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topic 4785

Polishing Silver with Aluminum Foil and Baking Soda

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I have read this thread worth great interest. In the late 60's/70's (hard to believe I'm this old) I learned from a friend that one could line their bathtub with aluminum foil and stir a bunch of Spic and Span in the powder form into the hot water as it was filling to get the tarnish off of my silver. As I slid the items into the tub they hardly had to touch the aluminum as they turned immediately into bright untarnished silver. As a middle school librarian I am aware of the science fair project of using baking soda [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] and salt with the foil and hot water and I have done that with much success but it is not nearly as fast or effective as the powdered Spic and Span was. In fact nothing that I have seen since is as good but unfortunately one cannot find Spic and Span in a powder form anymore and I suppose if one did the composition of the product may have changed from the 60's/70's.

Jo C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Charleston, South Carolina

Ed. note: Spic 'n Span [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] is available by following the link, Jo We can't guarantee that there have been no changes to the formulation, but I did try this on one item today and it did seem faster than baking soda but harder on the hands -- Ted.

Ultrasonic Silver Cleaning Kit

Dri-Pak Soda Crystals


Thanks for the great ideas. I, too, am revealing my age as I recall a "recipe" for tarnish removal that called for a product named "Soilax". As I recall, you lined the sink with foil, threw in a couple of cups of Soilax and poured in the boiling water. Dip the silver with tongs until you can comfortably reach in with rubber protective gloves [linked by editor to product info at Amazon].

I just tried a formula featured on a PBS helpful home hints series recently. Called for 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon water softener to 1 quart water and hot water. Did absolutely nothing until I added tons more salt and water softener and boiling water. When I put the boiling water in and dipped the silver, the water began frothing and giving off a metallic odor. I felt like I was making a witches brew.

Has anyone heard of Soilax or have I gone round the bend?

I have a huge silver wine cooler that is so tarnished it is embarrassing. My daughter has a silver tea set (I gave it to her so I wouldn't have to polish it). It is in need of a dip. Will be trying all your fabulous concoctions!

Joyce F [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Internet Service Provider - Bellevue, Washington

Ed. note: We think you'll enjoy the following webpage, Joyce -- Soilax history:


I had been looking for something to clean my "intricate" silver....and had not wanted to pay for what seemed to be so many high priced cleaners that did not do a good job. I chanced upon your website and mixed up a batch of the aluminum foil, boiling water, baking soda, salt, and added a dryer sheet for good measure since we live in Florida where the water is so darn hard.

My silver is now so shiny that I almost need my sunglasses inside the house to look at it! Thank you, thank you, thank you...... I will never clean silver any other way again!

Ginny S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Orlando, Florida


I recently bought a late 1800's silver plated tea set, dark black all over with tarnish. I got it for about $10, and (knowing very little about silver) thought I'd gotten a bargain, since "how hard can it be to clean some tarnish off this?"

I've now gone through an entire bottle of Tarn-X, which helped only with some of the lighter tarnish, even after keeping a cotton ball mixed with the solution on it for several minutes (the bottle says the maximum time to keep something in this solution is two minutes).

I'm in the process of trying this aluminum foil, baking soda, and salt mixture, but I have a few questions..
1.) How long do I leave it in this mixture for?
2.) Is there any way this can damage the already pitted areas? (In the suger holder, there are some small holes in the silver, I'm hoping I can have those repaired somehow)
3.) I saw some bubbling happening when I first put the cream holder into the mixture, but now it seems to just be sitting in still, murky black it still working?
4.) How can I tell if my water is "hard" or not? I'd be happy to add some water softener, or a dryer sheet into the water, but I don't know if this is necessary.

Thanks in advance for any responses I might receive. I really want to restore this beautiful set, but I'm losing hope! I don't think it's been cleaned since it was made!

Rebecca A [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
antiques lover - Fremont, California


Replace the water if it's black, Rebecca. You should be able to see the process working. Maybe the silver is not in intimate contact with the aluminum anymore. The "solution" is just a conductive salt, it's the aluminum that does the magic, so I wouldn't worry too much about water softness. Try again with good contact and very hot water with washing soda. If you continue to meet no success, I'd guess somebody lacquered the tarnished silver. Try lacquer thinner [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] to remove it.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


I read this site with great interest. I had just done a search for a silver cleaner that I used to but at my local grocery store. I can;t find it in a store anywhere so I decided to try my luck at searching the net. Wow. I found it. THe silver solution that I use is called Instant-Dip Silver cleaner. I have been using it for years and works when nothing else will. Just go to Google and do a search and it will take you right to the site. I keep a small jar and a paint brush under my sink for fast polishing.The gallon container is the best bet. Happy polishing.

