Sunday, January 9, 2011

Removing Tarnish from Silver

I just learned a new way to clean silver, and it's a billion times faster and easier than the labor-intensive polishing my mother had me do as a kid (one spoon at a time with polish and a white cloth)! Once the water was hot, the tarnish literally vanished in one second and let off a sulfur odor. Fascinating. I removed all the tarnish from an entire set of silver-plate in five minutes—no joke.

Dissolve 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a stainless steel pan filled with water. Place aluminum foil in the bottom of pan and place the tarnished silver on top of the foil. Heat the pan on the stove top, without boiling, and the tarnish will disappear.


From another site, an explanation: 

Not to get too technical, but a tarnish primarily results from the silver reacting with sulfur compounds in the atmosphere to form silver sulfide. So, to remove the tarnish, the trick is to chemically remove the sulfur and only the sulfur from the silver. 

This process works due to the relative nature of silver and aluminum. Sulfur "prefers" to combine with aluminum instead of silver (no accounting for taste). The salt and baking soda work together to create an environment that allows the sulfur to leave the silver and combine with the aluminum. The heat just makes this take place faster.

One thing to note is that this process will remove ALL the tarnish. Even the tarnish in crevices that polishing generally does not get to. If you have a piece where the contrasting dark in the crevices adds to the appeal or beauty of the piece, you wouldn't want to use this method on that piece.

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