How To Clean Silver Naturally

Here’s an easy and quick method that shows how to clean silver naturally in about 5 minutes. Clean silverware without harmful chemicals.

clean silver urn with flowers

This post was originally published in 2013. It’s been completely updated with new images, more details, and additional information.

Several years ago, I inherited a set of vintage twin silver urns, or as they are sometimes called, ice buckets. They belonged to my in-laws, and when I brought them home, they were dirty and tarnished. So, I briefly considered leaving them as is, but that thought was short-lived.

I know it’s trendy to display tarnished silver, but I just couldn’t. Call me crazy, but I wanted them to be shiny and clean.

Plus, I wanted to clean them without using chemicals that make it difficult to breathe. Thankfully, I was able to do so…and they turned out so well that I wanted to share this method with you, too!

supplies needed to clean silver

How to Clean Silver Naturally

Let’s look at how to clean silver tarnish safely and easily. You might be surprised that the only things you need are baking soda and salt!

Supplies

You only need a few supplies – and they are probably already in your cabinets.

  • Baking Soda
  • Salt
  • Soft Towel Or Cloth
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Toothpaste (optional)

Steps

Cleaning silver is actually very simple. It takes some patience, but follow these steps and you can’t go wrong!

  1. Cover your kitchen sink with aluminum foil, and fill the basin with HOT water.
  2. Add 1/2 cup kosher salt and 1/2 cup baking soda. Swish the water around until the salt and soda are dissolved.
  3. Then drop your silver pieces into the water.
  4. Allow your silver to soak for 3 – 5 minutes.
  5. Next, remove and rinse well. 
  6. Finally, buff dry with a soft towel or cloth.

Pictured below is the first urn halfway through the cleaning process. When I rolled it over, I was amazed at how quickly the tarnish and dirt had been removed.

urn in foil bath in sink

Silver Cleaning Tips

As you clean your silver, here are some tips that will make the process easier and more effective.

  • Use more salt & soda for larger pieces – you will need more water and a longer wait time, so more salt & soda will speed up the process.
  • Wrap pieces in foil – loosely wrap the silver pieces in foil before you set them in the basin. This will help the baking soda lock in to do its work.
  • Buff tough spots with toothpaste – use toothpaste on a soft rag to clean stubborn spots and streaks. Surprisingly, it really does work on silver.
  • Soak again if needed – badly tarnished silver may need to be soaked a second time.
example of how to clean silver polished urn

Follow The Size Of Your Sink

I changed the foil and bath after the first urn, but if your pieces aren’t badly tarnished, You can do more than one piece at a time. My kitchen sink has 2 sections, one bigger than the other. I use the small side which measures 15 x 12 x 6. If your sink is larger, I would recommend using more salt and soda, at least a cup each.

Not A Polish – Just A Cleaning Method

This method is for cleaning only. It doesn’t polish silver…but I’m not sure that’s even necessary. Polishes have chemicals, and I read that sometimes silver tarnishes faster when it’s polished. I have no idea if that’s true or not, I only wanted to share the information.

how to clean silver urns

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Silver

Here are some questions people often ask about cleaning silver. If you have more questions, please leave them in the comments.

Which cleaning remedy works the best for cleaning silver?

After literally seeing the results in front of my eyes, I am convinced that using baking soda, salt, and water in a sink is the best way to clean silver. My urns were shiny and like new – no bad-smelling chemicals necessary.

Pay close attention to how much silver you are cleaning and refill your sink as many times as needed.

Does using vinegar to naturally clean silver work?

Yes, vinegar is another safe and natural way to clean tarnished silver. It is acidic, so it easily buffs out those spots.

If you want to use vinegar, try to completely soak your silver in undiluted vinegar first. Next, after about 15 minutes, move it to another sink with baking soda and follow my cleaning steps. It will make those really hard spots a lot easier to remove. I have heard of other people using a reactive combination of baking soda and vinegar together. But n my experience, baking soda and salt were enough to make my silver nice and shiny.

how to clean silver urn with flowers

Does using baking soda damage the silver?