Jeanne D [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Education - Ft.Myers, Florida


I worked in a fine jewelry store for 11 years and dipping your silver jewelry in liquid silver cleaner is not recommend. It will make your jewelry tacky over time. It is much better to use a polishing cloth on your jewelry.

Jennifer P [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Harrisburg, Pennsylvania


Dear Dale Woika and all on the forum,
I have been fascinated in reading this column ever since seeing someone selling the magic cleaning plates at a recent trade fair. What a great demonstration cleaning everyone's jewelry, so I had to figure out how they did it and research the process. So first off thank you for enlightening me to Aluminum foil method.

My questions to put to the forum are:

1. When looking up different websites selling the plates online they all look pretty similar, sheet of plate with holes in them, with one English company ( stating it has a worldwide patent on the system do you think this is so ? as it sounds like a pretty old fashion science project to me.

2. The websites and commercial vendors selling these plates state that the plate cleans brass, gold, copper and jewelry. Are they using a different process to your aluminum process? for a variety of surfaces and are the commercial versions different to household ones? Leading to my next question.

3. When I asked the presenter what sort of metal the plate was made out of they said it was 80% zinc and a mixture of 4 other secret metals. Obviously after reading your forum I think this was a sales line but do other metals work for this experiment and if yes is what is the best.

I would really enjoy hearing your views
Best Regards
Alan Parker.

PS also when I saw the demonstration they used ordinary clothes washing powder maybe it contains sodium carbonate also.

Alan P [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Sydney, NSW, Australia


I don't doubt that manufacturers of cleaning plates hold some patents; the question is how important those patents are to the central issue. I have an old cleaning plate that I inherited and my personal opinion is that it seems no more effective than aluminum foil. I think pretty much the same chemistry should work for brass or copper -- and probably gold if it is low enough carat to tarnish in the first place. I suppose the plate you saw could have been zinc; zinc alloys should perform pretty much the same way as aluminum.

Anything can be improved upon and perfected, so I don't rule out that those cleaning plates could be slightly quicker or more convenient in certain ways. But for my very small house the greatest convenience is not having to store something away; so for me, aluminum foil is the winner.

The conductive solution is not the principal issue -- Calgon, baking soda, washing soda, and Spic 'n Span all work. The latter seemed to be quickest to me (probably because it's a strong detergent for cleaning and wetting, as well as a conductor, but it was harder on the hands.

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


I've had one of those cleaning plates for years, which I use regularly on a collection of silver musical instruments. I have no idea what the 'brand name' is, but somewhere I got the idea it was primarily zinc, although on closer inspection now it does just look like aluminum. Instructions that came with it said to use washing soda - good to know baking soda works also, since the washing soda can be hard to find. I'll also be trying the aluminum foil - the plate only draws tarnish within about a foot or so of it's contact point, which can be a pain on larger instruments like tubas and sousaphones!


Mikel S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Washington, New Jersey


Well, Thank you all for your most enlightening methods for cleaning silver items. I can't wait for tomorrow morning and drag out anything I own made of silver and get it clean, clean clean!

Thanks again!

Dennis G [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Merrick, New York


Odor Eating dryer sheets? I have read the string of suggestions on cleaning silver. I have only a few pieces that needed polishing/cleaning. I started with the al. foil, salt and water with little success but with an odor that made me think I was doing something wrong since I did not recall reading any odor comments. However, I believe the odor is probably where the use of dryer sheets came into play. I was not sure if the al. foil had to touch every inch to be cleaned. After little success with just soaking in the solution, I took pieces of the al. foil with the solution and used it to wash the pieces. I had better luck and almost spotless silver pieces from what started out as almost black. The dryer sheets in the pan helps with the disturbing odor and good on the hands too. Without dryer sheets I wouldn't consider this "stinking" solution again.

Patsy S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Huntsville, Alabama


What side of aluminum foil should be placed up?

Wilma W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]


You can still get liquid Quick Dip at the Bay. They sell it over by the silverware and silver trays.

