Easiest Silver Cleaning

My sterling silver is really tarnished and I hate polishing. Also, I've read that silver polish takes the silver off. That can't be good. Do I have other choices for cleaning silverware?

We don't like polishing silverware either, but we really like using it. Have you noticed that your silver tarnishes faster when you are running the heat in the winter, especially if you have natural gas? The tarnish is actually silver sulfide, which is created when silver comes in contact with airborne sulfur-containing substances ... like fossil-based heating fuels. Some foods like eggs also hasten tarnishing.

Rather than buying something to take care of the problem, it's a simple matter to let basic chemistry solve it for you.

  1. Line a glass baking dish with aluminum foil. (Or use an old aluminum pan. An old bread pan works great.)
  2. Make sure your silver pieces come in contact with the aluminum. (The sulfide is lifted when the silver, water, and aluminum set up an electrical charge.)
  3. Heat enough water to almost boiling to fill the container and submerge whatever you put in it.
  4. Mix about 1/2 cup of baking soda with the hot water in a large, heat-proof measuring cup.
  5. Pour over your silverware.

The aluminum and hot water-baking soda triggers a chemical reaction and you should smell rotten eggs (i.e. sulphur). It doesn't take long before your sterling is clean and bright. You may notice fine flakes of sulphur floating in the water.

This is a great experiment with kids. It's almost like magic. You can get the kids to do all the silver for holiday meals. Even if they make a mess, it's easy to clean up. However, because of the hot water, they should be supervised.

Best of all, the process leaves your silver completely intact. Just wash in soapy water (phosphate free) and dry with a clean towel.

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