How to Clean Silver: 13 Weird Tricks That Really Work

Make your tarnished silver and dull jewelry shine like new after a cleaning with these common household items.

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Aluminum foil

Aluminum foiliStock/leeser87
Tarnished silver is no match for this aluminum foil "recipe." Bring one liter of water, one tablespoon of baking soda and one piece of aluminum foil to a boil. Drop silverware in the pot for 10 seconds (longer if it's very tarnished), then remove using kitchen tongs. Magic! If built-up tarnish persists, make a thick paste with 1/4 cup baking soda and two tablespoons of water. Apply with a damp sponge, then rinse and dry.

Laundry detergent

Laundry detergent iStock/exl01
To make your jewelry or silverware sparkle, line a medium-sized bowl with aluminum foil and fill it with hot water. Mix in one tablespoon of powdered laundry detergent, then soak your silver for one minute. Rinse with clean water, and air-dry.

Ketchup

KetchupiStock/FotografiaBasica
If your silver is tarnished, ketchup can help. Squirt a small amount on a paper towel, and rub gently over the tarnished areas. If your silver isn't getting shinier, let the ketchup sit for 15 minutes, then rub with a soft cloth and rinse clean. For items that have textured details, as with some candlesticks or fancy silverware, use a toothbrush to clean between the crevices.

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Corn starch

Corn starchiStock/vikif
A paste of corn starch and water will make silver look new again. Apply with a damp cloth, let dry, then rub off with something mildly abrasive, like cheesecloth or a rough towel. Tip: You can substitute cream of tartar if you're out of corn starch.

Hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer iStock/Elenathewise
Hand sanitizer not only fights germs, but it's a great silver polish. Squirt a few drops on a soft cloth and rub away the tarnish.

Lemon-lime soda

Lemon-lime sodaiStock/bhofack2
Recapture shine by dunking your silver items in a bowl of lemon-lime soda for one hour. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

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Toothpaste

Toothpaste iStock/DNY59
Squeeze a small amount of toothpaste on a rag and polish your silver. Then rinse—and see how it shines!

Window cleaner

Window cleanerJovanmandic
Spray window cleaner on a rag or toothbrush, and use it to gently scrub your sterling silver. You should be able to restore your silver its original shiny state.

Hair conditioner

Hair conditioner iStock/Stephan Zabel
If you want to prevent tarnish, try rubbing conditioner on clean silver.

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Chalk

Chalk iStock/andydidyk
Silverware will stay shiny if you keep a few pieces of chalk in the drawer or chest where you store it. The chalk absorbs moisture, preventing your nice utensils from tarnishing.

Ammonia

Ammonia iStock/supergabur
Brighten silver trinkets by soaking them for 10 minutes in a solution of one cup warm water and 1/2 cup clear ammonia. Gently wipe clean and dry.
 

Vinegar

Vinegar iStock/Kursad
Return luster and shine to your silverware and jewelry by soaking it in 1/2 cup white vinegar mixed with 2 tablespoons of baking soda for two to three hours. Rinse under cold water, and dry thoroughly.
 

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Lemon juice and salt

Lemon juice and saltiStock/uuurska
Your silver will sparkle after soaking overnight in a mixture of 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 1/2 cups water, and 1/2 cup of instant dry milk.

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15 thoughts on “How to Clean Silver: 13 Weird Tricks That Really Work

  1. I tried toothpaste on my silver ring tonight and it worked beautifully. I applied toothpaste (with a toothbrush) as I would if I were brushing my teeth and went to town. As ‘Antique Silver’ suggests, it may not work well on ALL silver rings, but the simple silver ring (no real detail or “engraved” markings on it) I have looks beautiful again!

    1. I use a Sunshine polishing cloth (it’s the best brand and will polish both silver and gold) and for tough stains I use a German paste cleaner called Simichrome. The polishing cloths are inexpensive and the paste cleaner is about $9.00 per tube (but you only need to use a small amount to clean a piece). Toothpaste or baking soda will put many fine scratches on the surface of the silver in addition to removing the tarnish. These 2 fixes will dull the finish and rob silver of it’s “life”. Silver that’s really far gone I take it to a professional metal polisher.

  2. You dont need to use soda – a tea spoon of normal salt and aluminium foil with hot water will do the trick. AND: it will NOT damage the silver at all – it will reduce the oxydated silver (the dark stuff) back to pure silver.

  3. I agree – I would NEVER use any of the methods described in this article on any of the silver I’ve inherited or purchased. It’s through use and using a gentle paste cleaner, a soft cloth and elbow grease that gives silver its patina over time.

  4. We are going through some old items , antiques and we have antique silver items and was wondering the best way to clean them and make shiny again. Open for suggestions. Thanks Patty

  5. Silver, alfoil? Just tried it. Does not work in the slightest.

  6. We have used the trick with the hand sanitiser on all our jewellery and tea ware, it has brought them back to the day they would have been made. I have checked with jewellers and it hasn’t reduced the weight of or removed any silver from our jewellery. Works like a charm :-)

  7. I would never recommend any of these. Each method will unnecessarily remove far more of the silver than would proper cleaning. Nearly all of the silver that people bring to me has been ruined by these “easy tricks”. Silver pits from heavy acid cleaners, and rough handling with corrosives like toothpaste. It develops a dark dull surface. The only way to keep silver from tarnishing is regular use, followed by careful cleaning in warm water with mild soap (never use detergent). Wipe gently to dry silver with a soft cotton cloth, then wipe with a fresh cotton cloth to help bring out its shine. It’s more work this way but your silver will look lovely forever. Remember that “cleaning” silver is actually removing some of its surface. Gentle is best.

    1. I learned from a jewelry store to make a paste of baking soda and water. Works like a charm every time!

    2. The aluminum foil trick is a good one, as it reduces the silver oxide rather than remove silver. The other ideas will certainly remove material.

        1. Correct, but silver sulfide together with water is a chemical oxidant. This means that it can accept electrons in a chemical reaction. Accepting electrons turns the silver sulfide and water into pure ‘clean’ silver, oxygen and hydrogen sulfide. Aluminum is a strong reductor, which means that it can give away electrons to form aluminum oxide. These two reactions together can undo the reaction that made the silver sulfide.

    3. Hi Antique Silver, “The only way to keep silver from tarnishing is regular use, followed by careful cleaning in warm water with mild soap (never use detergent).” So how do you remove tarnish which has built up over decades? :-)

    4. HI – can you let me know how to remove black spots on antique silver – silver polish is not removing it.
      Many thanks

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