Generally, baking soda is safe to use on most silver pieces. Some jewelry or antique dealers warn not to use baking soda on really old and valuable silver pieces because it could be too abrasive and ruin the finish.

However, for most items, baking soda is completely safe to use on your silver.

Can I remove oxidation from silver?

Oxidized silver happens when silver is exposed to the air for too long. Getting technical, a compound called silver sulfide forms, and darkens the finish.

Some types of jewelry are made this way on purpose, and they have a darker look.

If your silver is severely oxidized, please talk to someone that specializes in silver restoration. Unfortunately, if you use chemicals that are too abrasive, you could damage your silver.

That being said, my method will work on cleaning tarnished silver that isn’t badly oxidized. Keep in mind that old silver that’s been around a while will not only have tarnish, but other spots and marks. Sometimes these can be removed, and sometimes they can’t. The secret is to embrace the imperfections, and appreciate the beauty of your vintage item.

Cleaning silver can be a really fun and rewarding experience. Plus, it’s amazing how exhilarang it is to bring a dirty and tarnished piece of silver back to life!

silver urn with flower arrangement

Learning about this process has enabled me to bring my silver out of hiding. For years and years, I didn’t use it because I didn’t have the time to clean it. Finally, now I can easily maintain it, so it can be used and enjoyed. 

34 Comments

  1. Dear Ann,
    This is brilliant! I can’t wait to clean my grandmother’s silverware!
    Thank you, Thank you!

  2. Been waiting to try this! Thanks for sharing.

    BTW, if you have copper bottom pots, you can add vinegar to your dish washer’s rinse compartment. You will be amazed how it goes from dull to copper again.

  3. Does using a toothbrush scratch the silver? I have 4 (I know, can you believe it?!) antique silver coffee and tea services inherited from my mother and mother in law and keeping them cleaned and polished is such a process! I love them and love who and what they represent. I don’t love cleaning them. I’m going to try the salt and baking soda process but am unsure about the toothbrush. Toothpaste is fine if I can just rub it in with my fingers. Any thoughts on if toothbrushes scratch the silver?

    1. Ann Drake says:

      A soft toothbrush should be fine. A cloth would work just as well if you are worried about scratches…and your fingers with some pressure would be a good idea too. Good luck!

  4. SueB of Blondin Blogs says:

    5 stars
    absolutely beautiful used a planters and awesome as shiny and cleaned too! thanx for the inspiration!

  5. Is this method successful on both sterling silver and silver plate?

    1. Ann Drake says:

      I’ve never used it on silver plate so I can’t honestly answer your question. My advice would be to mix some soda & salt with some hot water in a bowl. Dab it on the underside of your silver plate piece and see what happens. Good luck!

  6. Karen Mary says:

    Oh my goodness, your silver pieces are just beautiful! I’ve tried this method with no luck in the past, but I’m going to give it another go! And I have a pair of silver earrings that are badly in need of cleaning, so I think I’ll try the baking soda paste on those. Thanks for the inspiration, Ann!

  7. Sharon Davison says:

    Thank you! I recently tried toothpaste but It didn’t do the trick. I will try this method.

    1. Toothpaste method should work, but aluminium should work better because it’s a temperature method and it can get rid of the tarnish faster and mor efficient.
      I used the toothbrush method and it worked, but it also depends on the level of the tarnish. If it developed over the years, yeah, that method may be a little too soft.

  8. Pingback: 54 Must Read Home Cleaning Tips For Good Housekeeping - Sad To Happy Project
  9. Thanks for this natural and much easier approach to cleaning silver. I use my silver urns to hold my paper towels. Love it and enjoy seeing them every day next to my sinks.

