Tips AU

How to clean silver quickly and effectively

By Emma Warren

Published: February 21st, 2020

Here are some easy peasy ways to clean your silver

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We’ve all experienced the shock of opening up a drawer of silver and discovering that it suddenly doesn’t appear as it should. You’re not the only one left thinking about how to clean silver.

Actually it’s not just the silver dinnerware but many items can be subject to tarnishing such as; necklaces, coins, rings, cutlery, plates, dinner sets, chains, sterling silver, bracelets, ornaments, tools, and more.

You are probably wondering… Is it possible to clean silver? What methods are available for polishing silver? Can your tarnished silver ever look new again?

Thankfully, there are some easy peasy solutions for cleaning your dirty silver goods. Anybody with the right resources should be able to follow these quick cleaning methods. So with a little bit of time, determination and hot tips, I know that you’ll be able to refresh your silverware as well.

how-to-clean-silver-cutlery
Source: Tracey Hocking

There are three commonly recognised procedures for cleaning silver, including the baking soda method, the foil method, and the coca-cola method. To give you a better understanding of each individual home remedy for cleaning silver, we are going to outline the steps required for each process with the pros and cons.

But what is tarnished silver?

Your silver can tarnish (discolour) when it’s exposed to moisture, air or other chemical compounds that cause a layer of corrosion. Products that are made from silver are often mixed with other metals, and it’s these additional metals which often react with the air, pollution, other chemicals (hairspray, perfume etc) causing the silver to tarnish.

But luckily it’s only on top layers, so it can be easily removed with one of the methods below and elbow grease. Keep in mind that tarnishing will only get worse over time, so it’s important that you get cleaning as soon as possible so that it’s not a huge task.

Top tip: the quicker you put an end to tarnishing silver, the easier your cleaning process will be.

How to clean silver with baking soda

When most people enter into adulthood, it isn’t long before they realise that baking soda is the answer to everything, and in this case, it is the top-notch fix yet again. Similarly to cleaning your oven with baking soda, cleaning silver with baking soda is one of the most commonly employed methods for eliminating evidence of tarnish.

All you will need to carry out this process is a food-safe quality container, baking soda, polishing cloth, and ample water.

jewelry in baking soda
Source: Pinterest

Steps for cleaning with baking soda

  1. Grab your container and fill it 75% with warm water.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of baking soda (more if you have a large quantity of silver or a large container).
  3. Mix the baking soda into the water gently with a spoon or mixer.
  4. Gently drop your silver items into the container. You may need to have multiple containers ongoing if you are trying to clean an entire dinner set or various pieces of jewellery.
  5. Place the lid on and leave to rest overnight.
  6. Next morning, remove the silver from the container and softly wipe with a clean polishing cloth.
  7. Assess what progress has been made to remove the tarnish. If you are satisfied, dry the silver completely and consider it a job well done. If there are still dark stains on the silver, you may need to repeat the process from the beginning until desired results are achieved.
Top tip: If you happen to have some vinegar in your pantry, a small amount of this can also be added to the baking soda mix at step two. However, this is not an essential requirement.

Understandably, the baking soda method for cleaning silver is mostly loved for its simplicity and effectiveness. However, depending on the severity of your dirty silver and how much silver you need to be cleansed, you may need to repeat the process up to five times to achieve a satisfying outcome.

Baking soda pros:

  • The materials don’t cost much (most people will already have some Tupperware and baking soda at home)
  • It doesn’t require much effort on your behalf
  • When done correctly, the method has high rates of effectiveness
  • There are many ways of cleaning with baking soda
  • There’s a very low risk for your own safety with baking soda

Baking soda cons:

  • You cannot use the silver while it is being cleaned overnight
  • Your Tupperware container might require a few cycles in the dishwasher to get rid of the baking soda tang
  • You may need to repeat the steps multiple times to achieve a solid result, and this could ultimately take a couple of days

How to clean silver with foil

Foil is another great multi-use product and it’s the second most popular way of cleaning dirty silver is with foil.

You’ll need plenty of aluminium foil, a plastic container or tub, a microfibre cloth, and some boiled water.

silver cleaning in foil
Pinterest

Steps for cleaning silver with foil

  1. Line your sturdy plastic container with aluminium foil. Cover the base and sides.
  2. Wrap each individual piece of silver with foil, ensuring it is enclosed tightly within the foil wrap.
  3. Place foil-wrapped silver into the container.
  4. Fill the container with boiling water.
  5. Remove the silver after five minutes and unwrap from the foil. (Be careful as both the silver and the foil will be extremely hot. You might like to wear protective gloves.)
  6. Clean immediately with a soft, clean microfibre cloth.

