Silver tarnish removal
Safe, fast and environmentally friendly.
This is the method that we use. It is tried and true. It will not harm your silver and is guaranteed not to remove any metal.
It uses only safe household chemicals, involves no scrubbing or rubbing and will remove all traces of tarnish even from inaccessible areas. This method is 100% effective. It works just as well on Fine Silver as 925 Sterling Silver.
YOU WILL NEED:
Jug of boiling water (half litre or 1 pint)
A glass or ceramic bowl (big enough and deep enough to hold the silver piece)
Aluminium foil (enough to cover bottom of bowl)
2 Teaspoons of Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda)
1 Teaspoon of Salt (table or sea salt)
Nitrile or Latex gloves (not rubber)
Read special considerations at end of this section before starting.
Put the aluminium foil into the bottom of the bowl with the shiny side up. Using gloved hands, place the silver article centrally on top of it. Next mix the baking soda and salt in a jug of boiling water. The quantities are not critical, but make sure they are dissolved completely. Use a large jug, as the baking soda will fizz up initially. Pour this solution into the bowl until the silver piece is covered, making sure the silver remains in contact with the aluminium.
There will be some slight bubbling and if the silver is heavily tarnished, a sulphur/egg odour will be released from the water. Gently agitate the solution with non metallic utensil or gloved finger, until the tarnish visibly disappears. This should take no more than a few minutes for light tarnish and maybe 5 to 10 minutes for heavy tarnish. Do not rub or scrub the silver article.
Remove the silver and rinse thoroughly in fresh water. Dry with a soft cotton cloth and marvel at how shiny and new the silver looks. If any tarnish remains, repeat.
How does this wizardry work?
This is called an electrochemical reaction, whereby two dissimilar metals cause an electrical current (weak and safe) to flow through a liquid solution much like a wet cell battery. The sulphur atoms separate from the silver atoms and are attracted to the aluminium forming aluminium sulphide. This goes through a further reaction and forms aluminium hydroxide on the foil surface and releases bubbles of gaseous hydrogen sulphide (rotten egg gas).
The aluminium would normally not be reactive because it has a naturally protective coating of aluminium hydroxide but the sodium bicarbonate dissolves this layer to expose pure metallic aluminium. The salt increases the electrical conductivity of the solution and the hot water increases the speed of the reaction. All silver remains intact, while all the sulphur tarnish is removed with no hazardous waste, dangerous chemicals, dips or polishes used.
Who said chemistry wasn’t fun or useful.
- If the black on the silver is used for decoration, this method will remove it completely.
- Always wear nitrile or latex gloves (not rubber, it causes tarnish) to handle silver.
- Do not touch silver with steel utensils or sink; use only ceramic, glass, plastic or wood (silver reacts with steel).
- Do not immerse pearls, opals or opaque gemstones into liquids.
- Do not use if parts are glued or soldered with lead as they may come apart.
- This method only works on silver. It will darken copper, brass or bronze and has no effect on gold.
- Do not leave silver in this solution for more than 10 minutes at a time to avoid salt corrosion.
- Silver plated items must be checked carefully before using this method. Any holes or cracks may allow the underlying metal to corrode.
- Always rinse the silver piece thoroughly in fresh, clean water.
- For final buffing/polishing we recommend a microfiber lens cloth.
For further information please see our Silver Care page.
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