Time—and oxygen—can do a number on silver. Whether it’s Sterling silver or simply silver-plated, oxidization can leave your pieces blackened and dull. Luckily, you can take steps right now to rescue your tarnished silver!
The first thing you want to do, before trying any of the methods below, is to wash the piece by hand in some warm, soapy water. Regular dish detergent will be fine. This process will remove some tarnish, as well as any dust and oils on the silver. Make sure to dry the surface completely after you wash it.
If you have a piece of Sterling silver jewelry, the best way to keep it from tarnishing is to wear it often. The natural oils from your skin will help keep it shiny and bright. But if the piece is already tarnished, you can polish it with a small amount of baking soda-based toothpaste and a clean, soft rag or toothbrush!
Once you’ve rubbed the jewelry with toothpaste, rinse it under water in the sink, then dry it off. It should be bright as brand new!
The very mild abrasives from the toothpaste will remove the tarnish that’s built up on the metal, but it won’t actually scratch the silver.
Note that jewelry with gemstones is much trickier to clean. Pearls, in particular, are very fragile and need to be handled carefully. You can still use the toothpaste trick, but if the ring is especially valuable or old, you might want to leave the cleaning to a professional jeweler.
If you’re lucky enough to have silver utensils or silver-plated trays, teapots, or other dishware, scrubbing them with toothpaste is going to take way too long. To remove tarnish on larger pieces, we need to use science!
You’ll need a large plastic tub—big enough to submerge the piece you want to clean. You’ll also need hot water, salt, baking soda, and aluminum foil.
Line the tub with the foil, shiny side up. Then place the silver or silver-plate pieces in the tub. Sprinkle them with equal parts baking soda and salt. Don’t be stingy, either—for a gallon of water, you’d need a cup each of the dry powders.
Now pour the water over the silver and let it sit for a few minutes. You can gently agitate the water if you want, but otherwise, leave it alone.
After a few minutes, pull the pieces out of the water and immediately rub them down with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.
It’s pretty amazing how well this method works. Just make sure that the silver is always touching the aluminum. If it doesn’t get all the tarnish off, try using hotter water. You can also use the toothpaste method above to get at any lingering tarnish.