I just discovered how to clean silver naturally and easily without using harsh chemicals, store-bought silver polish or a ton of elbow grease! I’m really excited about this.
You can see from my photo below I desperately needed some help here!
This was my mom’s vase, a wedding present to her and my dad many years ago. As you can see it’s built up a heavy layer of tarnish.
There’s something about the air out here that seems to tarnish silver really fast. I’ve put off cleaning this but with the holidays just around the corner, I couldn’t procrastinate any longer.
It’s a tradition in my family to use our silver on holidays. Many of the pieces we use go back several generations and some have beautiful stories attached to them too.
Naturally, part of our holiday preparation when I was growing up was silver polishing (boo). I remember it was fun helping my mom when I was little. I probably made a bigger mess than I did clean 🙂 Later, when my sisters and I had to do it, it was just a chore.
Wiping silver polish onto the silver, rubbing and rubbing forever to get the tarnish off. Washing and drying everything..ugh, It was just no fun. You can understand why I haven’t been in a big hurry to tackle the vase.
In short, I love the tradition…not the polishing.
This year, I started reading about alternative ways on how to clean silver naturally and easily. I was a really skeptical such a “way” existed, but since we’ve pledged to live greener I had to do my due diligence. I was skeptical because I’ve tried so many brands and products before.
I’ve used pastes and liquids, I’ve purchased some on infomercials and also bought a contraption at the state fair once too. None were ever easy, some were stinky, others expensive or hard to find in stores, or harsh on my hands. Nothing simply worked well and was easy.
This was my mom’s vase before I started cleaning it.
I love the detail. I know I shouldn’t have let it go this far, but it was in a box and parts of our home are still in transition from the 1950’s and previous owner.
Without further ado, let’s get started. Here’s how to clean silver naturally using just a few kitchen items.
- Aluminum Foil
- Baking Soda
- Soft T-shirt or rag for buffing
I used my kitchen sink which was the most convenient place to clean my silver.
Start with a clean sink, put a stopper in the drain, line the sink with aluminum foil (two sheets wide is fine), fill it about 1/4 of the way with warm water, add 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of salt. Swish it around to dissolve the salt and baking soda.
Because my vase was so badly tarnished, I let it sit for a while (maybe 10 minutes) in the mixture. I could barely see the solution working. Patience is not my friend most of the time, so…curious and skeptical I washed the base off.
I wanted to see if any noticeable cleaning had happened. There was still a lot of tarnish on the base of vase. I thought well, no big surprise, and then I noticed the tarnish smudged where I was holding it. I took my soft rag and buffed the base lightly.
The tarnish came right off. I did the happy dance, right then and there (really did too).
I’ve had this vase for years and it’s been polished with many different types of silver polishes and cleaners. It has never looked this good.
At this point, I’m really excited so I placed the vase on its side and spun it around. Letting each side soak for a few minutes but kept spinning so it stayed wet. Probably for 10-15 minutes.
While it was soaking I thought I’d clean some of my jewelry. Here’s a before and after picture of a few of my pieces. I’d stopped wearing these because they were so tarnished.
Take a look at the finished vase.
It’s beautiful. Probably as clean as the day my parents were given it.
Pretty amazing, isn’t it? I’m thrilled to share how to clean silver naturally. It really worked, didn’t harm my silver and it took very little effort to get the shine back to what it was over 50 years ago. I’m comfortable that we are using a green solution and it’s budget friendly too.
I’m planning on placing “silver care” instruction cards in each box as I pack them away. Someday my children will carry on the traditions we’ve followed and it will be up to them to pass along what we’ve shared.
I love that I can contribute something today that will become a part of our family traditions, and passed on to future generations.
Want more green home care solutions? You may enjoy these posts:
Naturally Clean Your Oven Without Chemicals (click here)
chemical free Organic Pest Control (click here)
Don’t miss my Best House Cleaning Checklist and Cleaning Hacks (click here).
Looking for more good green living information?
Try these books, both are filled with great information.
The Naturally Clean Home 150 Super Easy Herbal Formulas For Green Cleaning .
Now that I’ve shared how to clean silver naturally and easily what have you got that you’re going to polish?
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i have an old ??? tray – beautiful but so tarnished. bought at a flea market. this “solution” started to work, then stalled. still tarnished in spots & the remaining tarnish is not budging. any suggestions?
Hi Rhea, My guess is that your silver tray is silver plated. I don’t know why but this method doesn’t work on silver plated items. You might try a traditional silver polish on it and see if that will work. Good luck!
Tiffany Feger says
I have used toothpaste but am going to try this. Thanks!!
Hi Tiffany! This method works great. I’m sure you’ll like it, and it’s a huge timesaver during the holidays! Thanks so much for your visit.
