

      I noticed it in a post about halloween. You had it on the table in a wood tray. Really pretty. I am mshopping flatware. Just ordered some from Amazon and sent it right back because, it was not nearly as pretty in real life. I like yours.

    • sbranch says:

      I’m sorry Tamar, I don’t know what the names are; some belonged to my grandmother, and lots of it I found (guess where) in antique stores.

  17. Wonderful tip that I came upon on Pinterest. I have a blog about easy and simple living and will be posting this, if there is not a problem. Perhaps you would agree to an interview with me? I am originally from Massachusetts and feel like a fish out of water here in Florida. Take care…

  18. Joan Lesmeister says:

    Thanks for the reminder & it works great!!! xo

  19. Karon says:

    This works even better if you use far less salt and more b. soda. I don’t line the sink, either, just my largest pot. Dip in your silver after you slowly pour b. soda into thepot (or it will foam up all over like a volcano) and it gets it 100% perfectly clean. If you do a large batch of silver, change out the foil whe it turns gray. There is no ore room on the foil for the tarnish to transfer otherwise.

    • sbranch says:

      Interesting, I have tried it in a bowl for smaller batches, I’ll cut down on the salt next time — do you use ANY salt? Or just baking powder?

  20. matty says:

    thanks for the tip, truly clean the silver its a huge,boring job,,, but i love to see them at the table.. so romantic i think. my grandmother tell me that they cleaned with the egg cocked, just take the egg yolks cooked put into the plastic bag and the smash them then put the silver and let rest …like magic they cleaned and then trow away the egg yolks dont eat them,they are poisoned. my father said that the azufre from the egg yolks clean the silver… well maybe its expensive way to clean the silver. huges matty

  21. Katherine says:

    I used this method to clean all my silver flatware and it worked well and very quickly. But sometimes just the tips of the forks are dark so I’ve found that if I put some aluminum foil in a cup with the solution (smaller amount of course) and very hot water, I can dip the tips and they come out shiny almost immediately. Thanks for solving what used to be a time-consuming chore.

  22. matty says:

    Hi Susan I made the experiment and it was amazing how the silver turns brigth and shine and the foil turns grey, it do it well, but i waist many foil and soda in this, may be do it something wrong…but it works, but the soda never bubles up like Karon said, well this is a chemistry experiment jaja, huges matty.

  23. Susan Keam says:

    I use washing soda crystals (6 grams/ litre of water; much cheaper than baking soda), boiling water and an old piece of aluminium (an old steamer insert works well) or aluminium foil in a plastic bowl. Silver must touch the aluminium and should be covered with the water. This works because of an electrochemical reaction – the oxidation has a greater affinity for the aluminium than the silver – and the soda solution provides the right environment for the chemical reaction. It works on sterling silver and silver plate, and only removes the tarnish, unlike abrasive silver polish.

  24. Cindy says:

    My husband polishes the silver sometimes and says this method doesn’t remove the silver. Sometimes the rubbing method removes a little of the silver.

    You have such neat houses in your pictures. I love to design samplers (of houses especially). I you need a sampler let me know. My house is getting full of them and I have no where to put any more. hahaha

  25. Natasha says:

    I always use to arm and hammer baking Soda for any households , laundry , bathroom tub and sink , etc its really working for me because its natural and old fashioned l dont like to smell any chemcial products for my allgeries that s why l read your many beautiful old countryside stuffs, new books, etc that s nice and l love old fashioned stuffs alike old furnitures, old classic movies, quilt bedding, etc since my childhood years !!

  26. Bert says:

    Will this work with an old 1922 sterling silver pitcher my mom got for a wedding gift in 1922?

    • sbranch says:

      Yes it will. But a pitcher has a large surface, so when you’re done getting all the tarnish off, a quick polish with silver paste would heighten the shine a bit more. How lucky you are to have such a piece! With memories intact!

  27. Mary Redle says:

    Every woman needs a wand and a crown somewhere to remind them of the magic they accomplish around the house daily. When I was teaching high school, a home ec teacher at that, my students gave me a wand and a crown for a gift. The wand and crown have a special place in my sewing room and reminds me not only of the kids but of the many miracles you perform as a teacher. I love your wand.

  28. evangeline says:

    I am looking forward to trying this on some old beloved silver that I have collected over the years. Just was given a beautiful casserole dish..I am going to use for Thanksgiving meal so I’m off to get the baking soda and salt… I enjoy making home… homey… so nice to share in your life .. u are a kindred spirit my friend… its a beautiful day.. evangeline

  29. Lynn Cunningham says:

    I read something on your blog every single day……and enjoy those moments so very much. The time spent is always worth it, and always makes me smile. Thank you for the helpful “cleaning silver” hint. I hope it works as well for me, even though I lack a wand (an oversight on my part).
    Christmas is coming….and one thing I really want is a copy of A Fine Romance. A friend of mine already has her copy…..I opened it at random, and fell in love instantly. Thank you so much for enriching my life!

