Sterling silver has been my metal of choice for most of my life. It’s beautiful, sturdy, and relatively affordable. The only con is the frequent polishing it requires to keep the tarnish at bay. It’s a never-ending battle, if you want your pieces to stay sparkling and bright. Over the years, I’ve spent my money on various creams, baths, cloths, etc. to keep my silver in top shape. I recently happened upon a much easier alternative that I hope will save you time, effort, money…. and fingers stained black from polishing by hand.
I was hunting around the estate sales and antique stores for a silver-plated tea set, and approached my elderly neighbor for advice on how to spot quality quickly. She’s a Southern Belle, and knows silver! After taking notes on her suggestions, and the name of the best jewelers in town who can repair silver-plate, I was floored when she told me how she polishes her silver. First of all, she does it herself!! That alone shocked me. All that tedious scrubbing and polishing must be overwhelming for one person… and her [large] collection is always luminous! As it turns out, there is no scrubbing at all, and I was left lamenting all the hours I’d previously spent on the endeavor, when there was a much easier option.
For the sake of this example, I’m using a small silver-plated bracelet that I’d forgotten about and had developed a grimy sheen in the back of one of my jewelry drawers. (Side note, I bought it for $6 on Amazon. Yes, $6!!). Admittedly, I’m still refining my photography skills, so the tarnish isn’t as visible in the below photo as it was in real life. Trust me. Now put the kettle on.
No seriously, start boiling some water.
Next, line a non-reactive bowl (I used ceramic) with aluminum foil, place silver item inside, and sprinkle with a copious about of baking soda. This isn’t an exact science. Just have fun and go full “Salt Bae” on the item.
Once the water is literally boiling get ready to pour. But before you do, perhaps I should warn you of one of the few caveats to this cleaning method: if your silver contains delicate elements, gems, etc., the introduction of the boiling water could cause some components to crack. If you notice here, I am using a bracelet that is just plain silver-plate. No enamel, gems, pearls, etc. Anyway, if you feel daring, start pouring and stand back and enjoy the explosion.
Once the water has stopped violently bubbling, just fish out your item, rinse, and buff dry!
That’s it! Silver polishing fun for the whole family! My kids immediately went rummaging for every piece of silver jewelry they could find and we spent the next 20 minutes polishing silver and enjoying the froth and foam (and ease!).
My Southern Belle neighbor (I’m tempted to refer to her as Scarlett O’Hara on this blog…) said that when she needs to polish large pieces and collections, she lines her entire porcelain sink with aluminum foil, and follows the same procedure. Albeit with substantially more baking soda and boiling water.
I did end up finding a gorgeous tea set for an absolute steal, and now I’m joyfully anticipating the opportunity to try this method on the set next time the tarnish builds up.