Mary R [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Kamloops, BC, Canada


Thanks so much Dale! It just took me two hours to polish 3 pieces of silver but after I saw your post I decided to try it and whalah! I soaked one of my candelabras for 15 minutes and it came out shining. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I'm ready for a dinner party. :-)

Malina L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- San Clemente, California


I was very skeptical about trying the aluminum foil and baking soda to remove the tarnish off of my silver ring. After successfully trying this method, I would recommend it over and over again! I was very pleasantly surprised! All of the tarnish came off of my ring and all I had to do was grab an old cotton rag and polish it back to a high shine. Thank you for saving me time and $$$$ !

DAWN H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- charlotte, No Carolina


interesting read I must say! I clean silver for a living and have done so for 22 years now, I'm an antique dealer and the only safe way to clean silver is to use an Electrolytic plate. if you use polish or dips you're not only damaging your silver, but your health as well because nearly all chemical based polish solutions contain 'ammonia' and lots of it too!.
Also note: that using soda crystals 'washing soda' sodium carbonate crystals, with aluminum is also very dangerous and will when mixed together create a deadly vapour. read the instructions on any packet of soda crystals and it should read 'DO NOT USE WITH ALUMINUM'

We use the "PRISTINE2U" method of cleaning all valuable metals, and they say' this is the original electrolytic plate from 1907' don't know if this is true or not? but we and many of our rivals in the trade use this method or similar as there are others on the market.. hope this helps and good luck

brian s [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
silver cleaners - london uk


Thanks, Brian! Although sodium carbonate is not good for aluminum because it's a medium strength alkali, and such materials slowly attack aluminum (don't put aluminum items in the dishwasher), I very strongly doubt that anything hazardous can be released from exposing aluminum to sodium carbonate.

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 18, 2008

I had used a metal plate with holes to clean my silver items for a long time, and as I could not find it I searched the Internet & came to this page. I read Dale Woika's comments and tried a spoonful of washing soda for every litre of boiling water in an aluminum cooking pot which I previously cleaned with steel wool [linked by editor to product info at Rockler], as Dale advised, and it worked wonders. I dipped my silver forks, which had their tips quite dirty, and some silver bread plates and now they look really nice.
It certainly is cheaper than buying the metal plate!
Thank you, Dale!

Maria Radicic Garbin
- Rosario, Argentina

March 16, 2008

I looked this up on several websites & this is what I ended up with. I took a kitchen sink full of HOT water, a handful of Kosher salt, about half a palm full of baking soda & the aluminum foil. I did have to wrap the foil gently around one of my goblets that was black/blue in color. After about 20 minutes & a slightly stinky smell they were looking much better. However, before I rinsed in warm water, I did a trick that a jeweler taught me years ago. (This is to finish the hard to get parts). Take a SOFT toothbrush & Crest or Colgate toothpaste & clean the silver, then rinse. You can do the toothpaste trick alone, but takes longer. So I suggest the aluminum, hot water, B.S., & salt, then finishing hard to get places with the toothpaste. My black & gold looking goblets are silver again!   :)

Amber Nichols
- Charleston, West Virginia

October 12, 2008

Patsy S and Brian S commented on the smell of the solution and possible toxic vapours:

Dale Woika provided the chemistry in the second post on this thread as 2Al(s) + 3Ag2S(s) + 6H2O -> 6Ag(s) + 2Al2(OH)3(s) + 3H2S(aq)

The smell comes from the production of H2S or hydrogen sulfide in solution which is toxic as a gas or in high concentrations. Hydrogen sulfide gives off the classic rotten eggs smell that people associate with sulfur. So partly for aesthetics and partly for safety, it's best to do your silver dipping outdoors or in a well-ventilated area and avoid inhaling any vapours.

Jim Hughes
- Vancouver, BC, Canada

Hi Jim. Good point, thanks. I have hardly or not at all noted a hydrogen sulfide smell ... but I suppose if someone is doing a whole bunch of silver that it very heavily tarnished with sulfides it would generate more H2S, and it might be significant.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 29, 2008 sells the plates you are all talking about. I bought one and used it for the first time yesterday. I have a large collection of copper and brass that tarnishes over time. I usually clean them once or twice a year but it's one of those jobs that I hate to do as it takes so long. So I usually do it over the course of a week.
I did a bit of research and found a link to 'Qwicksilver' What used to take me two to three days of continuous rubbing took 2 hours! The results were unbelievable. The tarnish literally floats off and a quick dip in hot sudsy water after then a rub with a drying towel is all you need. Reading the previous posts I guess that an aluminium saucepan would do the job just as well.
The trick is.
1) Use soft water
2) Add 1 tablespoon of washing soda per litre of water used.
3) Add the water to the pan, keep it on the hob until the water boils, then add the soda. Keep the water just on the boil and add the pieces to be cleaned. Leave in the solution for 30 seconds and remove.
Hey Presto! Clean.
Then just wash off the soda residue with hot soapy water and dry.

