Are you familiar with the best ways to clean heavily tarnished silver? I have tried the three most popular methods to remove silver tarnish and am sharing the results with you.
I have accumulated a lot of random silver pieces. None of which I bought.
People just don’t seem to want silver anymore. So they give it away.
I get it.
Silver does require some upkeep and regular use.
I guess that’s the real issue. We (as a whole) just don’t use silver regularly.
Silver is pulled out for special occasions and formal affairs.
Why do we relegate silver to only being used occasionally?
You know what happens when silver is stored and rarely (never) used.
Then it needs to be cleaned and polished.
Which then feels like a chore.
Which we put off.
Only to never get done, and the silver continues to tarnish.
But what if you want to start using your silver, or silver you have inherited, or silver you stumbled upon?
How do you clean the tarnish off silver?
How do you make silver shine like it was new?
Especially really dark, tarnished silver?
I have tested three very popular methods of cleaning tarnished silver.
And I will share with you what worked, and what didn’t.
And a surprise I learned along the way…
3 Ways to Clean Heavily Tarnished Silver
Note: I tested each method on a heavily tarnished eating utensil and a heavily tarnished silver dish.
This is real tarnish, from years of neglect. Not silver pieces that were purposely tarnished for this experiment. (I read on one post that the person had simulated silver getting tarnished.)
Before you try to remove tarnish from silver or silver plate, give it a good wash using a mild soap and warm water to remove any grime.
Method #1: Does toothpaste remove tarnish from silver?
The answer is yes, and no.
I used toothpaste with baking soda, as baking soda is a wonderful household cleaner.
The toothpaste worked well to remove the tarnish on the serving spoon (and it smelled nice!).
But the toothpaste barely removed the tarnish on my silver bowl.
I had to scrub really hard. And after multiple attempts, barely any tarnish was removed.
Verdict: too much effort is needed to clean heavily tarnished pieces.
Method 2: Removing tarnish from silver using aluminum foil and baking soda
This method has rave reviews (and a few negative ones, too) all over the internet.
And in all honesty, I had never tried it.
The results from my first attempt were mediocre. Which (upon reflection) was due to not using boing water. That is key!
So, how do you remove silver tarnish using aluminum foil?
First, you will need to gather these items:
- Glass dish (make sure it is large enough for your item to be completely submerged)
- Aluminum foil
- Baking soda (1 tablespoon)
- Salt (1 tablespoon)
- Vinegar (½ cup)
- Boiling Water (1 cup)
Next, line your glass dish with the aluminum foil. Shiny side up.
(I would suggest getting your water boiling right away.)
Now sprinkle the baking powder and salt over the aluminum foil.
And slowly add the vinegar. You will notice that the baking soda immediately reacts to the vinegar, so add it slowly!
Next, add your silver pieces, so they are touching the aluminum, but not each other.
Finally, slowly add the boiling water.
(You don’t want it to splash on you, and it will also cause the baking soda to react and bubble.)
You should immediately begin to see the tarnish coming off your silver pieces.
Depending on how heavily tarnished your silver is, will depend on how long you need to let it sit in the bath.
My pieces were VERY tarnished and needed to sit for awhile.
Note: most of the sites I researched mentioned letting the silver sit for just 30 seconds. I suspect their silver wasn’t nearly as tarnished as mine.
As you can see, my heavily tarnished silver dish definitely transformed and a lot of the tarnish was removed.
Not all of it, though.
Also, note that my silver spoon’s tarnish was barely removed.
I was really wanting this method to remove tarnish from silverware and other silver pieces to be amazing.
Unfortunately, I felt it worked just okay.
My thought is – if you have seriously heavily tarnished silver, then using the aluminum foil method to remove tarnish is a good first step.
It will do the beginning of the hard work for you, but it won’t do ALL of the work.
It won’t remove all of the dark tarnish from silver.
But if you have lightly tarnished silver, using aluminum foil and baking powder to remove tarnish, will do the job.
**A few takeaways: when I was researching how to use aluminum foil and baking soda to remove tarnish from silver, they all used the same household ingredients, but there wasn’t a dominant order to use them.
Some sites directed for the vinegar and water to be mixed together before being added to the glass dish.
Some sites directed you to put the silver pieces on the foil first and then the baking soda and other ingredients over the silver
Some sites omitted the vinegar.
~You get the picture~
I tried most of these different ways to remove tarnish using aluminum foil and baking soda, and I didn’t notice one work any better than another.
I DID notice that BOILING water was KEY!
Not super hot water – boiling water.
A lot of people rave about this method in that they feel it’s a time saver and easy.
Which I guess is true.
But when you think about all the different ingredients you need. And the time to get it all set up.
Using aluminum foil and baking soda isn’t really all that fast.
The benefit is that you don’t really work at it yourself.
The chemical reaction does the work for you.
(This method can be pretty stinky, as the chemical reaction produces a sulfur smell. So you might want to have your windows open and fan going.)
Method 3: Use silver cleaner to remove tarnish from silver pieces
I use Wright’s anti-tarnish silver polish to clean my silver.
It’s made to clean silver and has been around since 1873!
And do you know why?
Because it works!
Put a little of the cleaner on a clean microfiber or very soft cloth.
Then gently rub back and forth or up and down on your silver.
Avoid using a circular motion.
You will notice that your cloth starts to get black from the tarnish. So, as you add silver cleaner, move to a clean section of your cloth.
Note: your hand might get a little dark from the tarnish (which will easily wash off), so if that bothers you, feel free to wear rubber gloves.
Heavily tarnished pieces will require a little more effort than slightly tarnished silverware, but keep at it.
The silver cleaner will remove all of the tarnish. It will just take some time.
*Tip: This is a great job to do in front of the TV.
Final thoughts on the best ways to clean heavily tarnished silver and silverware
I know that we are always trying to find a fast and easy way to do things.
To use everyday household cleaners.
But sometimes those things just aren’t as good.
The results aren’t great.
In my opinion, that’s how it is with trying to find an easy way to remove tarnish from silver.
There isn’t an amazing, quick way to remove heavy dark tarnish from silver.
It requires a little elbow grease and effort.
Check out the image above.
Only the pieces using silver poish completely removed all of the dark silver tarnish.
What surprise did I have when trying to clean tarnish off silver?
When I was attempting to clean tarnish off all my various silverware, I found that some of the pieces just wouldn’t get clean.
Not the way tarnish would come off the silver or silver plate pieces.
They looked barely touched.
But some of the tarnish was removed enough that I could read what they were….
They were Hotel silver and Nickel silver.
I’d never heard of either, so I did a quick search, and they aren’t silver at all!
Now I had a new problem to solve – how to clean Hotel silver.
Keep your eyes peeled for a future post…
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This is very helpful information. I was not aware of the aluminum foil method.
So glad to hear that you found it helpful! Thank you for letting me know.
I recently just picked up some silver pieces at a thrift store. They’re pretty tarnished, so I’ve been doing a lot of reading up on the various methods to clean and polish silver. Your article takes the guesswork right out of it! I’m just going to skip right to the silver polish ;) Thanks for testing these different methods so I don’t have to!
Heather ~ Yay! So nice to hear that I helped you out. Silver polish is definitely the way to go.