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How to clean silver

Learn how to clean silver and get it shiny-as-new again with this in-depth guide.

Updated

simple shot of a silver pandora bracelet with charms

Though you might be reluctant to clean your silver for fear of damaging its surface, learning how to clean silver is the only way to keep it gleaming and is not that difficult to do.

(If you’re cleaning jewelry, be very careful with encrusted gemstones as they may be damaged by some of these cleaning methods – if in doubt, check with a jeweller first.)

How to clean silver the easy way

This is the best method for giving your silver a general clean if it hasn’t discoloured too much.

You will need:

  • Sponge
  • Non-abrasive cloth (such as microfibre). Don’t use paper towels as they are too rough
  • Specialist silver cleaning cloth (optional, for buffing – available from supermarkets, department stores and online)
  • Cotton gloves (optional, for buffing)
  • Washing-up liquid
  • Water

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Method

  1. Begin with a quick rinse

    If washing cutlery, rinse off any food debris before you begin.

  2. Make a cleaning solution

    Dilute the washing-up liquid in a bowl of warm water.

  3. Clean each piece individually

    Clean your silverware in the water, using the sponge. Generally, you’ll want to rub up and down (a circular motion can bring out fine scratches), taking care to get into any crevices or grooves.

  4. Rinse

    Using a clean bowl of warm water, gently rinse each piece of silver and make sure all soap residue has been washed away.

  5. Dry

    Using the non-abrasive cloth, go over each piece and pat away any water.

  6. Put on gloves for a smudge-free finish

    If you want to give your silver a finishing buff, put on cotton gloves to protect the silver.

  7. Get things gleaming with a silver cloth

    Rub gently with a specialist silver polishing cloth. These are usually made from very soft cotton and treated with cleaning and polishing agents. They are also impregnated with a solution to prevent tarnishing.

How do you know that the surfaces in your kitchen and bathroom have been disinfected?

7 alternative ways to clean silver

Even though specialist silver-cleaning cloths are undoubtedly handy, there are many different methods of how to clean silver at home using products that you may already have in the pantry.

Remember to always test a new product on an inconspicuous spot first to make sure that no damage is done to the silver.

1. Toothpaste Some people swear by regular toothpaste for cleaning silver. Squeeze a small amount onto a soft cloth and apply to the silver, rubbing gently using circular motions. Rinse with warm water afterwards. Be sure to use a gentle, basic toothpaste – those containing whitening bleach are too abrasive.

2. Baking soda This is a good solution if you are trying to remove a stubborn stain. Mix a small amount of baking soda with a little water – just enough to make a thick paste. Apply the mixture using a soft cloth and leave for a few minutes. Then rinse with warm water and give it a gentle buff with a silver-cleaning cloth. 3. Baking soda, salt and aluminium foil Use this method for large objects or if you have a lot of cutlery to clean. Line a large baking pan or bowl with foil (make sure the receptacle is ceramic or glass, but not metal as that may cause harmful chemical reactions). Fill with boiling water and add in 30g of baking soda and two teaspoons of salt. Add your silver pieces (making sure they don’t touch each over). Let it all sit for five minutes; remove and dry with a soft cloth. For more, read our in-depth guide on how to clean silver and stainless steel cutlery. 4. Cornflour Make up a thick paste of cornflour and water and then gently apply to your silverware, covering it all over. Once dry, rub off with a soft towel and give it a polish with a silver-cleaning cloth. This is a great way to get some shine back into silver that has lost its lustre. 5. Tomato ketchup Okay, this is an odd one. Dipping your precious items into a bowl of ketchup, really? But it is an effective cleaning solution and works because of the acid in the tomatoes. Take a bowl or plate and pour out the ketchup, and then submerge your silver in it for 10 minutes. After removing, make sure to give everything a good rinse (you don’t want any of that acid lingering on your silver). 6. Lemon and olive oil As above, the main active ingredient here is acid. Mix 125ml of lemon juice with a teaspoon of olive oil and then use a soft cloth to gently apply it to your silverware. Rub until nicely burnished. Again, give the items a good rinse to remove any residue acid, and dry with a soft cloth. 7. Hand sanitizer A useful solution if you need to reinvigorate your jewellery while out and about. You will need to have a clean cloth handy, though a handkerchief or soft napkin will suffice (but don’t use tissues as they may be too abrasive). Simply rub a little bit of sanitizer onto the silver until it’s gleaming again. Check out our guide for more tips on how to clean silver jewellery.

Answers to your top questions on how to clean silver

Should I use commercial products to clean silver?

Commercial products are excellent at cleaning silver. They are generally designed to reduce the risk of tarnishing and maintain shine (you can find silver-cleaning products at most supermarkets or online).

It’s useful having a specialized silver cloth too, as it won’t scratch or damage the surface of your items.

What is the best way to clean silver?

From tomato ketchup to baking soda, there are lots of easy home remedies you can try on your silver. Explore all of our methods above – each one is a little different depending on what you want to do.

Can you clean silver with vinegar?

Yes, but make sure you use a white distilled vinegar as it is purer. Vinegar works well in partnership with baking soda – make a solution putting 250ml of vinegar in a bowl and then add 4 heaped tablespoons of baking soda.

Soak your silver items for a couple of hours. Rinse with warm water and dry with a soft cloth.

Can Coke clean silver?

Cola and other carbonated drinks are often used to clean silver, but you need to be a bit careful as the acid in the drink can be harsh. The method is simple enough: simply soak your silver item in the liquid for 2-3 hours. Rinse thoroughly when done.

Why does silver tarnish?

It’s not actually the silver that tarnishes (in fact, silver is highly resistant to discolouration), but other metals that are combined with silver to make an alloy.

Silver on its own is too soft for everyday use, so it’s blended with a small percentage of copper or other metals to toughen it up. It’s these other metals that corrode when exposed to oxygen for any length of time. Need to clean up some tarnished pieces? Check out our guide on how to clean tarnished silver.

How can I prevent my silver from tarnishing?

Silver alloys discolour due to contact with oxygen. While it’s not possible to completely safeguard items from air, you can reduce their exposure. If you have jewellery or a cutlery set that came in a felt-lined box or soft bag that will be your best option.

Alternatively, you can buy anti-tarnish bags from department stores, jewellery retailers or online specialists. Remember to keep items separate from each other as silver scratches very easily and store away from heat.

Along with air, silver alloys also dislike moisture. Some people like to put chalk or silica in with their pieces to help reduce moisture. Don’t leave silver jewellery in the bathroom, and take it off before swimming, washing up or showering.

If you have gold jewellery that also could do with a spruce-up, check out our guide here on how to clean gold.

Originally published