RoseMary Wells says
Be very very careful when using this method on ANY silver, plated or Sterling. Salt does pit silver if any kind, and if there is any salt at all left on your silver, next time you take it out to enjoy, it could have black spots on it – permanently! If you insist on using this method, after you wipe the tarnish off, rinse very, very well in cool, clean water. Dry with another soft cloth (not the one you used to wipe tarnish off… It could have salt on it. After using it, wash it again in cool, clear water, dry thoroughly with a clean, soft cloth. BEFORE PUTTING IT AWAY WRAPPED IN PLASTIC OR SARAN Wrap, wrap in a layer of acid free tissue paper. The plastic wrap can actually damage the silver surface, too. The very best way to store silver is, as suggested above, in Pacific cloth. I bought yards of it (it’s not cheap, unfortunately), and made envelope bags for all trays, flat things, and drawstring bags for bowls. My flatware stays in a drawer lined with Pacific cloth (came that way, but you can buy pieces to lay across the top of all your silver in a drawer, which helps keep it from tarnishing (The Container Store sells this.) Silver will last a long, long time if you take care of it. Sterling silver will last for generations, and the more you use it, the prettier it is. It will last a lot longer than we will! Take care of it!
Hi Rosemary, Thanks so much for sharing your tips. Especially the part about the saran wrap. My cleaning method works great, and rinsing well is an important step. Of course the salt disolves in the water solution rather than being directly on the metal. Thanks for your visit:)
thank you! I too have several OLD pieces of silver that need a good cleaning-they are packed away right now we are moving soon. I was wondering if you have a good method of cleaning dog urine out of carpet?? we have a very large expensive area rug in our dining room that we sort of inherited and its previous owner had an older dog that thought it was where to go–when it gets humid here you can really smell it. I need something that will not harm the carpet and thought you would be the one to have the solution! Thank you for any suggestions.
Hi Sharon & so glad you liked this post! The silver turns out beautifully and and it’s such a treat to enjoy treasured pieces when they are polished up and pretty:) I do have a great suggestion for any type of urine or odor, there’s a product called Scoe 10X. Try a Google search and you’ll find it. We’ve used it for years with our aging dog & cats:) Good luck on your move!
I love this idea of polishing the silver this way. I bought a silver teapot. Sugar and creamer at an estate sale. These items were pretty much black from tarnish when I got them. I did this polishing technique. Yes my items did come back to a silver look. They are not very shiny and pretty though. What are your thoughts on why. Thanks noelle
Hi Noelle, good for you finding a deal on your silver tea set! I can only guess at why they didn’t get as shiney as my vase did. Did you wipe the set with a soft cotton cloth after it sat in the solution? I remember the last of the tarnish wiping away with my fingers or a cloth. Maybe thhere was a lot of trnish and a second try would get the rest off. Thanks for your visit and good luck!
Kim Reiter says
You can wrap your silver in Pacific cloth. It is available at fabric stores by the yard. Pacific cloth protects your silver from tarnish. I make bags or sleeves for my silver to keep it safe.
Thanks for that tip Kim! I had NO idea there was such a thing. I’d sew bags for all of my silver, jewelry included! Thanks for your visit and sharing your info!
Debbi Getting says
It’s also available online at voguefabricsstore.com
Pamela priest says
WARNING -,this is brilliant on solid silver – but if cutlery or tray or jewellery (Pandora) are only silver plated it strips off the silver & it’s not nice – it’s not as gentle as you think on silver plated products – I learnt the hard way ruining silver tray , cutlery & some of my charms I’ve had to throw away
Hi Pamela, I’m so sorry to hear you had trouble with this technique. It’s been my experience that anything silver plated just doesn’t get shiney, but it absolutely didn’t take off the silver plate. Pandora is always solid silver, hence the big price tag. My Pandora jewelry always turns out fine. I see you are from Au. It may be possibe you have a mineral in your water that is different from our water and that casued a deposit instead of cleaning? Either way, I suggest you try silver polish or toothpaste to get the shine back on your items!
Pinned for future reference! Thanks for linking up to Merry Monday! Pinned to my Techniques Board! Have a great week!
Hi Kim & thank you! It works like a charm. I wish I’d know how to do this years ago and saved myself the trouble of seeking out silver polish!
Does it matter if the foil is shiny side up or down in the sink? My mother in law would always wrap her silver in aluminum foil before she would put it away, this also seemed to help.
Hi Patti, If I didn’t mention to put it a specific side down I don’t think it matters. Good tip on wrapping the foil. I think that was to keep the air off it which starts the chemical reaction for tarnish again. Thanks so much for stopping by!
Thank you for this tip! I was told that if I keep my silver in a plastic bag, like ziploc, It will not tarnish. I had tried with jewelry and it works pretty good.
You’re welcome and yes, keeping your silver in a bag, or not exposed to the open air does help slow the tarnish process! Thanks for sharing your tip!
