Silver becomes dull and tarnished when it comes into contact with sulfur in the air. Tarnish doesn't damage the silver, but is unsightly and difficult to remove. Aluminum foil is used to polish silver because it draws the sulfur out of the object, leaving it shiny and lustrous. Baking soda helps to electrically charge the foil and hastens the chemical reaction. Any silver piece can be easily polished in about 35 minutes using this method.
Things You'll Need
- Aluminum foil
- Stainless steel pot
- Baking soda
- Clean cloth
Tightly wrap the silver piece with a large sheet of aluminum foil. Ensure the foil is in close contact with the silver for the best results. Use a sharp knife to make several slits in the foil to allow liquid to penetrate and reach the silver.
Place the foil-wrapped silver in a stainless steel pot that is safe for use on a stove. Fill the pot with water one quart at a time until the silver is completely submerged. Add five tablespoons of baking soda for each quart of water used.
Place the pot on the stove over medium heat and bring the baking soda solution to a gentle boil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow the solution to simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove the pot from heat and wait until the solution has cooled to room temperature, usually about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the water from the pot and remove the silver. Unwrap the silver pieces and discard the aluminum foil covering.
Rinse the silver under cold, running water while using a soft cloth to wipe away any remaining dirt or tarnish. Dry gently with a clean towel and set in a warm, dry location for two to three hours before wearing, using or storing.
Tips & Warnings
- A glass or enameled steel pot can be used if necessary.
- Keep a piece of chalk with the silver when storing to absorb moisture and prevent tarnish. Wrap silver in felt before storing to further protect it from damage.
- Do not use this method to polish silver that contains parts joined with glue, since the glue will dissolve and the piece will be ruined. Also avoid using this method on silver jewelry containing gemstones, as they may be scratched or damaged. This process works best on pieces of plain silver such as silverware or silver chains.
- John Hopkins University Office of News and Information: Foil, Water, Baking Soda: A Rub-Free Solution for Stained Silver
- "Clean House Clean Planet;" Karen Logan; 1997
- "Better Basiscs for the Home;" Annie Berthold-Bond; 1999
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