Vincent Penkul
- Essex, UK

January 23, 2009

Earlier Wilma asked, "What side of aluminum foil should be placed up?"

Wilma, except for their appearance, both sides of aluminum foil are identical. The shiny and dull appearance comes from the final step in the foil's manufacture. This involves two sheets of approximately .008" thick foil placed on top of each other and run through a large set of rollers set to a clearance of only .008". The result is the final product with each sheet measuring .004". The sides of each sheet that the pair of rollers pressed against comes out shiny and the sides of the sheets that were against each other will be the dull sides.

Randall McMurphy
Tampa, Florida

March 25, 2009

This is a great thread -- I cleaned all my silver yesterday -- and then thought I would run it through the dishwasher to rinse it off and dry it. Yes, I was trying to conserve time.

Now there is a film all over my 12-place silverware setting, and I am looking at some 72 pieces of ugly silverware. I can't find a solution to removal of the film. Dipping won't work, I've tried baking soda on a damp cloth, ......

Help! Does anyone have any suggestions?

Heidi Schobel
- Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Hagerty Spray Polish

April 13, 2009

I sell sterling at jewelry shows and have tried many products.
The best product for your situation is the Hagerty "Silversmiths' Spray Polish" =>

You will need to use it outside or in a well ventilated area. Just spray it on and wait for it to dry to a white powder. Then it just wipes away. I use this product on stones incl pearls and have never had a problem with it. Unlike other people here I never use any of the dips because I have not found one that will not damage jewelry. Paste cleaners are all excellent but obviously you want something that is fast and this spray cleaner will do the trick.

Phil Hamby
- Atlanta, Georgia

June 7, 2009

Wow I found a silver hairbrush of my mothers (she has been dead for 30 years) It was as black as the ace of spades. Well I tried the foil, salt and baking soda (Bi-Carb) admittedly I had to immerse it twice but what silver. I was amazed. No more silver polishes for me.
Thanks for the info

Mary Dye

July 2, 2009

Thank you all, my gold and silver plated coins have come up a treat...

I followed the bicarbonate of soda, aluminium foil and boiling water - and watched the tarnish fall off, amazing!

Sue Kemp
- London, England, UK

January 19, 2010 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

I inherited the FB Rogers Silver Co 1883 Butter Dish (273) that my grandmother thought was an ashtray and had in her collection. It is horribly tarnished and using a silver cloth on it is taking ALOT of work. What is the bet way to care for what I have recently learned is silver plate?!

Kimm Scott
collector - Orange, California

June 28, 2010

To the person that had the film left after this cleaning process. I did too. After removing my silver from the foil, salt, baking soda, and hot water mixture I rinse quickly in water and then swished the silver in a mixture of water and a little white vinegar. Then I rinsed again with water. Worked perfect to remove the tarnish and the residual film.

Karrie Stapleton
- Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

August 5, 2010

I just finished completely cleaning ALL our silverware (8 settings) is about 15 minutes. In a plastic tub, about 12" square and 5" deep, layered on the bottom with aluminum foil, I sprinkled 2 or 3 tablespoons of Washing Soda. Put about 1/3 of the silverware into the tub and followed with a kettle of boiling water. The silver became almost instantly clean! Fished it out and rinsed it, then dumped in the next third and again with the last third with same result The aluminum is higher on the electromotive scale and the silver sulfide (the tarnish) is converted back to pure silver. Unlike with manual polishing, no silver is lost!

Paul Collins
house husband - Burnsvllle, North Carolina

November 15, 2010

Thank you, Dale! I had several pairs of intricate silver earrings that had tarnished and would be very energy- and time-intensive to clean. I took a mixing bowl, poured boiling water then poured in baking soda, put in the foil and earrings and - voila It was like magic! Thank you for this fast, easy, non-toxic and fun way to clean silver! You ROCK!

