Ever wonder how you’ll get years of tarnish off a flea market find? Here is a method that should help make it a bit easier, less time consuming, and uses less polish. You will need the following supplies.
Aluminum foil, baking soda, stainless tongs, rubber gloves, large stainless or enamel pot, water, 4”deep aluminum roasting pan, clean soft 100% cotton cloths, eye protection, wooden spoon, measuring cup and a well ventilated area.
We will show you two (2) methods. One for cleaning small and flat items such as serving pieces, small trays and flatware using a 4” deep aluminum roasting pan (see below)
For either method: Work in a well ventilated area. First, wash your silver items in warm water with a mild detergent such as Ivory dish soap. Washing first, sometimes removes a bit of the tarnish. In any case, we have found items washed first seem to clean up faster than those that weren’t
Working in a well ventilated area boil some water in a kettle or large pot. While your waiting for the water to boil place the aluminum pan in a stainless steel sink,
sprinkle a light but even layer of baking soda on the bottom of the pan; Place the items into the pan, put on your gloves and eye protection. After the water has boiled gently pour it over items in the pan until they are completely submerged into the water, sprinkle just a tiny bit more baking soda into the water. You should see the water produce a bubbling effect and you will smell the chemical reaction; like rotten eggs. Wait a few minutes (3-4) then lift the items from the water using tongs; gently dry with the soft cloth. If the item is clean enough, wash again with a mild detergent, dry immediately, and enjoy.
If most of the tarnish has been removed but, the item needs some just a bit more cleaning use some silver polish according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Note: If you have a porcelain sink you should do this outside since the chemical reaction could potentially harm the surface of the porcelain.)
Method 2 for taller items: We used this method for cleaning sugar bowls, creamers, and 4” tall candle sticks.
Wrap the item in aluminum foil, making sure the foil has direct contact with the item in at least 2-3 places. Make a few slits or punch a few holes in the foil to allow the liquid to flow in between the item and the foil. Set the foil wrapped items aside.
Place a stainless or enamel pot on the stove. Place the foil wrapped items in the pot. Fill the pot with enough water so that the items are completely submerged. We used some glass pebbles to weight down creamers and sugar bowls. If the water rises too close to the top when the items are completely submerged use a deeper pot. Turn on the stove and heat the water until it’s hot, then pour approximately 1/4 to 1/3 cup of baking soda into the water, turn down the flame and let the items simmer for about 10 minutes. If you would like to check the progress put on your gloves and remove an item from the pot with the tongs. If it needs more time re-wrap in the foil and place back in the pot with the tongs and add another sprinkle of baking soda. Once a total of 15-20 minutes has passed the items should be done. Carefully remove them from the pot. They may look sort of milky. We were completely alarmed at this, see photo on right. Gently wash in warm water with a mild detergent and then dry with a soft cloth. If the item doesn’t shine up, use some silver polish.
This sounds like a lot of work, it really isn’t and sure cuts down on the overall polishing time. We do not recommend this for heirloom items or those extra special pieces. We have used this method on garage sale flea market finds and repurposed items such as the silver plated wind chimes shown below.