How Do You Clean Heavyly Tarnished Silver?

Common items can help clean heavily tarnished silver. These include toothpaste, ketchup and vinegar – each contains weak acids which can effectively strip away tarnish.

Line a container with foil, then sprinkle baking soda and salt evenly along its base. Pour hot water in, and let silver pieces soak; this creates an environment conducive to chemical reactions which bind tarnish to both foil and silver surfaces, thereby rendering it useless.

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Baking Soda

As with the classic chemistry class trick of pouring dirty silver into a foil-lined pot with baking soda and salt, this simple method for cleaning heavily tarnished items quickly without using water is highly effective. Simply line a non-stainless steel pot or pan with aluminum foil with its shiny side up; place all items to be cleaned into the container using kitchen tongs to make contact with all surfaces containing silver; sprinkle equal parts salt and baking soda over the pieces until boiling occurs – the chemical reaction that ensues will quickly remove oxidization from all surfaces leaving your silver looking brand new in no time!

This method may take longer, but is an effective and straightforward way of removing heavy tarnish from silver items. Just make sure that after this process you thoroughly rinse any areas where the foil was attached – this will prevent salt and baking soda residues from speeding up further tarnishing processes later on.

If your silver is still slightly tarnished after using this method, try switching up your mix: instead of two tablespoons of baking soda, try substituting half cup of white vinegar as part of the solution instead. It will still cause the same chemical reaction that quickly removes tarnish while acting as an antiseptic as well.

Soap with hydrated silica can also be an inexpensive and straightforward way to remove tarnish from silver, so give this method a try if your silverware doesn’t sparkle enough. Just squeeze a small amount onto a cloth, rub gently over the affected item without scratching, leave to sit for five minutes then rinse it off in cold water and buff to shine up again – especially useful with delicate and detailed pieces, or before you use it at an event such as dinner party!


Ketchup might seem unusual as an effective cleaner, but its acid content is the secret weapon for cleaning heavily tarnished silver. The acid reacts with the oxidized layer on silver to cause it to break down and eventually be washed away – simply pour some onto a soft cloth and rub away any tarnish that remains. You can also use an old toothbrush to get into any crevices on jewellery items that require this approach.

Use of acidic food items such as vinegar to remove tarnish is also applicable when dealing with copper, another metal prone to tarnishing. This applies to copper wires, cookware and decorative pieces such as candlesticks or pendants – even decorative candlesticks or pendants are subject to this process. Squirt some ketchup on a soft cloth and rub it onto any areas where tarnish has formed before leaving it in place for 15 minutes before wiping away and rinsing off with water before wiping it all away and then wiping clean afterwards.

Acidic household products like vinegar, lemon juice and cola may also work to polish silver, though such methods should only be used on less costly pieces as their acids may damage their finish.

To polish silver that hasn’t become too heavily tarnished, silver foam cleaners or liquid silver polish are excellent tools. A mild abrasive such as toothpaste or baking soda may also work to get rid of buildup. Regularly washing and drying silver gently will also help prevent it from becoming too tarnished; to learn more about caring for and cleaning it gently subscribe to Period Living magazine – UK’s premier magazine featuring homes and gardens with period features; click here now to subscribe.

Lemon Juice

Citric acid in lemon juice has the power to break the bonds between tarnished silver and its surface, which explains its frequent inclusion as an ingredient in commercial cleaning products for silver. Furthermore, lemon’s chelating action helps remove hard water stains, lime deposits, rust and calcium by trapping them. Just like vinegar, lemon juice can also be used as a polishing agent by itself; an easy way is mixing lemon juice with baking soda then using this paste on silver until its shine has returned – though keep in mind baking soda reacts quickly as this paste will turn back into its effectiveness after reacting with lemon juice before reacting with lemon juice reacts back against each other creating paste formed between them both as reactions between these two elements can quickly cause them both lose effectiveness before leaving surfaces dirty again!

White vinegar and baking soda solutions may also be effective ways of cleaning heavily tarnished silver items, providing another method for deep-cleaning jewelry, flatware and other pieces not too delicate or valuable. Pour four tablespoons of each solution over your piece in a bowl containing white vinegar for one hour of soaking time before rinsing and drying completely – recommended for silver jewelry, flatware and other pieces not too delicate or valuable.

For delicate silver pieces, a mild bleaching agent can work wonders. Simply mix one tablespoon of liquid laundry detergent in one cup of hot water before pouring the solution in an aluminum foil-lined bowl. Drop your silver pieces inside before leaving it soak for one minute before rinsing with tepid water and patting dry afterwards.

This trick can help with silver jewelry, flatware and other items made of solid or silver-plate sterling. Line a small glass or plastic bowl with foil and add 1 tablespoon of powdered laundry detergent; place your silver items into it. Allow it to soak for one hour before rinsing and drying them off.

This method provides an efficient and straightforward method for quickly polishing silver that hasn’t become heavily tarnished. Simply squirt some hand sanitizer onto a clean cloth or paper towel and rub over your silver. Additionally, use a toothbrush to reach into tight crevices on your silver.


Your pantry vinegar is an inexpensive natural solution to cleaning tarnished silver as well as other items, without using harsh chemicals. In fact, vinegar has many uses in kitchens as it serves both as an excellent sanitizer and deodorizer; even helping eliminate silver’s associated odors.

Simply combine white vinegar and baking soda in equal proportions for best results; roughly half cup of vinegar to two tablespoons of baking soda should do. Leave to soak overnight – especially effective on flatware or jewelry pieces to quickly eliminate heavy tarnish buildup.

One way of applying this cleaning solution is to place pieces in a solution of hot water and baking soda, forcing ion exchange between silver and foil and thus removing tarnish. However, this method should not be used with decorated silver as baking soda may eat into some designs and ruin them completely.

If you don’t own a baking dish, try using a plastic bucket instead to store flatware and large pieces. Line its base with foil for extra protection and to prevent any messiness from spilling over.

Silver cleaners and polishes can be found at most supermarkets, home improvement stores and online. While these solutions may be quicker, they tend to be more costly. Furthermore, some may contain harsh abrasive or acidic compounds which could potentially damage the silver. Furthermore, rubber gloves may be required in order to avoid chemical reactions between certain compounds and your skin.

Hair conditioner can serve as an effective anti-tarnish protector on silver pieces, acting as an extra preventive layer against tarnishing. Wrapping them in unbleached cotton muslin or acid-free tissue paper before storage can also protect them from the elements and sunlight. You could also place silica gel or chalk sticks into drawers as another protective measure against tarnish and keep it away from direct sunlight for extra tarnish protection.