Ed. note: Sorry, but this thread mixed how to remove silver tarnish with how to deliberately tarnish silver :-( To minimize confusion we've split it into two columns
How Do I Remove Silver Tarnish?--
Q. I've heard of a way of cleaning silver using aluminum foil, boiling water and baking soda.
Does this work?
A. Hi Louis. I've done it for myself and it worked well; my wife has done it several times. And from numerous successful reports on letter 4785, "Polishing Silver with Aluminum Foil and Baking Soda", it's worked well for lots of people! Good luck with it, but read on for more specific hints.
A. I just tried the Al, baking soda on a silver US quarter, Nothing much happened.
"420 Ways to Clean Everything" [link is to info about the book at Amazon]by Harriet Wylie, 1992, says to use Al foil, Kosher Salt, and cold water and to dip the cutlery for 2 minutes to remove stubborn stains. That seemed to loosen the black coating on the quarter, but you still have to brush it.
Exactly how are you supposed to use the aluminum foil, baking soda and boiling water?Ralph B
Q. I have heard of the Aluminum, salt and water method for silver. It is actually supposed to reverse the tarnishing process. The salt water acting as the electrolyte between the two nodes. I have tried it myself, both with cold and boiling water, but with no success.Kelly Draper
- West Plains, Missouri
A. Hi Louis. We now have a thread, letter 4785, Louis, which discusses it in great depth and boring detail, but it's really not tricky and nothing is critical. Put a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom of a plastic, china, or glass bowl (anything non-metallic); mix a generous amount of baking soda, washing soda, or Spic 'n' Span into water as hot as safe and practical, and pour it in. Drop your silver onto the foil, and that's it.
Kelly: Are you sure your silver is touching the aluminum foil? Might you be working with silver jewelry that has a non-conductive lacquer clearcoat on it?
How Do I Tarnish Silver?--
Q. I'm a complete amateur with a small and hopefully simple question. I have used fine silver wire to make a pendant for an earring. How can I dull the finish of the wire? It is far too shiny when compared with the stainless steel of the ring.
A. Boil an egg, remove the yolk and break it into several pieces. Put that and the silver into a zip lock bag and close. It should be black in the morning.
Careful polishing will give you nearly any shade of grey.
I never heard of a yummy recipe like that in plating before!Mandar Sunthankar
- Fort Collins, Colorado
It is simple, cheap, available, and it works.
The alternative is trying to buy 10 ml of Liver Of Sulphur [linked by editor to product info at Mister Art] , which most old processes call it. Most any polysulfide will do with a little ammonia. Arsenic will also work.
A. I was hand-washing my whites in a mixture of equal parts water and extra-strength bleach. Two of my three silver rings turned completely grey. It's not guaranteed, but certainly worth a shot. Hope this helps.Kelly P
- Hershey, Pennsylvania
A. TO DIScolor (TARNISH) SILVER PLACE THE SILVER ITEM IN A JAR WITH SOME ROCK SULPHUR (YOU CAN GET IT FROM PET STORES) ADD BOILING WATER AND WAIT A FEW HOURS, I'VE TRIED IT AND IT WORKS.WAYNE S
- MANCHESTER, UK
A. This way really works. It took me ages to figure out. It gives a uniform tarnish. It works well even if the quantities are not exact, just be careful not to over-tarnish your pieces.
Tarnish Silver for four silver goblets:
- Weigh out approximately 11 g Sulfur [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] powder.
The color should come up gradually- it will change color even after you take it out; repeat with remaining goblets.Rachel N
February 18, 2009
Q. How do I tarnish silver -- follow up question:
- Vienna, Virginia
January 24, 2012
A. Please be sure NOT TO BOIL WATER when using Liver of Sulfur. If you do, it can produce a gas that is poisonous. Also do not use a torch with that product.Dharlee Minter
- Roanoke, Virginia, USA
A. With respect to tarnishing of silver, if it's like copper you're getting a corrosion film of the sulfur compounds as well as some oxide and/or carbonate.
I have used the aluminum process, except with baking soda rather than NaCl, with some success. It electrolytically reverses much of the tarnish, and a faint sulfide smell is noted. It didn't work as well as on the TV where the miracle plate of aluminum ($0.25 worth of aluminum, sold for $20!) was used. I tried both scrap aluminum and aluminum foil - the silver must be electrically in GOOD contact with the aluminum, by the way. I suspect that experimenting with different grades of aluminum alloys in waters of differing hardnesses would account for many of the results listed above. Higher temperature water seemed to have a very limited accelerating effect, maybe excluding oxygen by boiling is an important step?
Silver naturally will tarnish in the atmosphere, with a huge dependence on the presence of sulfur. Eggs, industrial atmospheres, and natural digestive processes are probably the important sources for most fine silver. Like brass, you can put on a high quality lacquer finish immediately after cleaning to shield the metal, but silverware and other implements will probably suffer damaged coatings in use. Hope these ramblings are of assistance.
Paul Tibbals, P.E.|
gas & electric
San Ramon, California, USA
A. With respect to cleaning silver using aluminum -
Perhaps it will work better if you abrade the surface of the aluminum that contacts the silver. Oxide coating may act as insulator.James Chunn
- Theodore, Alabama
A. If you don't want to fool with all the mess, foil, salt, boiling water, buy an Electrolytic Plate. They really do work, I've been using one for over 8 years. Simple and easy, no mess no fuss. I love silver and have lots of it.