Diane Rose
- Newton, Massachusetts, USA

January 18, 2011

I just received an electrolytic cleaning plate as a gift and used it to clean several pieces of my collection. I have been interested in this technology for a long time, but only knew about the commercial plates that were being sold. (I didn't know that you could achieve the same results with household items, or I would have tried it long ago.)

My plate came with instructions to use near-boiling water and either WASHING SODA or Calgon Water Softener with the plate. I tried it on a small, silverplated lid to a trinket box. There was no visible change when the item came out of the solution, but as soon as I began polishing, the black turned to bright silver!

The next day, I went to work on several other matching pieces of serving dishes. All were silverplate. I could see the solution working on the first two pieces as they sat in the plastic tub. They came out sparkling. Then, on the third, as I watched, the dish silvered, but the handle turned black. I had no idea what had happened.

I tried Tarn-X on the handle. I tried cream silver polish. I tried liquid silver polish. Nothing worked. Then I got it. I looked closer at the other pieces. The problem was that the plating on the third piece was badly worn on the handle. That was why it had blackened on contact with the electrolytic solution.

I didn't see any posts on this subject on this thread, so I thought I'd share my story. I think this is a great way to clean silver & plate quickly, efficiently, & with less environmental impact. However, when working with plate, one should be sure that the plate is intact. Otherwise, you might be surprised (less happily) with the results!

Alisa Abrams
- Sacramento, California, USA

(Pack of 12)

January 28, 2011

Alisa Have you tried dipping the dishes in a mixture of 50/50 vinegar to water?

Chris Warfel
- Waynesville, Ohio

March 2, 2011

Someone said you cannot buy powdered Spic 'n Span anymore. YOU CAN! Try your local hardware store. NOT a Big Box store, but a local old timey hardware store like Ace or True Value, or independent. I buy it all the time at a neighborhood hardware store in my city.

Diane Ipsen
- Denver, Colorado, USA

April 27, 2011

This works well, but I did use more baking soda (approx. 1/4 cup) and as my silver pieces -- bowls, trays, etc. were quite tarnished, it required quite a bit longer than 'instant' removal; more of a bath or a soaking -- so just be patient! It does work.

Marilyn O'Connor
- Kingston, Ontario Canada

October 4, 2011

I had used White King's Water Softener for years and now it is impossible to find as I think Front Loading machines have put it out of business.

I had a beloved Silver and Sapphire ring that I wore in our Hot Tub - which uses Bromine. next thing I know, I've got Silver Bromide tarnish all over it pretty bad - totally DARK GREY and FOGGY. Note to self, take off rings before going in hot tub. Silver Bromide the stuff we used to make photo sensitive Black and white photo paper on...I digress.

So I was OVERJOYED when I found Ted's Article referencing #4785 saying I could use 1T Baking Soda + 1t Salt + Aluminum Foil (Which causes the reaction) and Hot and I used boiling water. AND I don't have to buy anything!

I put the foil over a soup bowl, added the baking soda, salt and 1 cup boiling water. Dropped my ring in and stirred it about with a wooden chopstick took it out after like 30 seconds, and much cleaner but not totally to my liking yet. left it in for 2 minutes, rinsed in boiling water and VOILA! Totally beautiful.
No harsh chemicals lol it's FOOD GRADE! Just pour it down the sink and all done.

Ted and YOU ROCK! Been looking for this solution for like 3 months now! I sooo missed my ring!

Hugs TED!


Stefanie Sellars
- Simi Valley, California

Thanks, Stefanie. Actually, the aluminum foil wasn't my idea (although it's my website). But I'll take any hugs I can get :-)   -- Ted

October 12, 2011

Hi, Everyone, my name is Patsy and I am a homemaker in North Carolina. I have read with great interest all the comments here and came the closest (I thought) to an answer to the puzzle of my silver-plated tea-and-coffee set. The set fell into disuse a number of years ago and got shifted from place to place, acquiring, in the process, a good build-up of tarnish. When I finally decided to tackle it this week, I got out the Wright's Silver polish and started on the teapot. The black came off, with much labor; but what was left was a shiny, smooth, brassy color. I thought I must have done something wrong and was afraid to try the other pieces, but I did, starting next on the coffee pot. It came out really nice and I was encouraged, though a little perplexed. Next I tried the sugar bowl, and it came out brassy, like the teapot! It was too late to turn back, so I set to work on the cream pot and it came out beautifully, just like the coffee pot! I was so hopeful when I found this wonderful forum and read all of your comments, and I tried the baking soda/boiling water/aluminum foil method on the brassy pieces. It didn't work, though I tried it more than once, adding some salt and a dryer sheet in later attempts, as that had been suggested, too. Does anyone have any idea why two of the pieces came out so well while the other two developed the brassy color? I looked a lot online to find someone who knew why the brass-looking finish came out on those two pieces, but haven't been able to turn up a thing. You all seemed more knowledgeable and hopeful to me than anywhere else I've looked, so I thought I would seek your help. Thanks for taking the time to look into my problem! I've really enjoyed reading the forum; in fact, I've read all of your responses twice!

