Project Guide

How to Clean Silver 10 Ways

1
Clean Silver with Dish Soap and Water
Silverware soaking in a bowl of dish soap and water for polishing

When material made with sterling silver is exposed to air it will oxidize or tarnish, causing discoloration and the shine to dull. The key to cleaning silver without damaging it is to avoid abrasion. Cleaning silver with harsh abrasive products like chlorine bleach or storing it using rubber bands and newspaper is also a no-no. 


Consider swapping harsh polish for this hot, soapy water method if you’re not dealing with items that are badly tarnished, but rather just look dull and a little lackluster.


  • Simply mix up a bit of dish soap with warm water and dip in a microfiber cloth
  • Then, rub the piece of silver – whether it’s jewelry or silverware – with the soapy cloth.
  • Rinse it with cold water.
  • Dry with a soft, clean towel.
  • Buffing with a soft cloth specially made for silver.


Tip: Never put your silver in the dishwasher.

2
Clean Silver with Aluminum Foil and Baking Soda
A box of baking soda and aluminum foil.

Ideal for piles of heavily tarnished pieces of silver jewelry or silver flatware sets that you need to clean in a pinch, this easy method works wonders in just a few minutes.

 

You’ll need: a dish or bowl big enough to hold the piece(s) of silver, aluminum foil, boiling-hot water and baking soda.


  • First, line the bowl with the aluminum foil. 
  • Next, fill the aluminum-lined bowl with boiling water and baking soda; you should use one tablespoon of baking soda per one cup of water. 
  • Then add the piece of silver to the water-baking soda solution, making sure it’s touching the aluminum foil (this ensures the chemical reaction happens). 
  • Let it sit anywhere from two to 10 minutes; adjust the length depending on how tarnished the piece is.
  • Finally, remove the piece(s) of silver from the solution and buff with a soft, dry microfiber cloth.


Tip: To buff your silver, rotate a dry cloth over the tarnished or scratched areas to restore the shiny surface. 

3
Clean Silver with Laundry Detergent
Powdered laundry detergent and a bowl of water.

Similar to the baking soda technique, this is a convenient and effective process to remove tarnish from silver as well. You’ll still need a bowl, aluminum foil, boiling-hot water and now, laundry detergent.


  • First, line the bowl with the aluminum foil. 
  • Next, fill the aluminum-lined bowl with boiling water and laundry detergent; you should use one tablespoon of powdered laundry detergent. Make sure the detergent has dissolved.
  • Then add the piece of silver to the water-baking soda solution, making sure it’s touching the aluminum foil (this ensures the chemical reaction happens). 
  • Let it sit anywhere from one to two minutes. 
  • Finally, remove the piece(s) of silver from the solution and let it air dry.
4
Clean Silver with Toothpaste
A toothbrush with toothpaste on a table next to a planter.

Yep, the same thing you use to polish your pearly whites can polish your silver! While this method is simple: and scratch the silver (depending on what kind it is), you should absolutely spot test a small portion of the silver before cleaning the entire piece this way and avoid using this method too often.

  • Apply a bit of toothpaste to a microfiber cloth. 
  • Rub the silver until the tarnish is removed.
  • Rinse with warm water and dry with a clean cloth.


Tip: Because some of the ingredients in toothpaste may be too abrasive, if you do go the toothpaste route for how to clean silver there are a few things to keep in mind. The type of toothpaste you use matters: Plain, solid-colored toothpastes with tartar-control ingredients work well since they contain the most hydrated silica, which helps polish your teeth; the ingredients in gel toothpaste actually aren’t abrasive enough, so they won’t get rid of the majority of tarnish and patina (which may actually be what you’re after).

5
Clean Silver with Polish
A person preparing to clean silver with a polish product

There are lots of jewelry cleaners available at The Home Depot to help you understand how to clean silver. When using a commercial brand, you’ll want an effective product that cleans, polishes and protects your special jewelry and antique pieces straight out of the bottle. When combined with a little bit of elbow grease it results in a very high shine.
 

To use this method, follow the manufacturer's instructions.

6
Clean Silver with Corn Starch
A wooden spoon with powdered corn starch.

Cornstarch has many household uses including a paste designed to bring shine back to your silver.


  • Combine 3-parts water and 1-part cornstarch to create a paste.
  • Using a damp cloth, apply the paste to the tarnished parts of the silver.
  • Let the paste dry, in its applied areas, on the silver.
  • Using a more abrasive cloth, rub off the dry area. 
7
Clean Silver with Hand Sanitizer
A person pouring hand sanitizer onto tissue.

Hand sanitizer can clean more than your skin, somehow it manages to be a great technique for getting dirt, grime and tarnish off silver. Squeeze a few drops on a dry cloth and begin to polish the silver. 


Tip: Buffing the silver after a gentle polish will help rub away the tarnish faster. 

8
Clean Silver with Lemon-Lime Soda
Cans of flavored soda.

In case you missed it, soda can reverse tarnish and rusting pretty quickly. Bring back the shine on your silver after you let it soak in a bowl of lemon-lime soda for at least one hour.

9
Clean Silver with Ammonia
A silverware set in a padded box.

Consider your flatware or other silver pieces restored when you use ammonia to brighten its luster. Simply combine 1 cup of warm water and 1/2 cup of clear ammonia in a bowl to soak your silver for 10 minutes. 


Once you remove the silver from the homemade solution, gently dry it clean.


Tip: If you don’t have ammonia sitting around, Window cleaner typically has ammonia in it. Spray the cleaning agent on a non-abrasive, dry cloth then use it to buff your sterling silver. 

10
Clean Silver with Vinegar
A jar of baking soda and a bottle of vinegar.

Quickly restore your jewelry or tableware with vinegar, water and baking soda. This cleaning agent is a great option for many things including your tarnished silver.


  • Mix 1/2 cup of white vinegar with 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a bowl of lukewarm water.
  • Let the silver soak for two to three hours.
  • Rinse with cold water and let it airdry.

As long as silver is exposed to air and light, it will tarnish so here are some options on how to store silver and slow down the tarnish process. 


Use rubbing hair conditioner on your silver as a preventative layer or storing your silver in an anti-tarnish bag made from a tarnish-resistant silversmiths’ cloth or creating an easy DIY workaround.
 

You can also begin rolling each individual piece of silver in acid-free tissue paper or unbleached cotton muslin, which is available at most fabric stores. Just make sure to not let any pieces of silver touch each other, as that may lead to scratches. Then, store the wrapped pieces of silver in plastic bags


Tip: You cannot exactly clean silver with chalk but adding a few pieces of chalk in the drawer or storage area next to your silver will help prevent tarnish.