Greener Cleaning – Part One of an Occasional Series: Cleaning Silver

The Doing the Shopping blog has been away, but will be back in Barcelona in October looking out for eco and wallet-friendly (there’s a crisis on, in case you didn’t know!) shopping options. In the meantime we’re interested in hearing about your cheap/eco-friendly cleaning tips.

I’m currently living in Berlin in a beautiful rented apartment full of lovely antique silver, most of which is in need of a good clean. I’m not a fan of the chemical silver polishes and the effort involved to apply them, so when I saw a friend post online that you could use a baking soda and salt ‘dip’ to clean it I thought I would give it a try.

Commercial silver ‘dips’ are available but are generally harsher chemicals. This version uses a simple reaction between the aluminum metal and the silver sulfide (tarnish) – the salt acts as an electrolyte, the baking soda as a catalyst.

The various places I searched on-line were not clear, or disagreed about the quantities of salt and baking soda so I experimented with a couple of smaller items – here’s how it went:

First attempt

Subsequently I’ve researched it a bit further and experimented a bit more, and here are my top tips:

1. Clean the silver with a mild solution of soapy water and a soft cloth before bathing it.
2. Use enough salt that it takes about a minute to all dissolve when you pour in steaming hot (not boiling) water.
3. Use about 2 tablespoons of baking soda per bucket / sink of water (not sure of the exact volume but you get the idea from the video)
4. Once the salt has dissolved and the baking soda has been stirred into the hot water, place the silver items in so each one is touching the foil.
5. Leave for 5 minutes then take out a piece, rinse carefully, then rub with a soft cloth. Can the remaining tarnish be easily removed? If not, repeat this process (waiting 5 minutes each time) until the remaining tarnish that has not been reacted off can be removed by rubbing with the soft cloth. Don’t be tempted to just leave it in for ages; although this is a milder treatment, apparently soaking for too long could still potentially damage your silverware.
6. Ta daaaa! That’s it! No harsh chemicals, no scrubbing, just gentle polishing with a soft cloth and cotton-buds or a soft-bristled toothbrush for any more intricate bits. Remember, if you have heavily detailed silver pieces you should probably leave a little tarnish in the cracks as this provides contrast and helps to bring out the pattern.

Note: Do not scrub before rinsing – the undissolved baking powder is too abrasive and can damage the surface of the silver items.
Note (2): Apparently I should not have been wearing rubber gloves as rubber and latex contain sulphides that tarnish and over time corrode silver, so bare hands or non-sulphide containing plastic only for this.

Let me know in the comments if you have tried this and how it went.

Thanks to the lovely Sairica Rose for her camera and editing work on the vid!

Please leave a comment on this blog post using the ‘Leave a Comment’ link above, or use the ‘share’ link below to share on Facebook, Twitter, G+ or Pinterest. Thanks!.


About helenbcn

I sometimes write about things that interest or inspire me, and that I think might interest and inspire other people. I prefer blogs as a medium (rather than Medium, Twitter, Instagram etc) partly because of the longer format but mostly because of the ability to hyperlink to other interesting and useful sources, which to me seems more true to the 'spirit of the internet' than proprietary sites that try their hardest to keep you within their own domain. Comments welcome.
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3 Responses to Greener Cleaning – Part One of an Occasional Series: Cleaning Silver

  1. Marsha Fay says:

    Good job!!!! Silver, whether it be antique or modern, deserves to show off its warmth and beauty…sans tarnish. And yes…do leave a bit in the cracks so you can see the fine details!!!

    I like your silver cleaning fashion statement as well!!!

  2. Sairica Rose says:

    Helen has a solution for everything. Plonked my ring in and it came out gorgeous. I was there – I saw it all in realtime and it really did work! Out damned silver cleaning chemicals. The bubbles and fizzing give such a sense of satisfaction too. If only it had the same effect on tarnished consciences…

  3. Lady Patricia says:

    Domestic godess, brilliant, well done.

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