How to Clean Silver the Easy Way!

How to Clean Silver ~ the easy way!

A few days ago I posted some pictures of twin silver urns that were sorely in need of a good cleaning. I referred to them as urns but a few comments said they were ice buckets. Whatever you call them, they were dirty.

I asked for some advice hoping someone would tell me an easy way to get these clean. Spending hours polishing silver really wasn’t in the schedule. A few of you pointed out that some of the finish had already been removed and copper was showing through.

I briefly considered leaving them as is but that thought was short-lived. I just couldn’t. Call me crazy but I wanted them to be shiny and clean.

One comment in particular seemed easy and I had everything on hand that I needed. My friend Andie, from Divine Theatre, said this:

Andie says:

Salt , hot water and aluminum foil! Really! It works!

Place a piece of aluminum foil at the bottom of your kitchen sink, and fill the basin with HOT water. Then, sprinkle in two tablespoons of table salt; and drop your silver pieces into the water. Allow your silver to soak for 2-3 minutes; then, remove and rinse. The tarnish will be gone! More salt needed for larger pieces, as you will need more water and longer wait time. You can also loosely wrap the urns in foil before you set them in the basin.
Badly tarnished silver may need to be soaked a second time.



Here’s what I did using Andie’s instructions as a starting point:

I lined my smaller sink with foil.

I dumped in 2 T. salt and filled it with very hot water. I wrapped an urn loosely in foil and laid it in the bath. I just left it there for about 10 minutes.  I repeated this process but the second time I doubled the salt to 4 huge Tablespoons. Make sure and change your foil with each bath.

I would like to say that at this point I was finished…but being a perfectionist I had to go a step further. I used toothpaste on a soft rag to clean off some stubborn spots and streaks. After rinsing and buffing this is what I had:

Pretty amazing. Hardly any elbow grease was needed.

I was so impressed with the way the urns turned out that I got a little carried away and before I knew it, I had a table full of freshly polished silver! That’s how truly easy it was.

So don’t be afraid to try this on your vintage or heirloom silver. The salt didn’t harm the finish on any of the pieces I cleaned. In fact, it brought them all back to life. By removing the dirt and tarnish, I restored the vintage patina that I love so much.

My sincerest thanks to everyone who read my story at Miss Mustard Seed’s or left me a lovely comment here. I have no words to express how grateful I am for your support.

To read some other HOW TO posts click here!

Update: June 23, 2013

All the silver I polished for this post still looks great. The urns have tarnished a tiny bit but it just adds to their character. I had several comments suggesting using baking soda either with or instead of the salt. I think that would work well and I plan to try it the next time I get in a silver polishing frenzy!

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Thoughts from my friends...

  1. Cher says

    Do you know if this technique can be used with silver-plated items? I have a serving tray and candle holders that are badly tarnished. Thank you!

  2. Trish @ Uncommon says

    I am so glad to find this awesome tip, but even more glad that you mentioned your MMS post. These past few weeks have been so busy, and I missed so many posts in my reader! Your story of getting your start was like reading my autobiography!! I have admired your design, impeccable sense of style, and true professionalism since I found your blog. Thanks so much for all of the wonderful information on marketing and packaging, I am off to ETSY to research!! I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    Take care,


  3. says

    OhmyGOODNESS, Ann! I can’t believe how well that worked. I must try this! And, I’m so sorry I missed your post at MMS … I’m off to catch up! Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. says

    Hello Ann, I’m here for the first time and I really, really like your blog! So much info on how to make life easier! Thank you so much for sharing :)
    Thanks for joining my blog!

  5. Suzi says

    Enjoyed your story on MMS. I am going to try this since I need hand surgery but still want the silver polished for the holidays. Just wondering what the toothpaste is for? Did I miss something? Suzi

  6. says

    Those look gorgeous! I’m going to have to give this method a try. With the holidays coming up I need this time saver!
    Thanks so much for sharing. Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

  7. says

    Wow! Those look beautifully restored. I’ve seen the tip about the aluminum bath but wondered if it would work. Obviously from your experience it works quickly to remove tarnish. Thanks so much for posting this at such a timely occasion!! Sue

  8. says

    I have heard of it, but never tried it, because I thought it might do something weird with my stainless steel sink. I never thought to use a tub in the sink though, so may try it tonight on my latest thrift store find. ANYTHING is easier than the old silver polish I normally use!

    Off to check out your post at MMS.

  9. Ellen Wagner says

    Valid questioh – one which I also asked. I just tried this in my stainless steel sink, and yes, it works! (Has anybody mentioned that the process is quite smelly?)

  10. says

    Great tips! Mine I used olive oil and lemon juice in cleaning silver ….This cleaning process turns the surface layer of silver oxide back into pure silver, rather than removing the silver that’s tarnished.

  11. says

    Hi Ann,
    I just read your post at MMS. You’re such a great writer and story teller, as well as wise business woman! Keep it going. The picture is also great of you. Use that as your profile picture?
    Continued success,

  12. says


    The silver looks great — but your post at Miss Mustard Seed has me so excited and inspired! I love those search ads and need to figure out a better way to make it work for me … but all that advice? Brilliant! And I do need to invest more in my packaging … who do you work with?

    Also, have you thought about having a check-out on your blog too? Kristi at Addicted 2 Decorating recommended it to me …

    I would love to have a offline phone conversation with you to pick your brain … and hopefully I can bring something to the conversation too! I’ve got some client work to tackle in the AM tomorrow, but perhaps in the PM … or Sunday … I’ve signed up for a one-day photography boot camp class on Saturday. I’m determined to get off “Auto”!



  13. Colleen says

    Thanks for sharing this! Great info to have. I do have a concern about using toothpaste, you have to be very careful because it is abrasive. I remember using it to clean my saddle shoes for cheerleading. As long as you use caution with the toothpaste you should be fine. Thanks!

  14. Anita says

    Thank you, Thank you . I have an old silver tea set that I need to clean and this sounds easy. I love your blog. It’s always fun to read.

  15. Ana says

    You can also do this with Borax and aluminum- they actually sell an aluminum plate you put in your bathtub add water and borax and you have the same effect!

  16. jill horton says

    I have two matching candlelabra’s that were my grandmother’s, that are in desperate need of a good cleaning. I am going to try this method. Thank you so much for the great tips! Jill

  17. says

    Sorry I missed the question Ann! Yes, I Googled this several years ago, and have used this on numerous pieces of silver I had purchased an an auction. I emphasize had, becaus I ended up donating several pieces to a tenant we had while living in Newfoundland, Canada. Several other pieces I donating to Salvation Army. That was back when I was just starting to scratch the surface of decluttering. However, now I’m going nuts with it; the decluttering I mean, not the silver, lol!

  18. Jane @ Cottage at the Crossroads says

    Ann, I had read about this silver cleaning tip but had not personally tried it. The results are amazing! Pinning this!