  30. Leona Julian says:

    Does this process need to be in a porcelain sink? My sinks are stainless steel and I would hate to damage them. If I can not use the stainless steel sinks, could I do this process in a large rubber tub?
    Thanks, Leona

    • sbranch says:

      I’m not sure if it would hurt stainless sinks, that’s a very good question Leona — but the rubber tub is a brilliant idea!

      • Joan says:

        Hi , this is in reply to Leona’s question . I used this method in my stainless steel sink, and there wasn’t a problem. No damage done to sink. Like someone mentioned , the silver item has to be in contact with the foil . So, if you place many utensils , etc. in for cleaning , make sure each one is touching foil , not just resting on top of another item. If you have many items to clean , do them in smaller batches for a better outcome . ……Also , for intricate detail work on some silver pieces , I’d try using a clean/new , very soft toothbrush , to gently reach inside , all the tiny decorative crevices . ( Label the brush & keep it in a labeled ziploc bag , with your silver . ) Use the brush while the silver item is underwater , in the baking soda & salt solution , and part of it is touching the foil to achieve best results . Btw, I’ve kept my silver utensils in the sink solution for less than a minute & they turn clean . Depends on amount of tarnish I guess . :)

  31. adam stevens says:

    I dropped some silver cleaner on stainless sink and it made a dark stain.Can’t get ie off.. ANY REMEDY OUT THERE?

    HELP.

    ATOM

  32. Sweet Sue says:

    Good Morning Susan!
    I am sure having fun reading one of your posted blogs each morning before I start work! :-) Today I perused “Cleaning Silver” and just laughed and laughed at what Joe said when he saw the silver utensils and your wand in the sink. That is exactly what my Dusty would say….”Why don’t you just wave the wand over the silverware and forget all this?” :-) :-) Then when you gave yourself the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval I had tears in my eyes as I laughed some more. They say a “cheerful heart is good medicine” so thank you so much for the gift of laughter this morning. And by the way I have tried this method of cleaning silver myself and yes, it really does work. Have a beautiful spring day today….any more flowers blooming where you live other than the snowdrops? I am getting excited about receiving my next order from Susan Brance.com…..got confirmation yesterday from your gals that is was on its way!
    YEAH!!!!! :-)

    • sbranch says:

      We have so many things “on the verge” — tulips, daffodils, buds are everywhere, and crocus are in bloom.

      • Sweet Sue says:

        How exciting! Do take some more photos and send them to us when “Spring has Sprung” in full bloom in your neck of the woods! I bet you also get birds building nests and soon little baby birdies hatching and chirping away! Oh, how I love “Spring” and all the new life that appears all around us!
        Enjoy this day to the fullest! :-)

  33. Tricia says:

    No one ever said if the foil works on brass or not I have yo clean tons of brass

  34. Missy says:

    I want to say a huge THANK YOU for this magical way of cleaning silver! I have a love of silver, and have had many pieces passed down, and have collected a few of my own over the years , but as I get older, I just dont want to polish them by hand. I was looking today at your older blogs and ran across this one….and I just finished trying it out. OMG…there are a couple of more intricately decorative pieces that I could not buff, but this method worked like a charm! In seconds so much of the tarnish disappeared like magic! I was beginning to think I would have to give them away , but now I am able to keep them and clean them so easily. It used to literally take me hours of polishing, but I was finished in 30 minutes, and no stinky polish smell either. THANK YOU! :)

  35. Julie Ratcliffe says:

    On a recent visit to the Lake District I bought a set of fruit spoons at a vintage fair. They were very tarnished. When we got home I put them away, thinking I would get round to cleaning them in due course, but not really sure how to go about it. Then I decided today that I would have a little catch up on your blog and low and behold I found this wonderful post. I’ve just finished drying all the pieces and I’m delighted with the results. Thankyou so much for putting this idea out there. Love your blog. So inspiring.

  36. edieb says:

    I have everything on hand except the baking soda..I guess it will not work without that????

  37. Judy Flynn says:

    I love this idea and want to try it soon….wa la!~~!! magic wand…for sure
    thanks for sharing…

  38. Vicki says:

    Omg! I remember my mother having a nifty gadget like this, but the tin foil/salt/soda mixture was like magic. All of my big pieces cleaned up beautifully and some needed only a minor touch up with polish. It save me a ton of time and is one more job I can cross off my summer to-do list.

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