Removing tarnish from silver

How to remove tarnish from silver without using polish and other easy methods of cleaning silver / removing tarnish

Below are instructions for removing tarnish from silver using the DIY method (with a variation as an 'experiment in chemistry' for children). If you are a trader you may wish to skip this article and simply buy the professional silver dip liquid

Note, this article is about removing tarnish (the layer of 'black' that coats silver when exposed to air). If your item is silver-plated and the plating is wearing off to reveal the copper underneath - then go for silver plating solution

Contents

STANDARD METHOD
ALTERNATIVE METHODS
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STANDARD METHOD

Find a container large enough to completely immerse the items in water. The container must not be made of metal (use a glass, enamel or plastic bowl). Place in the container some crumpled aluminium foil, salt and sodium carbonate (or salt and sodium bicarbonate). The quantities aren't critical, approx. a quarter of a cup of sodium carbonate / bicarbonate and a teaspoon of salt per litre will do.  Add boiling water and stir.  Now place the items in the container and watch the tarnish vanish. This is an easy and non-toxic way to clean a handful of large items.

If you can't be bothered with crumpling aluminium foil you can buy a magic plate; you can even buy "activator crystals" to save you the trouble of finding bicarbonate of soda (though not from us). 

Notes:

The items must touch each other and must touch the aluminium foil. If you use a disposable aluminium container you don't need the aluminium foil.

You can use a container made of another metal (e.g. steel or copper) providing you very carefully line it with the aluminium foil so that none of the silver touches the metal of the container. However, it is easier to use a non-metal container. It is also more effective if you crumple the aluminium foil.

You can use sodium bicarbonate NaHCO3 (also known as bicarbonate of soda, sodium bicarb or baking powder) or you can use sodium carbonate CNa2O3 (also known as soda, washing soda or soda ash) - you are more likely to have bicarbonate of soda in your kitchen!

The procedure is often presented as an experiment for schoolchildren, in which case the method should be changed very slightly.  Place the bowl with the foil in a sink; mix the hot water, salt and sodium bicarbonate separately and pour over the foil / silver; use oven gloves to handle the clean (hot) silver; an adult must supervise. This is to minimise the chances of the child spilling water everywhere and / or getting scalded, there is no significance in the order.

ALTERNATIVE METHODS

Use silver dip, you soak the items in the silver dip for a minute or two, remove, wash well (silver dip is toxic) - a good method for traders who really don't have time to fiddle with hot water and crystals.

There are cloths which are impregnated with a tarnish remover: silver polishing cloths. One side of the cloth is impregnated for removing tarnish, the other side is a polishing cloth to shine the item.

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