Silver flatware, tea sets and other table items add elegance to every dinner party, but these items can suffer from tarnishing that discolors the surface and ruins their sparkling effect. A number of commercial tarnish cleaners are available but these are often expensive and contain harsh chemicals. Those interested in using more natural cleaners can make their own homemade silver tarnish cleaner with just a few common household ingredients.
What Causes Silver Tarnish?
Silver reacts chemically when it is in contact with hydrogen sulfide in the air. The silver ions in the coating bond with sulfide ions, which gradually forms a blackish coating. This tarnish begins with a yellowish cast on the silver, and it is much easier to remove the tarnish at this point rather than wait until it develops into a the typical heavy gray or black coating.
Removing Tarnish Carefully
Those who own good quality silver pieces must strike a balance in using chemicals that remove tarnish deposits and preserving the delicate silver finish. Owners should beware of abrasive ingredients that can scratch the silver, making the problem worse. One of the common homemade remedies for silver tarnish is toothpaste, but most of these products contain harmful abrasives and should be avoided, according to the Society of American Silversmiths.
Baking Soda Recipe
For this recipe you need some aluminum foil and a plastic tray-type container in which to put the silver. Line the bottom of the container with the aluminum foil and place the silverware on top of it. Sprinkle the silver with baking soda and pour very hot water into the tray until it covers the silver. Bubbles will begin to form as the chemical reaction that breaks down the silver sulfide begins to transfer to the aluminum foil. Allow the reaction to continue until it stops bubbling, according to "Consumer Reports." When completed, rinse the silver and buff with a soft cloth.
Cream of Tartar Recipe
Another homemade and effective way to remove tarnish from silver is with cream of tartar. In one pint of water, add 1 tsp. each of cream of tartar, borax, which is available at your supermarket or hardware store, and common salt, according to John T. Kramer of the Kramer Museum of Tools and Technology. Mix thoroughly. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and put in the silver. Boil for five minutes. Remove from the water, rinse the silverware and buff lightly.
Regular usage will help keep your silver from tarnishing. Ordinary washing and drying after use will help remove small amounts of sulfide that are beginning to form on the surface. To prevent re-tarnishing, wrap the silverware in acid-free paper or sulfur-absorbing cloth. Silica gel granules, those small packets found in many products to absorb moisture, also help to reduce tarnishing.