Patsy Newsom
Hobbyist - Julian, North Carolina, USA

October 12, 2011

Hi, Patsy.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it sure sounds like your tea set is made of silver plated brass and the silver plating has worn off over the years. You can try a resilvering solution, see our FAQ: "Silver Plating at Home", but if this doesn't offer enough satisfaction you will have to send the set to a plating shop for replating.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 14, 2011

Ted, thanks for your answer and your help! I honestly feared as much; but as I am a rookie in the matter of silver cleaning I needed someone "in the know" to verify. You must be a mind-reader, too; my next thought would have been to ask if anyone knew about re-plating, and you gave me the article and the links for all the information I needed. I've read it and find it very helpful, and hopeful! I'd really like to see this set restored, as it was a gift from my mother-in-law, now deceased, who was a very dear friend. Thanks again! I've really enjoyed reading this forum!

Patsy Newsom
- Julian, North Carolina, USA

January 1, 2012

This worked for me on a couple of necklaces that had been exposed to hydrogen peroxide by accident. I just used excess of baking soda, a little bit of salt, boiling water and a sheet of tin foil in a tupperware container.

Kate Lewis
- Syracuse, New York, USA

Hi kate. Thanks.

I'll bet your grandmother didn't die while you were still young, but taught you a bit of cooking. Before WWII people actually used tin foil; but aluminum foil became available cheaper, and supplanted it. People who used tin foil tended to continue calling the new fangled stuff "tin foil" and pass the phrase on to the next generations :-)


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 28, 2012

Washing soda is usually much more effective than baking soda (Sodium bicarbonate). Washing soda is "sodium TRIcarbonate" and is more active chemically so will often clean those older 'deeper' tarnish spots. The water must be very hot and I prefer to cover the container - when convenient, so the water stays warmer longer. Washing soda is usually available in larger supermarkets. Arm & Hammer also makes washing soda.

Doug Koch
- Southfield, Michigan

January 30, 2012

Thanks, Doug. Good ideas. But washing soda is actually sodium carbonate. The "bi" in bicarbonate doesn't mean "two", it indicates hydrogen in the compound.

Baking soda is NaHCO3, washing soda is Na2CO3.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

February 11, 2012

Q. What is the difference between washing soda and baking soda to clean silver? I used washing soda, but I used double the suggested proportion by mistake. It worked, but now I'm wondering if I harmed the silver plate.

Gilda Schneider
- New York, New York, USA

June 10, 2012

A. Hi Gilda. Washing soda is a bit more alkaline, and consequently it is both a better cleaner and more conductive -- but lots of people have had success with baking soda too. I doubt that washing soda or baking soda will hurt silver.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

December 23, 2012

Q. Hi,

I just used this method to try cleaning some old silver plate cutlery. It worked well, and I could see a visible difference in 30 seconds or so. I used Baking Soda + Aluminium foil + hot water.

However, when I got to the forks, there was black tarnishing appearing on the prongs of the forks where it touched the aluminium. I had only done 3, so stopped at this point to research more.

I put one more fork in that I was sure had no black on the end, and again after 30 seconds or so the tips became blackened.

I was able to get rid of the black tarnish with a normal silver polish cloth, however I'm wondering why this might be happening?

It's almost like the tarnish is being moved from one area to another. Should I just leave them in longer and eventually it'd all go? Any other ideas?

James Gould
- Stafford, UK

October 15, 2013

Q. I have inherited my grandmother's silver. I did the foil, salt, washing soda dip method on a black with tarnish tea set. It came clean but doesn't have any shine. It almost appears to be pewter. I know it is silver plate and remember it being shiny before. What can I do?