Nancy Maniago says
I was so excited to give this post a try, buoyed by reading the comments as well. My daughter is bringing her boyfriend for the first time to Thanksgiving, I really want things to shine. I gathered the silver u hidden away in their tarnished condition and went to wor k. It took several hours, an entire box of salt, 1/2 box of baking soda, lots of tin foil, even added some white vinegar (suggested in another post), with disappointing results. It worked to remove some of the deepest color tarnish but didn’t seem to remove all of it no matter how often I replaced the ingredients. In the end I had to revert to silver polish. It was time consuming and disappointing.i
I’m so sorry it ddn’t work for you. I have found that it only works on solid silver. For some reason silver plate doesn’t come clean. Maybe that was the issue? I’m sure you’re going to have a wonderful Thanksgiving and everything will shine magnificently. Thanks so much for your visit!
Thanks, I read it a few days ago and, today, I decided to give it a try; it makes wonders, thank you so much.
Regards from Portugal.
Hi there Olinda! Thanks for coming back and leaving me a sweet note on how well it worked for you. It’s crazy amazing isn’t it? Don’t you LOVE how much time it saved? Have a great weekend!
Marty Keener says
Great product one should not forget any birthdays or anniversaries this way
Yes it is and what a nice way to make a pretty table by adding family silver pieces. Thank you for your visit:)
If you do have silver plate, but a box of magic erasers at Walmart and rub off the tarnish fairly easily. I don’t think you’ll get a brilliant, eye shattering shine but the tarnish is gone, your silver plate has a nice shine with a lot of character and a soft patina and not very much effort. Works great on silver plate!
What an awesome tip, thank you for sharing! I can’t wait to try this out. I have plenty of silver plate items too!
I’d love to see a follow up on the pieces you have cleaned…how are they holding up in storage? Does the tarnish return slower with this method? I am a bit hesitant to use the salt and baking soda with aluminum foil. As it has been my experience that salt on silver can pit the surface? Also, this practice using the salt, baking soda and aluminum foil is very similar to what we used to do in art school to ‘plate’ metals.
Hi, There. Using the salt in the cleaner was fine as the salt didn’t sit on the silver directly or for any legnth of time. I don’t store my vase in protective plastic and tarnishes again like any other silver item left out. I hope this answered your question!
Alexis @ Chemistry Cachet says
Hi Wendi! Found this link on pinterest, and I love how you cleaned the sliver! I am a chemist so I love concocting natural ways to clean things like silver. Will be pinning this to try soon 🙂
Alexis… You’ll love how well this cleaning method works! I didn’t think I’d ever get my mothers vase clean again until I tried this. Thanks for your visit and enjoy the cleaning “recipe”!
Thank you so much for this post! My Mom used this method many years ago but I had forgotten the recipe. If you are not going to use your silver all the time, a great way to store it is with your “Food Saver”, it removes the air which is what causes the tarnish. My Mom used to wrap her silver in plastic wrap to keep it for the next use. Thank you again.
Diana… Wow ..wrapping the silver in plastic wrap brings back memories for me! I remember my mother doing that too when she stored the silver away after holidays. I love the Food saver idea. Thanks for sharing your tip!
RoseMary Wells says
Put tissue paper aroynd the silver before you put plastic wrap around it. The plastic wrap can actually pit the silver.
RoseMary Thanks so much for sharing that info! I didn’t know this. I’ll have to be sure my few silver items are wrapped in tissue first. I remember my mother doing this. Maybe she already knew this:) Thanks so much for your visit and info!
Jeanette Clements says
Thanks for this tip. I was wondering about items like the vase. Did you have to do anything with the foil to clean the inside. I have a tea set that needs cleaning.
Hi Jeanette. Can you lay the teapot on it’s side in the solution? I think that’s how I was able to get the inside clean on this vase. Good luck and thanks for reading my post!
I saw your Hometalk Board and pinned it to my “Needful knowledge ” Board, thanks for sharing this! I was pinning with my other name frstyfrolk.
Hi Cyndi. Thanks for pinning my silver cleaning tip. You’ll love it and will be amazed at how easy it is to clean silver! ..Oh, you’ll save a bundle on cleaners too:) Thanks for sharing my work!
Patty Blake says
Thank you for posting this! Can’t wait to try it! I have found when packing my mothers silver away, if I wrap it with 1 piece of tissue paper and then Saran Wrap around that, no need to polish! The wrap prevents any air to get to the silver hence no tarnish!
Patty, Thanks so much for sharing your storage method:) My mother was always good about storing her silver, me … not so much. Saran Wrap I can do! I’m sure plenty of other readers will find this helpful as well. Thanks for stopping by & sharing!
Tawny Reynolds says
The awesome thing about this method is that it is actually converting the tarnish back into silver, rather than rubbing it off. When you polish silver by rubbing the tarnish off, over time the details get removed – or, if it’s actually silver plated, you even rub through to the metal underneath!
Wow, I did not know that! Thanks for adding that bit of information. I was just happy to have found a way that worked without harsh chemicals and lots of rubbing:)