How to Polish Silver: Tips to Clean It Like a Pro

Updated November 2, 2020
Woman Cleaning Silverware

Sterling silver flatware and serving pieces are beautiful, but keeping them free from tarnish can be challenging. Learn how to polish silver using at-home methods and commercial cleaners. Get tips and tricks from an expert in the field to find out how often to polish silver and the best way to store it. Investigate the best ways to keep your silver from tarnishing.

How to Polish Silver at Home

All over the internet, you can find hacks for making silver shiny. But one of the easiest hacks for polishing silver requires:

  • Aluminum foil

  • Pot

  • Baking soda

  • Salt

  • Boiling water

  • Vinegar

  • Toothpaste (non-gel, non-abrasive)

  • Cloth

How to Polish Silver With Baking Soda

With your baking soda mixture at the ready, it's time to get down to business cleaning your silver.

  1. Put a piece of aluminum foil in a pot.

  2. Add your silver to the pot.

  3. Mix ¼ cup of baking soda and 2 teaspoons of salt in the boiling water.

  4. Add the mixture to the pot.

  5. Put a top on the pot.

  6. Allow it to sit for up to 5 minutes.

  7. Pull out your silver.

    Professional jewellery cleaning

Polishing Silver With Vinegar

While baking soda and salt can work miracles on your silver, they aren't the only tarnish remover out there for your silver jewelry and flatware. You can also use vinegar to polish silver.

  1. Create a 4:1 mixture of white vinegar to baking soda in a pan.

  2. Soak your silver in the concoction for up to three hours or until the tarnish is gone.

  3. Rinse and buff with a cloth for the perfect polished look.

How to Polish Silver With Commercial Silver Polish

In addition to homemade silver cleaners, you can use commercial silver polish. When it comes to using silver polish, it's important to follow the instructions on the bottle. Generally, you use circular motions working one area at a time. Additionally, Amy Gebhardt, Director of Public Relations for Oneida silver polish products, notes that "Connoisseurs and Hagerty are two reputable products that have been available for many years." Other tips she offered for polishing silver using products include:

  • "Polishing cloths are great for removing light tarnish."

  • "If your pieces are more heavily tarnished, it best to use a polish or a paste with a soft brush to get into more recessed areas of decoration."

Silver Cleaning Mistakes to Avoid

When it comes to cleaning mistakes, "it's important to understand that silver is a soft metal," according to Gebhardt. "It is affected by high heat and strong pressure. A few things to keep in mind when caring for silver include:

  • Use a soft clean cloth when polishing.

  • Use a soft bristle brush only on decorated areas, not on the smooth sections, as this could cause scratching.

  • Never put sterling silver in the dishwasher. This is too harsh of an environment for this soft metal. Silver-plated flatware is dishwasher safe, but not sterling.

  • Never place stainless and silver-plated flatware together as this will cause discolorations."

    Woman polishing silver

How Often Should You Polish Silver?

According to Gebhardt, "It will vary depending on how you store it and where you live. Higher humidity locations tend to cause silver to tarnish more quickly. If you have silver flatware, the more you use it and wash it, the less it tarnishes."

How Do You Know When Silver Should Be Polished?

Knowing when you need to polish your silver is easy to see. According to Gebhardt, "Tarnish is a visible change that is easy to see. Clean the items prior to each use based on visible tarnishing."

How to Keep Silver From Tarnishing

To keep your silver from tarnishing, Amy Gebhardt states to "wash and dry the pieces immediately after using them. Don't allow food to remain directly on silver for very long as the acids and sulfurs in foods will cause tarnishing. Silver pieces should be stored in fabric that has been specially to minimize tarnishing."

How to Store Silver to Prevent Tarnishing

Silver storage is important when it comes to silver tarnishing. Gebhardt notes that there are benefits to storing silver in a flatware case because, "Most silverware chests are lined with a specially treated fabric that helps reduce tarnishing time. These types of chests also help to keep the pieces secure so they do not rub against each other much, reducing potential for scratching."

Storage for Larger Silver Items

While flatware cases are perfect for smaller items. Larger items can be harder to store to reduce tarnishing. In these instances, Gebhardt stated that the best storage options for larger items include storage bags. "Storage bags can be purchased in the same specially treated fabric that storage chests are lined in. These can be found in many different sizes to accommodate almost any size piece. We recommend storing one item per bag with the bag being as close a fit to the item as possible. This not only eliminates the potential of scratching against another piece, it also reduces the amount of air in the bag. Less air means less tarnish or at least a longer time till the item tarnishes."

How to Polish Silver

There are several different ways out there that you can polish your silver, including using homemade methods or through buying silver polish. Whatever method you choose, remember preventing tarnish is also key to keeping your silver shiny. Next, learn how to clean aluminum so you can make these kitchen and tableware items look nice enough to go with your silver.

How to Polish Silver: Tips to Clean It Like a Pro