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Metal finishing Q&As since 1989

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How to remove silver tarnish


A. I used boiling water, a recycled piece of aluminum in a ceramic bowl, 1 cup baking soda, 1 tsp salt. Added as much jewelry as would all fit on the aluminum. In less than 15 minutes the water was brown, the silver was clean.

Tina Edmond
- San Rafael, California
April 14, 2024







⇩ Related postings, oldest first ⇩



Q. I've heard of a way of cleaning silver using aluminum foil, boiling water and baking soda [in bulk on eBay or Amazon affil links] . Does this work?
Thanks,

Louis L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]

1998

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 thread 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 some more specific hints.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. I just tried the Al, baking soda on a silver US quarter, Nothing much happened.

420 Ways to Clean Everything [affil link on Amazon or AbeBooks affil links] by Harriet Wylie, says to use Al foil, kosher salt [affil links], 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.

tom pullizzi monitor   tom pullizi signature
Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township, Pennsylvania


A. Please remember three ideas for best success with this technique:

1). - the conversion of the tarnish back to silver depends on conducting electricity, not on whether the dissolved "salt" is baking soda, kosher salt, washing soda, water softener salt, or trisodium phosphate -- you can use anything you have that will conduct electricity well.
2). - but all chemical reactions occur much faster at high temperatures.
3). - the word "cleaning" is imprecise. The reaction we're talking about is not about removing ground in finger oils and dirt, but about electrochemically converting silver tarnish back to silver -- still, removing that oil & dirt is necessary, especially on decades-old quarters; baking soda or kosher salt in cold water is a very poor detergent :-)

When you take these things into consideration, the best way to help the reaction occur fast & easy, and leave any scum easily wiped off, if you are having trouble with old stuff that is dirty as well as tarnished is probably to use a TSP-based detergent like Spic and Span [on eBay or Amazon] and hot water. The hot water and strong detergent, however, would mean you'd probably want to wear dishwashing gloves [affil links] or, if you happen to have them, even chemical gloves [on eBay or Amazon affil links] .

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. Louis,

Exactly how are you supposed to use the aluminum foil, baking soda and hot water?

Ralph B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
1998


thumbs down sign 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, hi Ralph: We now have a thread, letter 4785,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 [in bulk on eBay or Amazon affil links] , washing soda [on eBay or Amazon affil links] , or Spic and Span [on eBay or Amazon] into hot water, and pour it in. Drop your silver onto the foil, and that's it.

Hi 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?

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


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
Paul Tibbals, P.E.
gas & electric
San Ramon, California, USA
(My opinions are not related to nor a statement of my employer's)


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 a Silver Cleaning Plate [on eBay or Amazon affil links] . 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, Sue

Sue R [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- York, South Carolina
1999


thumbs up sign 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
1999


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 [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- london, Ontario, Canada
2000


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 salt [affil links].

glenwood reed
Glenwood Reed
- Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
2003


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 [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Phoenix, Arizona
2003


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 salt [affil links] and water. But how much of each?

Thanks,

M A Coudry
- Tacoma, Washington
2003


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 [in bulk on eBay or Amazon affil links] dip your silver in and pull out. comes out spotless.

Tara Copper
- Canada
2004


A. For the water softener, get Arm and Hammer Super washing soda [on eBay or Amazon affil links] (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 sulfur [affil links]. The coin had to be wiped off gently when removed and it was shiny and new!

Bob U. [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Laurel, Maryland
2004



sidebar

!! Hello,

Believe it or not, white chalk powder both cleans and prevents silver from tarnishing. Store silver in a zip lock bag with a little chalk dust. It works on both fine and sterling silver.

Christina S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- East Meadow, New York, America
2005


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
July 11, 2009


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.

It Works.

Jazzmin King
- Jacksonville, Florida
2007



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
2007


A. I doubt that the salt is the problem, although most people recommend washing soda [on eBay or Amazon affil links] 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, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
2007


thumbs up sign 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
June 14, 2008


thumbs up signI just tried the boiling water/baking soda/aluminum foil method. It does work. My silver bracelet looks great. Thank you for the advice.

K-

Karen Watkins
- Warwick, Bermuda
January 27, 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 20, 2009




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/sulfuric 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 [on eBay or Amazon affil links] solutions.

Of course it might not even be a silver salt.

Quite a puzzle.

Robert Tapper
- Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
June 3, 2013



simultaneous replies

A. You probably etched the surface slightly. A little bit of buffing should brighten your items.

Neil Bell
Red Sky Plating
supporting advertiser
Albuquerque, New Mexico
redsky
June 7, 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 sulfides 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.

geoff smith
Geoff Smith
Hampshire, England




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