Cleaning silver without harsh chemicals is the focus of this article. We all know that silver is a beautiful metal. Being the only true white metal on the planet, it gives pieces that are constructed from it a hue and shine unsurpassed. But silver has a dirty secret…over time it tarnishes or becomes “dirty.” Once this happens, it’s no fun to wear or use because it needs to be cleaned. While silver polishing cloths are handy, they don’t get into crevices, so the piece may not be as clean as it could be. And in an eco-friendly world, harsh chemicals that essentially DARE tarnish to stick around are too environmentally toxic to use.
So what’s a silver-lover to do? Perform magic. Well, not really, but that’s what it will seem like when you do this. In fact, if you have kids, let them get in on the cleaning action. They will be amazed!
NATURAL SILVER CLEANER
- You’ll need
- 1 shallow pan
- Enough aluminum foil to cover the pan cooking area
- Enough water to cover the silver piece
- Baking soda (from 2 tsp. to half a cup – depends on size of piece)
- A dirty piece of silver
Wash the silver piece. You’re doing this to remove any dirt and dust that can come off. This helps make the surface of the silver easier for the cleaner to adhere to. Use a mild soap and rinse the piece thoroughly.
Line a small pan, pot or skillet with aluminum foil. Cover only the cooking area. No need to cover the bottom!
Pour water into the pan/pot/skillet. Use enough water to cover the piece you’re cleaning entirely.
Stir in the baking soda. For one pair of earrings or necklace, use two teaspoons. For larger items, you’ll need one-half cup or so. Measurement precision isn’t necessary!
Bring the water to a boil. Take it off the heat as soon as the water starts boiling.
Put the silver piece into the water. Be sure it’s touching the aluminum foil – this is really important! Leave the piece in the water for 10 minutes. Move it occasionally to ensure contact with the foil. You may notice the water turning a light yellowish-brown, depending upon the amount of tarnish present.
Remove the jewelry from the water; dry it with a clean, soft cloth (not a paper towel). If you see tarnish hiding in some areas, poke the cloth into them to extract it. Continue buffing the piece until all the tarnish is removed.
Your piece should look shiny and new! If it doesn’t, you can repeat the process again using a new piece of foil and fresh water.
THE SCIENCE OF CLEANING SILVER WITHOUT HARSH CHEMICALS
Wondering why this works?
First, a little bit of science. Tarnish is the metal’s reaction to hydrogen sulfide, also known as sulfur. Silver, when exposed to air, will tarnish over time due to the chemical reaction that occurs when it encounters sulfur. Being handled can also cause tarnishing because oil on our hands, certain foods and products such as wool will react with silver.
The natural cleaning process works because it uses the properties of sulfur to work against the tarnish. The water and baking soda loosen the tarnish and make it portable. The aluminum foil acts as an attractant encouraging the tarnish to bond with it instead of thesilver. This is effective because sulfur is more chemically attracted aluminum than silver.
It’s not magic or rocket science and it may take more than one cleaning to properly shine your piece. But you are doing the earth – and you – a favor by not using harsh chemicals.