  10. Does this work for silver jewelry?

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Michele…yes it does. However, if it’s valuable jewelry, I’m not sure I would try it. I’ve cleaned my silver jewelry with a soft tooth brush and a baking soda paste. That works very well too.

  11. Elizabeth Brogan Tore says:

    Doesn’t matter what kind of salt you use – it dissolves in the hot water. I’ve used this technique for smaller pieces, and just put them in a disposable foil pan, which can be reused for future cleanings. I add white vinegar after putting the silver in the hot water, baking soda, and salt mixture. The vinegar and baking soda bubble up – and the tarnish disappears. Love it!

  12. annie @ anniehearts says:

    This is brilliant! Thanks for the great tip!

    Annie XO

  13. Thank you for sharing these helpful tips(: I’ll use them to clean my sister’s trophies. Just one question, could I use sea salt?

    1. Ann Drake says:

      I’m not sure about using sea salt. The kosher salt is very course and may remove the tarnish better. You could try but it may not work as well!

  14. Perhaps I should clean my silver, I love it tarnished, but it looks so lovely when it’s shiny and new looking.
    Have a good day!

  15. Suzanne Jozayt says:

    Do you have any information on how to clean brass with natural ingredients? Strong chemicals make me sick and I have not been able to find anything that works. HELP, PLEASE!

    1. Ann Drake says:

      I think the best way to go about cleaning your brass is to use baking soda and vinegar. Pour a little vinegar into a bowl and add baking soda until it makes a paste. Rub it on your brass until the tarnish is removed. Rinse and buff it to get the shine back. One other idea is to use ketchup. I know that sounds odd but it is acidic which is what you need to remove the tarnish. Squirt some ketchup on a dry rag clean and rub on your brass. Rinse and buff. I hope one of these ideas works!

      1. Jennifer Brown says:

        THE best and natural way will blow your mind how simple ——- ketchup!!! Put on and leave on several minutes depending how tarnished, and then rinse w water!

  16. This is such helpful info! I have a ton of silver to clean. Thanks!

  17. Glenda Childers says:

    Wow, Ann. I will gladly toss the hideously smelly, full of chemical cleaner in my cupboard. This is brilliant.

    Thanks.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

  18. Ann,

    This sounds so good I am going to have to give this a try. I have my mothers silver and I love using but like everyone I know I can’t stand polishing it when needed. I’ll see how this works.

    Cynthia

  19. I will have to try this again, I did try the baking soda/foil with NO luck~but perhaps my silver was too tarnished! I actually chalk painted some candlesticks I couldn’t clean and they look great now! Your urns look lovely, just like new!

  20. Ricki Jill Treleaven says:

    Great information, Ann. Thank-you!!!

  21. I have been reading about the tin foil method and want to try this. I have 3 handmirrors that need cleaning,but I am hesitant to put them in the liquid because I am afraid it might hurt the mirror glass. I guess the ony way to see if it will is to try it. Thank you Ann for the information. Have a great weekend.

  22. Thanks for the tips, Ann! Your urns are beautiful!!! Have a nice weekend!~~Angela

  23. Thanks so much, Ann. The urn turned out fantastic! I recently used the foil/baking soda and it didn’t really clean up the tarnish on my silverware but actually added a nice shine. I’m going to try this. I’m a little worried about doing it in my sink though, I used a large pan…I didn’t need a lot of depth. My sink is porcelain, can the tarnish harm it?

    XO,
    Jane

    1. Ann Drake says:

      I’m honestly not sure about harming your sink. My sink is acrylic and it didn’t do a thing to it. I almost wish it had so then I could justify getting a new sink. Ha! The water after cleaning was dirty and the foil becomes sort of discolored. If you are really worried then a large pan would be the way to go. Thanks for your comment!

  24. Keeping It Cozy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing, Ann! I’m going to give this a try next week… my silverware is desperately in need of a cleaning!

  25. Great tips Ann! Your silver urns are just beautiful!

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