Thanks, SueSue R
- York, South Carolina
A. I just did all my silver using WARM water, Al foil and table salt. I poured the salt directly onto the foil, then mixed it a little to dissolve it in the water. Then the silver was placed DIRECTLY onto the foil (shiny side up). It took about 3 min to clean the entire teapot. Try it, it really works!Jess Casey
A. I find that aluminum foil, boiling water and baking soda only works if you put it in a plastic dish - I use a rectangular shallow dish. If you put it in metal the reaction will not occur. Hope this helps; also rinse the silver in hot soapy water and dry immediately.Carla L
- london, Ontario, Canada
Electrolytic Cleaning Plate
A. I saw, on TV, a method to remove tarnish from silver, It DID utilize water, aluminum foil and salt, but it did NOT utilize baking soda. Instead of baking soda, it utilized powdered water softener.
(The following regards the question of whitening clothes, posted by Kelly Price, of Hershey, PA)
Try this. It really works:
Old Navy recipe for whitening clothes
Here is the recipe for whitening clothes. 1/2 cup Clorox , 1/4 cup dishwasher detergent,(Cascade) , ---- add enough water to cover items to be soaked, 1/2 to 1 gallon THEN stir well before adding clothes ) Stir to make sure all clothes come into contact with solution. Soak 1/2 to 1 hour then throw them in the washer and wash as usual. (An old navy recipe.) Note: I tried this, and it really works. (Rather than going to the kitchen, for dish detergent, I just used my liquid laundry detergent and it worked just as well).
- Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
A. I saw this on Mr. Wizard as a child, from then on it was my job to clean my mom's silver. Use baking soda, salt, hot water and a piece of aluminum foil in the solution. The tarnish should come right off; the foil is there to give the tarnish something to bind to so it won't collect onto the next piece you clean. It's been a while but it worked like a charm then.William B
- Phoenix, Arizona
Q. I notice you were in charge of the silver cleaning in your house. Do you have the combination of products for the non tarnishing of silver. I know I should use: aluminum foil, salt, baking powder or water softener and water. But how much of each?
Thanks,M A Coudry
- Tacoma, Washington
A. A great fast way to clean silver that is very intricate and hard to clean is....take a aluminum pie dish...put hot water in it add a cup of water softener and a splash of vinegar dip your silver in and pull out. comes out spotless.Tara Copper
A. For the water softener, get Arm and Hammer Super washing soda (NOT baking soda). I put a silver coin in a plastic dish that I lined with aluminum foil, covered it with the washing soda, then put some boiling water on top. It fizzed a little and smelled like sulphur. The coin had to be wiped off gently when removed and it was shiny and new!Bob U.
- Laurel, Maryland
- East Meadow, New York, America
July 11, 2009
A. One cheap and easy way I have found to remove tarnish from silver is to use regular toothpaste, not the gel type, just regular paste type. Just rub it on or use an old toothbrush, especially when cleaning intricate parts, like jewelry. Then rinse and dry. No harsh chemicals to harm pearls or other delicate stones.Dian Holmes
- Graceville, Florida, USA
A. I did the experiment. If you put 500 ml of water, 7.5 ml of baking soda and 2.5 ml of salt in a GLASS pot with aluminum foil covering the inside on the stove on high let it sit. Right before it starts to boil cut it off, put in the silver or the forks and let them sit for 1 minute then take them out and wipe off.
- Jacksonville, Florida
Q. I put aluminium foil on the base of the pot and tore bit off in the water poured a fair bit of light salt all over wondering if light salt is the problem?rhys liebig
amateur - townsville, Qld, Australia
A. I doubt that the salt is the problem, although most people recommend washing soda rather than salt.
The silver may be lacquered, which would prevent the action from happening, or your procedure may be wrong. Unfortunately, I can't understand what you are saying about your procedure, but it's very simple: The silver must touch the aluminum foil and the silver must be fully immersed.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Brick, New Jersey
June 14, 2008
A. I read the articles on how to get rid of tarnish because I have a ring holder that is all silver and shaped like a swan. My swan was extremely tarnished, and I mixed together two of the ways to get rid of the tarnish because none of them worked by themselves. I boiled water with salt, and then I poured baking soda all over my swan. I got the baking powder wet with the salty water so that it was damp, and then I scrubbed it with tin foil. The tarnish came off easily, I wish I figured this out thirty minutes before when I started my project!Juliet McDonalds
- New York City, New York, United States
January 27, 2009
I just tried the boiling water/baking soda/aluminum foil method. It does work. My silver bracelet looks great. Thank you for the advice.
- Warwick, Bermuda
June 20, 2009
A. I read through this site and didn't have baking soda and salt was taking too long. So I asked someone and she said try ashes. So I did and it worked at first try.Sammy Foster
- NYC, New York
June 3, 2013
Q. Does anyone know what is the cloudy surface layer that can sometimes form or appear on sterling silver after cleaning with commercial Silver Dip (Thio-urea/Sulphuric acid/Detergent mixtures)?
I sort of think that it is a salt of silver, but it is lightfast, does not seem to be soluble in dilute Ammonia, or in either Tartaric or Citric acid solutions.
Of course it mat not even be a silver salt.
Quite a puzzle.
- Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
^- Privately contact this inquirer -^
First of two simultaneous responses -- June 7, 2013
A. You probably etched the surface slightly. A little bit of buffing should brighten your items.
Second of two simultaneous responses -- June 10, 2013
A. Hi Robert
When you use a conventional silver cleaner, you polish the surface so that it reflects light like a mirror.
Silver dips dissolve the oxides and sulphides that form the usual tarnish but leave the surface slightly rough where the tarnish has attacked the surface. The thicker the tarnish, the worse it gets. Hence the milky appearance that has to be polished.
Where the tarnish is very thin, the effect is often not noticed but will build up with successive dippings so you cannot avoid at least occasional polishing.