Doug Blackburn
- Cherryville, North Carolina, USA

October 17, 2013

A. Hi Doug. Even if all the tarnish has been removed, you won't have much shine if the surface is not extremely smooth. At this point it needs polishing to mechanically smooth it. The plating is thin, so you can't overdo it, but a soft buffing wheel for a battery-operated drill, and a dab of silver polish should do it.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Wright's Silver Cream

November 17, 2014

Q. I am hoping to find where I can purchase the SMC Silver Care cream to use after I have used the SMC Cleaning Plate. I purchased the plate and cream several years ago and hope to be able to get more cream. The company was Special Metal Cleaners, Inc. Fairmont NE 68354.
Thank You.

Eulyn Riemersma
- spirit Lake Iowa

November 2014

A. Hi Eulyn. To be realistic, if Google can't find SMC they're probably out of business. But there are many silver polishes. Haggerty Silver Polish was recommended on this page, and Wright's Silver Cream =>
has been recommended on other threads. "Cape Cod" metal polish [link is to product info on Amazon] is another possibility. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

How to get aluminum off silver

May 22, 2015

Q. Last week, I was outside with my dog, playing with the hose. Since the well water had sulfur in it, it dyed my silver bracelet to a bronze color. I looked on Google and found that if you mix water, baking soda, and aluminum foil, it will take this tarnish off. It did! (for the most part) There was only a little bit of tarnish left, so I left it in for a little longer. When I took it out, part of it was now black... what do I do about this?


Can it be reversed by using sulfur again?

Elizabeth Krotov
teacher - Cape Coral, Florida, USA

May 2015

A. Hi Elizabeth. Sulfur is the primary cause of this blackening, not the cure. The dark area is probably just where the bracelet was tightly touching the aluminum with no room to breathe. After removing as much tarnish (of any color) as you can by lying the bracelet on the aluminum foil in a non-metal container, and pouring a hot mixture of water and the "salt" of your choice onto it; and possibly flipping the bracelet over, then remove any remaining spots (of any color) with silver polish. Good luck.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

May 25, 2015

Q. I bought a pendant that is sterling but had that ugly black fake antique-ing added to it, which I really don't like. I used the stinky sulphur smelling dip stuff to remove it, but maybe went too far and now it's a flat white-ish color. Any suggestions on how to polish it up now that I got the ugly fake tarnish off? Hope I didn't ruin it :-(

Marianne Lower
- Clearwater, Florida, USA

May 2015

A. Hi Marianne. I don't know what you mean by the "stinky sulphur smelling-dip stuff". Liver of sulphur is used to deliberately tarnish silver -- not to remove tarnish.

But maybe you consider commercial silver polish to be sulphur smelling? If we don't know what you did it's very hard to suggest what is wrong or what to do next. Did you try silver polish? Did you try the aluminum foil approach that is the subject of the thread?


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

Q. My 60 year old silver plate spoon turned black after using the spoon to remove the cream of mushroom soup from the aluminum can. Immediately the spoon turned black and I cannot get it off. Please advise.

Marie Gough
- New City, New York USA

August 2015

A. Hi Marie. It seems hard to believe that a silver plated spoon could be 60 years old without ever once requiring a tarnish-removal treatment with commercial silver polish or aluminum foil and washing soda. So what exactly do you mean when you say you "cannot get it off"? You used an aluminum cleaning plate with washing soda and boiling water like you already knew how to do -- but this time it refused to work? Then you tried commercial silver polish and still no change?


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

Washing Soda

August 6, 2015

A. I don't know why people keep talking about "washing soda". Many years ago it was a common household item, but now it is very hard for most people to find locally, at least in the parts of the USA with which I'm familiar.

The good news is that sodium carbonate (which is what washing soda really is) is very commonly available in places that sell swimming pool supplies. It's used to raise the pH level of the water. Look for products called "pH booster", "alkalinity booster", or something similar, and read the labels. Many of them are nothing more than sodium carbonate.

If all else fails, you can turn baking soda into washing soda at home by (how's this for irony...) baking it. Pour it onto a cookie sheet and bake it at 400 °F (200 °C) for about half an hour.

Reid Kneeland
- Los Angeles, California, USA

January 20, 2017

A. Washing Soda is sodium carbonate, and Baking Soda is sodium bicarbonate.
Washing Soda is a stronger base than Baking Soda.
The good news is Washing Soda can be made from Baking Soda by simply heating it to drive off a CO2 molecule.
If you watch carefully, there is a very slight visual change in the consistency of the powder when it converts, it appears slightly finer grained and may flow easier.

William Johnson
- New York, USA

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