It’s a Chemical Reaction Baby … Cleaning Silver with Baking Soda and Aluminum Foil

Wow, I did something fun today. Well that is if you consider this type of thing to be fun!

In preparation for a fall project I have in mind I wanted to clean some small silver pieces. So I went online looking for a green alternative to cleaning silver and without question, this was the most popular solution. It is a method that involves removing tarnish from silver by immersing the pieces in a boiling hot water bath of baking soda, with the item to be cleaned touching aluminum foil. Apparently it is chemistry and the tarnish will move from the silver object and adhere itself to the foil. And you know what? It works!

Combined with nice clean silver, this method hits a 10 on the fun-factor scale. Note that there is a definite pootie odor that is emitted in the process. Ok so your house will smell like rotten eggs, but your silver will gleam! And you can see it happening right before your eyes.

Nick was upstairs as I was doing this and as he came down for a break he was all like, ‘sniff sniff, um baby did you ..?’ Hardee har har, yes it smells quite strongly so you might want to do this outside, or at least well before company arrives.

Here are the before ‘oh-so-tarnished’ pictures:

How to clean silver with baking soda and aluminum foil:

Line a glass dish with aluminum foil. Add your tarnished silver in a single layer. Sprinkle on a bunch of baking soda. (Like that woman on the video I watched about this process here says, ‘be generous with it … baking soda is cheap’.)

Boil water in a kettle. It must be boiling hot so hot tap water won’t work. Pour the water into the dish. There will be bubbling, and right before your eyes the silver will clean itself! It is important that the piece of silver touch the aluminum, otherwise it won’t work.

Wash cleaned silver in warm soapy water.  Then rinse and polish dry with a soft cloth.

Some pieces came out better than others, depending on the quality of the silver. I just left the pieces that needed more time to soak. Sterling silver works the best but plated silver pieces turned out nicely too.

For my silver cleaning experience using this method, I noticed that the first pieces in the bath worked the best. I think because the water cooled down by the time I added the second batch of items. I am going to do it again with a couple of pieces, that I think will get brighter if I do them again including the stemmed cup that I still included in the ‘after’ photos because I liked how shiny it came out, although still more of a blue-black shade than silver. But all in all, this was a success!

I particularly prefer this way of cleaning silver over using silver polish because there are no chemicals involved and using silver polish actually scratches your silver. Basically what you’re doing with you use it is sanding the tarnish off to reveal a clean layer of silver underneath. If your item is silver-plated, a few cleanings can wear away all the silver. This method doesn’t do that.

And here are the after ‘oh-so-shiny’ pictures:

A bit about some of my pieces: Some of them are thrifted silver plated things, and some warrant discussion …

The square tray is new to me, having been given to me by my mother the last time I visited (thanks mom!). I admired it on her dresser, where she was using it as a lovely catch-all for little things. Without hesitation she said I could have it. I usually try to dissuade her from giving me her things, but in this case I accepted with thanks. I think it is a little silver tray that was used to hold letters and visitors’ cards when they came to call. I think they’re called ‘Butler trays’. My mom thinks it was the tray for under a silver cream and sugar set. What do you think?

The small round dish is sterling silver and I think it is a coaster but is too small for most of our glasses. It is interesting how dishes have grown in size over the years. I was recently reading a blog post by a woman who found some older pieces of her Wedgewood China pattern on Craigslist and when she got them was surprised to find that, while they were exactly the same pattern in name and design, each of the older pieces were significantly smaller than her new pieces. Strange that the size of dishes would have gotten larger over the years.

I bought the pillbox off ebay for allergy pills in my purse, but it doesn’t stay closed. I don’t mind though because now I keep it on my dresser to safely store my ring in at night.

The very tarnished larger round dish is a sterling silver wine-bottle coaster. It is one of the things I tried to clean after the water had cooled down too much, so I’m going to give it another try.

The art deco bottle opener was a gift I bought for someone but our friendship was severed before I could give it to her. So I kept it and we use it in our home whenever there is a beer bottle to be opened. Every time I use it I am reminded that some friendships are not forever and that we must cherish the good ones that we have, right?

I hope you’ll try cleaning your silver this way. It’s fun!
xo loulou

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4 Responses to It’s a Chemical Reaction Baby … Cleaning Silver with Baking Soda and Aluminum Foil

  1. wow so have to try this! too cool!

  2. Jessica says:

    wow don’t you just love home remedies!


  3. Jenny Lee says:

    This is so cool! I had no idea! I will definitely be doing this as a science experiment / pre-holidays project with my kids. Thank you for sharing Loulou!

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