Silver sulfide develops on silver through oxidation and discolors the metal over time. Silver cleaners are available to polish silver items, but the cleaners require elbow grease and can be difficult to apply to intricate designs. Using powdered water softener, salt and aluminum, you can create a chemical reaction in which sulfur atoms are removed from the silver and adhered onto the aluminum. You can use this technique with jewelry, silverware and other silver items.
Things You'll Need
Powdered water softener
Aluminum pie plate or aluminum foil
Buy powdered water softener if you don't have any. This product is sold under various brand names such as Calgon, Raindrops and White King. Stores stock it along with detergent and other laundry items.
Set out an aluminum pie plate. If you don't have one, you can cover another type of pie plate with aluminum foil, shiny side up.
Pour two to three cups of hot water into the plate, enough to cover your silver items.
Add 1 tbsp. of table salt and 1 tbsp. of powdered water softener to the water. Stir to dissolve.
Place the discolored silver onto the aluminum for a few seconds and then remove. Often this is all that's needed to clean off the tarnish.
Rub the silver item with a clean soft cloth after removing it if the silver is badly tarnished.
You can clean silver candlesticks, carafes and other larger silver items with this method. Cover the interior of a small bucket with aluminum foil and add hot water mixed with the correct ratio of water softener and salt. Then insert your silver items.
You'll probably have a large amount of powdered water softener left over. Add the water softener to your laundry as directed if you don't have soft water in your home. Softener makes detergent work more effectively, prevents lime build-up in washing machines and plumbing pipes, and stops clothes from accumulating soap residue.
Do not use this technique for jewelry that contains precious stones, as it may damage the stones.
Do not use this technique on silver with an antiqued finish, as it will remove the finish.