Commercial silver-cleaning paste isn't always the best way to get layers of gunk from your silverware or decorative pieces. The fumes from commercial silver-cleaning paste can be overwhelming, particularly if you are working on a large piece or have to be up close to clean detailed silverwork. Homemade silver polish can remove years of neglect and tough tarnish spots and can brighten up your cherished silver pieces.
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Benefits of Homemade Polish
The beauty of making your own polish is that it isn't toxic, it's inexpensive and it's incredibly easy to make. Some homemade polishes require a few steps and tools, but most can be made in a plastic cup from ingredients you have in your pantry.
Why Aluminum Works Well as Polish
Aluminum works quickly and efficiently to pull tarnish from silver. A solution with water poured over a sheet of aluminum transmits the sulfur that has tarnished the silver to the aluminum. It can show up as tiny, pale-yellow flakes at the bottom of the pan or container you are using to polish the silver.
It is actually creating a small electrical current so the silver pieces need to come in contact with the foil for this process to work.
How to Polish Large Pieces
This is ideal for large items that can be difficult to polish due to their unwieldy size or if you just want a fast way to brighten a big decorative piece of silver to hang on the wall. It requires a few steps and some patience. You will need:
- A clean bathtub, deep sink or plastic tub
- Hot water
- Baking soda
- Aluminum foil
- Long, sturdy tongs
Line the bottom of your bathtub or container with aluminum foil. This is a great way to use clean used foil if you recycle. It doesn't have to cover the bottom of the container from edge to edge but should take up a good portion, particularly if you are working on a large silver piece.
Add the baking soda and salt in equal measure. About 4 tablespoons of each should work for a standard bathtub filled about 4 inches high with fairly warm water. Pour in hot water and mix the solution. Add the silver pieces, and the tarnish will melt from the items.
How to Clean Silverware
Aluminum also works in smaller batches. The process will make quick work if you have hundreds of pieces of silverware or other items. You will need:
- 1 liter of water
- 1 tablespoon of baking soda
- 1 piece of aluminum foil, about 6-inches square
Put a pot on the stove on high and add the water. When it is boiling, add the baking soda and foil and bring it to a full boil. Drop small items or silverware into the pot and let them sit for 10 seconds.
Use tongs to safely remove the silverware. Have a clean, dry towel ready to receive the hot, wet silver items. This can also be completed by boiling water and pouring it over the baking soda in a tub on the counter if you just have dozens of small items that need to be cleaned quickly.
Simple Homemade Solutions
There are a few one-ingredient ways to remove tarnish from silver, including:
- Hand sanitizer
- Lemon-lime soda
- Window cleaner
These are best if you have a few items that need a quick clean up and aren't heavily covered with tarnished spots.
DIY Silver Polish Paste
If the polish is barely tarnished, a quick swipe with this mix should easily brighten the dull silver. You will need:
- ¼ cup baking soda
- 2 tablespoons of water
Stir it into a paste and rub it into the silver with a damp sponge. Rinse, dry and buff to a high gleam with a clean towel.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.