Best And Cheapest Way To Clean Old Silver

This is a guest post by my friend Patti Winker at Enjoy!
Frugal Way To Polish SilverI inherited some very old silverware and, up until now, just had it stuck in the back of a drawer. The last time I looked at it was a long, long time ago.  But, that’s all changed.

This Thanksgiving I realized I was short a regular fork when I set the table. That got me thinking I should maybe buy a whole new set.

Instead, I was reminded of the old silver and dug it out, unrolled the cloth bundle and voila! I had forgotten how pretty it was.

Although it was pretty it was also quite tarnished, even black in places.  This is a normal development when you pack silver away and ignore it for years.

I knew if I wanted to use it I had to polish it, but I didn’t want to buy or use any of that abrasive commercial stuff because;

1) I didn’t want to spend the money, and

2) I don’t think that ancient stuff would stand up to losing much more of its silver with the customary polishing.

Instead I searched and got the directions for a scientific approach, maybe from chemistry class?  Anyway, it’s a method I had a vague memory of from years ago…

Aluminum Foil and Baking Soda

The method is very simple. You need:

  • baking pan
  • aluminum foil
  • boiling water
  • baking soda

Line a baking pan with aluminum foil, and lay silver on top, making sure each piece is on the foil, not overlapping or piled up.
Bring a pot of water to a boil.
Set the pot of hot water in the sink and add baking soda (It will foam up so be careful.)
Pour the water into the baking pan over the silver. (You’ll quickly see the tarnish start to turn silver again.)

Please Note:  The process produces some smelly odors so do in a well ventilated kitchen or outside. Hold your breath if you’re going to watch it.

For the full description and pictures, be sure to click on the link here: Old Silver

Polished SilverIt worked beautifully! My silver is restored to a usable condition. It’s not perfect, because it’s old and very used. But it’s shiny and lovely and now when I set the table I can remember Thanksgivings and Christmases at Gramma’s house.

And, I didn’t have to go buy new stuff!

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Tricia - December 9, 2011

How much water and baking soda?

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm - December 29, 2011

Thanks for the recipe and instructions! I’m going to try that on my silver things!

Andy in Brooklyn - January 5, 2012

Hi — Just a word of caution. This works great, but be very careful when using it on silverplate, or on old silver which was patinated (intentionally blackened) in places. The value of the silver piece as a collector’s item or a work of art is diminished if the patination (blackening) is removed. In the case of silverplate, this method can actually remove the silver from the object if used too often.

There are books that you can check out of the library which talk about silver collecting and this topic. I will look at my reference book lists (which I do not have here at the moment) and post the names of some books.

Hope this helps!

–Andy Jo–

Amy - November 14, 2012

I have also found that toothpaste works great as a silver polish. Just rub it on the silver, wait 2-3 minutes and rub off. If the silver has a lot of intricate “carvings”, you can use an old toothbrush (soft bristles) with toothpaste on it to get in the crevices.

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