How to Clean Silver Without Using Chemicals

Updated on October 4, 2017
Susan Hambidge profile image

Susan prefers to use natural ingredients whenever possible in the home and garden. It is usually cheaper, easier and greener.

Clean Sterling Silver Using Household Items

Sterling silver tends to go dull when it is dirty and when it is not used daily. Jewellery, cutlery, silverware, and plates will lose their shine when stored away for long periods of time. The silver goes grey and can turn black in some instances.

It is quite easy to get the shine back on the metal by cleaning the items with a few ingredients we often already have in the cupboard. It's quick, easy and doesn't take much effort to do. It is also greener to use this mixture than it is to use harsh chemicals.

All the Ingredients Needed to Clean Silver with Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda

The ingredients needed are usually already in the kitchen cupboard.
The ingredients needed are usually already in the kitchen cupboard. | Source

What You Need to Clean Silver With Vinegar

The ingredients needed are usually in the store cupboard, but if you don't have all of them, they are cheap and easy to buy in most shops. These ingredients can be used in other ways to clean in the house, so are more cost effective than buying ready-made silver cleaning chemicals.

  1. Vinegar - any cheap vinegar can be used. I use malt vinegar; I use it to clean lots of things around the home and it can be bought in a large bottle for pennies. You can also use white vinegar which is commonly used for cleaning.
  2. Bicarbonate of soda or baking soda (these are the same thing). This is a cheap ingredient and is used also as a raising agent in baking and it can be used to neutralise smells and clean the home.
  3. Salt - any salt you already have at home will do - rock salt or cheap table salt just use what you have.
  4. Tin foil - the regular kind used in the kitchen.
  5. Warm water from the tap.

The Steps to Take

Once you have everything you need, the process is very simple.

  • Line a bowl that is big enough to hold the silver you want to clean with the aluminium foil. It doesn't have to be perfect; just sufficient to hold the silver in and to help the chemical reaction that will take place.
  • Put a teaspoon of salt in the lined bowl, then add a small amount of warm water. You need just enough to dilute the salt into the water so there is nothing to scratch the silver jewellery with. Mix it for a few moments.
  • Next add a tablespoon or so of the bicarbonate of soda / baking soda.
  • Finally add a good cup of the vinegar - enough for a complete covering of the jewellery once it is soaking in the mixture. The mixture should bubble and fizz as the vinegar reacts with the baking soda - this is exactly what you want.
  • Place the silver into the solution and leave it to clean itself.
  • Depending on how dirty the silver is, you will need to leave it in there for between 20 minutes and an hour. For very tarnished silver, you may have to repeat the process with fresh ingredients.
  • When you can see the desired improvement, thoroughly rinse the silver in clean tap water to make sure all the vinegar mixture has been removed.
  • Dry and polish the item with a super soft cloth. I use one of my microfibre cloths which I use all over the home for cleaning, but an old t-shirt which has been softened by many washes is also a good material to use.
  • The piece of silver should now be clean and slightly shiny. All done with little fuss and no harsh chemicals.

Mix Salt, Water, Baking Soda, and Vinegar in a Lined Bowl

The solution will froth and bubble.
The solution will froth and bubble. | Source

Cleaning Large Silver Items

I use this method to clean my Pandora bracelet that has charms. Some of the charms have little areas where the dirt collects. Soaking in this solution really cleans most of the tarnish, but a gentle brush with a really old toothbrush helps in some stubborn areas. I also clean a silver chain regularly with great results.

If you have large items to clean, such as silver platters or teapots, you could line the kitchen sink with the foil and have a cleaning session on a larger scale. Of course you would need a catering sized container of vinegar, but these are available and are reasonably priced.

Before Cleaning and After Cleaning

Before being cleaned.
Before being cleaned. | Source
After being cleaned and polished on a microfibre cloth.
After being cleaned and polished on a microfibre cloth. | Source

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