The beauty of silver comes from its shine. When silver comes in contact with sulfur compounds, such as hydrogen sulfide in the air, it tarnishes. Other causes of silver tarnish include wool, felt, rubber bands, latex gloves, certain paints, food and the oil from fingers. Dull pieces should be cleaned when you first notice the tarnish. When tarnish goes from a yellowish tint to light brown or black in color, the piece will be much harder to clean.
Polish and soft cloths, traditional tools for cleaning silver, take time but yield good results. Rinse the silver item to remove any surface dirt. Then, place a small amount of silver polish on a soft cloth and rub the polish on the object in an up-and-down motion. Avoid circular motions, which can highlight scratches. Rinse the piece in warm water and then buff with a clean, dry cloth. Always follow the manufacturer's directions when using silver polish.
Good for removing built-up silver tarnish, baking soda offers an alternative to cleaning with harsher chemicals. Mix 1/4 cup of baking soda with 2 tbsp. of water to make a thick paste. Using a wet sponge, apply the paste to the silver and rub gently. Rinse the silver and buff with a clean cloth.
Aluminum foil offers a quick, easy way to clean silver. Line a non-metal pan with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Place the tarnished silver in the pan, making sure that all the items touch the foil. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of washing soda and add 1 gallon boiling water. Cover and soak for 10 to 15 minutes, rinse and buff with a clean cloth.
Bring back the shine to your silver by cleaning with ammonia. Mix 1/2 cup of ammonia with 1 cup warm water. Soak silver in this solution for 10 minutes. Wipe clean and let dry. Do not use this method on silver jewelry with pearls -- ammonia can dull or damage them.
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