Like many of you, I avoid using chemical cleaning products, and I’m always happy when I find a natural method that really does the job. Here are two natural cleaning techniques for removing tarnish… one for copper, the other for silver.

First, copper. For me it’s a small copper tea kettle and the copper bottoms of stainless steel pots and pans. They look great when the copper is bright and shiny, and it’s easy to keep the copper looking that way with vinegar and salt. You can make a paste of equal parts of flour, vinegar, and salt, but I think it works just as well to pour on enough vinegar to coat the bottom of the pan, sprinkle on a little salt, and rub the tarnish away with a cloth. If you’ve never used this method, you will be surprised at how quickly the copper changes back to its original bright color. If the copper is badly discolored, repeat the process, then wash in warm, soapy water.

For silverware or silver pieces that are tarnished (this works on silver jewelry too), you can clean them without chemicals and for only a few pennies using simple electrolysis. First you will need a glass or enamel sauce pan large enough to hold the silver pieces. (I think stainless steel would work too… you just don’t want to use an aluminum pan because the process will darken the aluminum.) Cover the inside bottom of this pan with aluminum foil. Make a solution of one quart of water, one tablespoon of baking soda, and one teaspoon of salt… if your silver items are large and you need to use more solution, increase all the ingredients proportionally. Bring the solution to a boil and place the silver pieces in it, making sure that all the pieces are completely submerged and that each piece touches the aluminum foil. Boil for at least five minutes, or longer if the silver pieces are very badly tarnished. (If you don’t want to boil your items, use the same method and pour boiling water into the pan. This will work although not as well as the boiling method with badly tarnished silver.) Remove the pieces and wash with warm, soapy water.

This process works because tarnish on silver is caused by sulfur ions. The water, salt, and baking soda make an ion-carrying solution that carries the sulfur ions from the silver to the aluminum foil. Another plus with this method is that it doesn’t cause wear to the silver like repeated rubbings with silver polish does. Try it… this really works, and you’ll save money, too!

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Comments

Joe

WOW! That really worked. I found a silver ring that I forgot that I had. Was out of silver polish, and tried this method.. being a guy I was lazy and just used a measuring cup and hot tap water.. it didn’t work at first, then I realized I forgot the aluminum foil. It went from tarnished to shiny right before my eyes!

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Isn’t it amazing how quickly the aluminum foil and baking soda work! I used this method on a lot of badly tarnished old silverware, and almost instantly it turned all shiny and new-looking. Certainly it is much easier than scrubbing away with silver polish!

Aurelia

I found a set of goblets at a thrift store that were nearly black. I spent all afternoon trying many different natural methods and nothing was working. Then I found this site. The water is not even boiling and they look brand new . Thank you very much!!!

Kelly

Thanks for the tips I am going to use them in a science fair project for school.

Kelly

I haven’t tried them on my project yet but I hope it works. Thanks again for the great tips!

Amy

Just used this on a BUNCH of very tarnished jewelry that is now sparkling like new! Thanks for this easy and effective tip :)

Tee

I think I just found educational entertainment I can use!

Laurie

This is a good idea and does help to remove tarnish. I also read on another site that silver and silver plate should not be stored with plain flatware, as to do so damages and stains silver.

But a word of warning here. I used a flat pyrex baking dish dish to hold the foil, baking soda and water, and part way into the process of slowly simmering, it burst with a loud bang, and split into a number of pieces. I was fortunate that I wasn’t hit by the scalding water. I can’t say why the dish cracked as it did, but suspect that the metals (foil and silver) as great conductors of heat may have raised the dish to a temperature (at least in spots) that it would not have attained on its own. I would suggest using an old metal baking dish instead, something that you wouldn’t mind seeing blacked, should that happen.

Peter

Laurie — Pyrex will explode like that if it’s put on a burner. Corningware will too. They work in the oven but not on top of the stove.

Laurie

Thanks, Peter. I suspected it might do that, but for some reason tried it anyway, even though I know that Pyrex is to be used in the oven. Corningware makes some sauce pans designed to be used stove top, and I’ve used them without incident for decades. They’re sauce pans though. I don’t have a large glass sauce pan and was looking for something with a flat profile to hold silverware. The Pyrex baking dish was the right shape. I just wanted to warn others not to use Pyrex directly on the stove top as I did!

Tracey

It works! It really works! I used it on a couple of pieces of silver plated jewelry that I wanted to wear today. Like others, I didn’t have any polish on hand; your’s was one of the first sites that came up in a search for natural silver polish. My pieces look sparkling new, and I’m wearing them right now.

Brittany

Great tip!! Works like a charm

isabelle

Hi, I tried it last night and it worked great !!!!
I was wondering what type of precious or semi stones
it can be harmful to.

Thanking you in advance…

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

I have no idea, but I would err on the side of caution with anything valuable. Perhaps a jeweler could give you some specifics…

Virginia

Just did this on some silver soup spoons that were black with tarnish. Wow, it works! They shined up right in front of my eyes. Had to turn on the oven fan since the smell of sulfur filled the kitchen! Thanks for the tip.

breanna

i have a large silver plated tray and was wondering if this would work as well. it is too large to put in a tray but was thinking if i poured the water solution onto the tray (it has a good lip) and put some foil in there…
any advice is helpful.

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Breanna, it would be worth a try, although I always thought that the boiling action is what made this method work. I think you might see some results, although probably not as impressive as with the regular method.