Who has time to polish their silver?
Ok, not that I have all that much silver.
But there is a lovely rice spoon I received for my wedding that hasn’t been used in years.
And a silver-plated small dish that has never been used because it was already so tarnished when it was handed down to me.
Not to mention the earrings and necklace that sit unworn.
Imagine my delight when I learned of a magical silver polishing hack using simple ingredients from my kitchen!
And it doubles as a chemistry lesson for my kids! “When am I ever going to use this, Mom?” Well, if only I had paid more attention in chemistry during highschool, maybe I would have been using my silver more often. This is homeschool science at its finest.
I might be the last person on the internet to have learned this trick. In case you, too, were oblivious, here are the simple steps:
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Easy Steps to Remove Tarnish from your Silver
- Line a baking pan with aluminum foil (or use a disposable aluminum foil baking pan to make it even easier)
- Boil water. I used my handy electric kettle and boiled 7 cups.
- Pour 1 tablespoon of baking soda into the pan for every 1 cup of water you are boiling. In my case, I used 7 tablespoons. Some sources recommend also adding an equal amount of salt. I have tried it both ways, but unfortunately not side by side. It would be a fascinating science experiment for the kids to compare the 2 processes and see which cleans the silver more thoroughly and quickly. I guess I’ll save that idea for the next time I have tarnish to clean.
- Pour boiling water into the pan. Use a wooden spoon (or something non-metallic) to stir and help the baking soda mostly dissolve.
- Place your tarnished silver items into the pan of boiling hot baking soda water. Make sure they are touching the aluminum foil. Make sure they are not touching each other. Make sure you don’t forget the water is hot and burn your fingers (ask me how I know). Wait 5 to 10 minutes.
You may immediately begin to notice a change occurring. Heavily tarnished items may take a while longer. That silver-plated dish I mentioned? I had to go through this process 3 times before it was clean. The earrings were clean within 5 minutes.
When I took out my now pretty and shiny silver, I rinsed it thoroughly in cool water to remove any baking soda residue, then buffed it on a dry cloth.
What amazes me is that this is actually chemistry at work, not magic. There is actually an electrochemical reaction occurring between the silver and the aluminum. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has an explanation of the specific chemistry involved which fascinates me. And now I know why the heavily tarnished silver tray made my kitchen smell like rotting eggs while it was undergoing this electrochemical polishing!
Periodic Videos also has an intriguing youtube video all about silver, the 47th element on the periodic table.