It used to be that the only way to clean silver was to spend hours rubbing polish on the items until tarnish was removed. Polishing silverware and other silver items including jewelry was an all-day task. Each individual piece had to be carefully polished to bring out the high shine and gloss. But now it's easy to remove the tarnish build-up on silver using baking soda.
How Silver Tarnishes
Metal corrodes and deteriorates due to a chemical reaction with the environment. When silver is exposed to sulfur compounds in the air it will tarnish, resulting in a thin coating of silver sulfides. While tarnish is unattractive, it's not harmful to sliver. But silver is supposed to be bright and shiny and not dull and green from tarnish.
Removing Silver Sulfides
Remove the coating of silver sulfides, or tarnish, from silver pieces in two ways. One way is to polish the silver by rubbing an abrasive into the silver until tarnish is removed. This method, however, also removes some of the silver in the process. The other way is to reverse the chemical reaction that causes the buildup of silver sulfides. This method does not harm the silver and effectively removes the sulfides, restoring the silver to its bright, lustrous sheen.
Baking Soda and Tarnish
Baking soda creates a chemical reaction that reverses the silver-sulfide reaction on silver. Aluminum foil is a metal with a greater affinity for sulfides than silver. The chemical reaction of tarnish on silver is reversed when the silver is placed directly on aluminum foil and submerged in a solution of baking soda and warm water. A small electric current will flow between the two and the sulfides will adhere to the aluminum rather than the silver.
Removing Tarnish from Silver
Line the bottom of a heavy glass container with aluminum foil. Place the tarnished silver in the container, making sure that all the pieces are in contact with the foil. Bring water to a boil in a pan, add a cup of baking soda per gallon of water and swirl the solution. Very carefully pour the hot water into the glass container. The tarnish will disappear from the silver almost immediately. If the silver is badly tarnished, the process may need to be repeated.
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