This method is effective because of how the hot aluminium reacts with the tarnishing coat on your silver. The chemicals within the black tarnish actually get transferred from the silver good and onto the foil via the water channel. When you remove the foil wrapping, you may even be able to notice the dark stains are now present on the foil rather than the silver.

Foil pros:

  • The method is quick and often complete within fifteen minutes
  • The process is known to be relatively effective, with most people reporting that it has a positive impact on the appearance of their silver
  • The materials needed are not expensive nor hard to find
  • It is considered by some to be a more natural cleaning product compared to other cleaning methods

Foil cons:

  • You need to be careful of your own safety, as the boiling water can burn your skin easily
  • It isn’t known to be as effective as the baking soda cleaning method

How to clean silver with coke

We all know that fizzy drinks are delicious to drink,  but they might also be useful for cleaning tarnished silver. The cola method for cleaning silver is very similar to the baking soda method.

All you need is a reliable plastic container, a cotton-based cloth, and a bottle of cola drink.

cleaning-silver-coke-cola
Source: Leighann Blackwood

Steps for cleaning silver with coke

  1. Fill your container 75% with bubbly cola soft drink. The bottle of cola must be newly-opened to ensure optimal fizz.
  2. Place your silver into the container and leave for at least one hour.
  3. Remove the silver and rub gently with your cotton-based cloth.

Interestingly, this method works because the strong acid component of the cola draws the tarnish from the silver items, leaving them free from any dirty coating. The best results will occur when you use room temperature cola rather than a chilled beverage.

Coke cleaning pros:

  • It is a simple method
  • The process is 100% safe
  • The entire method only takes an hour or so to complete

Coke cleaning cons:

  • The cola can sometimes leave a sugary residue on your silver which needs to be scrubbed off
  • Your silver might also be sticky after the procedure, so you will need to give it a thorough wash in soapy water

But wait, why not use all three methods!

For the most awe-inspiring outcome cleaning your coins, jewellery, cutlery and homewares, our recommendation is to complete each method after one another, or all together in one go.

You can combine both baking soda and cola into one mixed solution, pour it into a container, add your foil-wrapped silver goods, and leave to rest overnight. When you unveil the items in the morning, they will just need a quick wipe with a cloth before you can see the positive outcome.

So, if you are wondering how to clean silver quickly, how to clean silver that has turned black, and what is the best home remedy for cleaning silver, we suggest heading to the shops for some foil, baking soda and cola.

How to use silver polish

If you head to the hardware or grocery store and walk to the ceiling aisle,  you’ll see a few different silver cleaning products. You’ll see a liquid polish and also disposable cloths.

If you use the liquid you must wear gloves and you can use a sponge, cloth or cotton ball to rub onto the tarnish. This will take a bit more effort than the above set and forget methods.

You can also use the disposable polishing cloths that have been chemically treated to buff away any impurities. These are just not as environmentally friendly as the above methods.

How to store silver

Ok, so how do keep your silver from tarnishing again?

Well, heat and humidity quicken the tarnishing reaction, so make sure that you keep it away from these changing climate zones e.g. an attic or basement.

Often when you purchase silver items, you’ll get a material bag (think the Tiffany & Co blue bag) to put it in. Now, these aren’t for no reason, they are often treated with chemicals to stop the tarnishing process.

There’s also acid-free tissue paper that you can use for your items before putting in a sealable bag. You may want to add silica gel as well to absorb any moisture found.

But never put rubber and silver together as rubber can corrode silver.

FAQs

What is the best home remedy to clean silver?

Well, it depends on your preference but the most economical option for a home remedy to clean silver is baking soda. We usually have it in large quantities due to baking so to put it in a container with your silver and leave overnight is a cheap and easy solution.

How do you clean silver that has turned black?

If your silver has turned black it means it’s tarnished. It can occur in a few different colours and there’s no need to be alarmed, you just need to give it a good clean. You can use baking soda, foil, or the silver polishing products as a great place start.

How do you clean silver quickly?

If you need to clean silver quickly the best way is to either use a liquid silver polish from the shops or the aluminium foil method if you want a low-tox sustainable approach. This will have your silver sparkling again in no time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emma Warren

Being a freelancer means I am constantly packing up and moving home in pursuit of new work projects. As a result of the constant movement, there have been many lessons learnt in regards to home renovations and domestic duties.

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