How to Clean Tarnished Silver | Maid4Condos

How to Clean Tarnished Silver

How to Clean Tarnished Silver
June 14, 2021

While your silverware might be your pride and joy, it comes with some responsibility. Whether it is a cherished wedding gift, something you purchased yourself or a family heirloom passed down for generations, silver has a tendency to tarnish over time.

Tips to clean tarnished silver

Since silver is an asset, you want to do your best to bring out its natural beauty. The more ornate the design, the more difficult it can be to polish. Here we offer our pro tips on how to clean tarnished silver.

Avoid Old Wives’ Tales

First be careful not to fall into silver polishing tips that tend to be old wives’ tales including:

  • Toothpaste as a polish: Many people recommend using toothpaste to safely clean silver since it is abrasive enough to clean plaque but gentle enough for human use. However, the keyword here is abrasive. Silver is quite soft and easy to damage. If you use too abrasive a cleaner like toothpaste, you can do more damage than good. However, if you want something that doesn’t have a strong smell and is easy to clean from your hands – and if your silver is only slightly tarnished and is not just silverplate – you can choose a whitening toothpaste to provide a respectable clean without the harsh chemicals. For silverplate or heavily tarnished pieces, the extra force required to remove the tarnish could lead to scratches.

  • Hubcap Cleaner: This is more likely a tip handed down from grandpa as opposed to grandma. Not to be misogynistic, but not many wives of days gone by would think of hubcap cleaner as the best way to clean their precious silver. This is a super aggressive cleaner that actually will make short work of tarnish. But it will also take away the charming patina and could lead to discolouration or uneven splotching that will ruin your silverware. Also, this is really not recommended for silver you’ll eat off because who knows what chemical residue it might leave behind?

Consider Natural Polish

As mentioned above, especially for silverware you will use to serve and eat food, finding a natural solution might be appealing. A few DIY options include:

  • Lemon Juice and Baking Soda: A paste made from lemon juice and baking soda can be very effective. Oxidation that causes tarnish can be removed with this DIY solution but keep in mind, it won’t get the shine of other polishes. So while it does remove the tarnish, it won’t act like a polish to bring back that sparkle. It’s also quite abrasive so the temptation to scrub in hopes of getting a sheen could lead to scratches.
  • Cornstarch: A paste made from cornstarch and water can be applied to silverware and then wiped away with a damp cloth to get a very impressive shine.
  • Vinegar and Baking Soda: Instead of creating a paste with this combo, you can mix half a cup of distilled vinegar with two tablespoons of baking soda and soak your silver in it for three hours. Remove it and rinse the solution off, then wipe it all down with a soft, clean cloth.
  • Aluminum Foil, Baking Soda & Hot Water: This might sound a little whacky but this is the lazy person’s silver cleaning trick. You simply place a sheet of aluminum foil, shiny side up, in the bottom of a pan and add enough water to cover your silverware with one teaspoon of baking soda and one teaspoon of salt. Bring it to a boil and then place your silverware in the pan and let them soak in the boiling water for about two or three minutes. Remove them with tongs so you don’t get burned and then rinse them with water. Dry them off and use a soft cloth to give them a buff.

    If you don’t like the idea of leaving your silver in boiling water you can line a casserole dish or shallow vessel with aluminum foil or actually use an aluminum foil disposable pan, sprinkle it with a fair amount of baking soda, add your silver and then pour boiling water to cover everything. Once the water cools, you can rub the silver clean with a cloth.

Store-Bought Polishes

It makes sense that store-bought polishes specifically made to clean silver would be your best bet. So if you aren’t set on using something less chemically, like lemon and baking soda, for overall shine and tarnish removal this is your best bet. The only thing with prepared polishes is that over time you actually remove tiny levels of silver from the piece.

However, if you can find it, Tiffany brand silver polish is the best. It removes the brownish tarnish and protects the silver from wearing down. Another option is Wright’s Silver Cream. Just be prepared to apply more elbow grease to see the shine if you choose Wright’s.

Hand Sanitizer

Although hand sanitizer is kind of a hot commodity thanks to COVID, if you think you can spare some, it can help get tarnish off in a snap. It’s the alcohol that helps break down the tarnish and you actually get a respectable sheen when you’re done. Use a soft cloth to wash it off and you’ll be quite pleased.

Bottom Line

Overall, the easiest and most effective solution turns out to be the baking soda, water and aluminum foil trick. It takes far less effort, uses no harmful chemicals and gets excellent results that would make grandma proud. It’s also the easiest way to tackle a whole slew of silverware as opposed to polishing a single pair of candlesticks.

Plus, if you want to avoid tarnish, make sure you are storing your silverware properly, in a drawer or chest lined with tarnish-resistant flannel. If you don’t have access to such a fancy setup, you can also individually wrap each piece in acid-free tissue paper, silver cloth or unbleached cotton muslin and then store it in a sealed container or zip-top plastic bag.

If you want to know more about silver cleaning and cleaning services Toronto, call Maid4Condos at 647-822-0601 or contact us here.

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