Nontoxic, Natural Care for Your Silver and Silverplate

Silverware, Spoons and Forks Sold During the Monthly Antique Market, Keenpress
Silverware, Spoons and Forks Sold During the Monthly Antique Market, Keenpress | Source

Sure, you can buy silver polish in the grocery store. But the manufacturers almost never list the ingredients, so how do you know what you are getting? Rather than risk toxic chemicals, you can use natural substances to create your own safe polish for silver and silverplate. Whether your silver is new, old, or something in between, you can rest assured that your silver is safe by using these nontoxic methods to keep your silver clean and polished.

These methods come mostly from ages-old housekeeping books, when life was not as convenient, and often people had to learn to do things with very basic materials. Fortunately, these old books still preserve much wisdom that we can use!

Method 1: The Electrochemical Reaction

For this method, you will need really hot water, aluminum foil, baking soda, and a non-metallic container.

Line the non-metallic container with aluminum foil. Put your silver in the non-metallic container. Heat enough water to completely cover the silver objects very hot, then add a generous quantity of baking soda. Pour the water/baking soda mixture into the container, and let soak overnight. The silver should be mostly clean, and a little rubbing with baking soda should get rid of whatever tarnish may remain. Give your silver pieces a quick wipe with a soft cloth, and a rinse with some clean hot water, and you'll be ready to enjoy it!

This method is especially recommended for flatware, as it will not leave a film on the surfaces used for food.

When the silver touches the foil, a small electrical current is generated. This produces the reaction with the sulfide in the tarnish and the sulfides will usually stick to the foil.

Method 2: Mechanical

Use chalk, or the cleanser made only from calcium carbonate (chalk) sold under the brand name "Bon Ami." Because calcium carbonate is so much softer than silver, you can safely use this to polish your silver without scratching, because it will remove only the tarnish. (You can also use this to clean many other delicate items.)

Don't worry, even museums use this to clean delicate silver pieces in their collections, because of the softness of the chalk in relation to the metal. Silver has a hardness of 2.5-3, whereas calcium carbonate has a hardness of 1. Since a hardness of 1 is softer than 2.5, the softer material won't scratch the harder material. This is best used for pieces where you want a little tarnish to remain in decorative crevices.

Method 3: Leftovers

When you boil potatoes, don't throw out the water! Instead, pour the hot water into a bowl and submerge your silver pieces, then let sit for several hours or overnight. Believe it or not, you'll wind up with sparkling silver! This is also recommended for any items which will have contact with food, as it is perfectly safe.

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Comments 4 comments

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 years ago from Central Florida

Interesting. I didn't know about these methods. I always either used a silver cloth or toothpaste and a toothbrush. I'll try the baking soda and boiling water thing next time I find the need to clean silver.


classicalgeek profile image

classicalgeek 2 years ago Author

I *always* save my potato water (and what's really great is afterwards I can still use it in the compost!).

Toothpaste does remove some of the silver from your items, and can damage it over time. It's an abrasive and it acts by rubbing off the top layer of tarnish, but usually takes some of the silver with it.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 years ago from Central Florida

I never thought of adding potato water to the compost. What a great idea!


classicalgeek profile image

classicalgeek 2 years ago Author

Pasta water and other vegetable water goes in the compost, too. Here, almost nothing gets wasted. Except, perhaps, the guests on New Year's Eve!

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