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Cleaning and Maintaining Your Sterling Silver!

Real silver looks Great, unlike some other metals, silver tarnishes over time when exposed to oxygen and certain chemicals.

Understanding how to properly care for silver is the best way to keep it in good shape for years, while numerous DIY cleaning practices will easily do away with tarnish.

The following methods are inexpensive, and all may be applied to any type of silver, such as jewelry and cutlery. As an added bonus, none of these methods take a lot of time, unless silver is very badly tarnished!

What you need to clean silver

There are numerous ways to clean your silver. To avoid gathering material you do not need, all of the items will be shown in their sections. In this article, we will cover cleaning silver with toothpaste, baking soda, a soft cloth, rubbing alcohol, and liquid dish soap.

How often should silver be cleaned

How often you need to clean silver depends on a variety of factors, including how the silver is stored and how frequently it is used.

Generally, silver requires cleaning on an as-needed basis only, particularly if taken care of properly and used frequently. The more silver is used, the less chance tarnish will develop.

Instructions on cleaning silver

The steps below detail the toothpaste method, which easy and effective to do.

Helpful tip

If using toothpaste to clean silver, ensure it’s the paste rather than gel variety. Gel toothpaste will not help!

Method 1: Toothpaste


  • 1 tube of toothpaste
  • 1 sponge
  • 1 roll of paper towel


  1. Place a dime-size amount of toothpaste on your finger or a clean sponge.
  2. Rub the paste over affected areas
  3. Wipe the toothpaste away using your sponge or a paper towel
  4. Repeat as needed until all tarnish has been removed. How long this will take depends on how large the item is and how much tarnish is present – usually about five to fifteen minutes.
  5. Rinse silver to remove toothpaste residue
  6. Dry completely before using or storing.

Method 2: Baking soda and a soft cloth

Baking soda can be utilized to clean silver in more than one way. Let’s take a look at how to clean silver with baking soda and a soft cloth.


  • 1 box of baking soda
  • 1 sponge
  • 1 clean, soft cloth


  1. Make a paste using equal parts baking soda and water, about a ¼ cup each. If the paste is too runny, add more baking soda. If you need more water or baking soda added to the mixture, add ¼ or less of each at a time.
  2. Dab a clean sponge in the paste.
  3. Rub the paste on all tarnished areas
  4. Rinse silver with hot water. Ensure baking soda has been removed completely.
  5. Dry and polish silver using a clean, soft cloth

Method 3: Baking soda and aluminum foil

Baking soda may also be used in combination with aluminum foil to clean silver, particularly silver flatware. When cleaning is complete, the tarnish will appear on the foil, not the silver.


  • 1 sheet of aluminum foil
  • 1 box of baking soda
  • 1 saucepan or skillet
  • 1 pair of tongs
  • 1 piece of soft cloth

“When cleaning is complete, the tarnish will appear on the foil, not the silver.”


  1. Line a small skillet or saucepan with aluminum foil. The shiny side should face up.
  2. Place the silver item or items in the skillet.
  3. Sprinkle baking soda over the items
  4. Boil 1 to 2 cups of water in a separate pot.
  5. Pour the boiling water over the items in the skillet
  6. