How to Polish Silver with Baking Soda

How to polish silver with simple pantry items

So I know most people don’t spend a great deal of their time polishing silver these days, but on the occasions when you find it necessary, it’s definitely nicer to do it without using silver polish that contains a bunch of toxins and chemicals. Luckily for us, this technique is also cheaper, faster, and easier than buffing your silver by hand with polish anyway!

I inherited this lovely tea set from my grandmother, but it was pretty tarnished:

All I did was fill a bit pot with water, bring it to a boil, and add a piece of aluminum foil, maybe a tablespoon or two of baking soda, and a tablespoon or two of salt. Set the silver you want to polish on top of the aluminum foil (and if there’s more than one piece, try to have them touching each other) and let it boil for 3-5 minutes or so. Remove it with tongs and voila! You’ve got a much cleaner piece of silver.

If it’s not perfectly shiny, just mix a bit of baking soda with a bit of water to make a paste and use it to scrub the silver with a towel or microfiber cloth. The end result is a nice, shiny silver that took minimal effort and even less strange chemicals.

The reason this works is: Silver tarnishes because of sulfur containing substances in the air, but sulfur prefers to bond with aluminum if it has the choice. If you put aluminum, baking soda, salt, and water together with the silver, it causes a chemical reaction where the sulfur transfers from the silver to the aluminum. So you end up with clean silver and tarnished aluminum, which is usually the preferable scenario. Isn’t science fun?

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9 Comments

  • Sorry I dont get it. You just toss a piece of aluminium foil into the water?

    What is the aluminium for?

    You have got photos of the detailed process?

    Thanks,
    Flavio

    • There isn’t much of a process to photograph because the water just gets super bubbly so you don’t see anything. But I did add an explanation of why it works to the end of the post – thanks for asking!

  • That is AWESOME! We have so much silver at home (although we never use it) I should definitely try this when we prepare for Christmas!

  • Great info! Does using the baking soda scratch the silver at all? I just wonder because baking soda tends to be be a bit abrasize. Thanks!

    • It didn’t scratch mine but it might not be bad to use caution. I suspect that using just a microfiber with water might be effective as well so try that first!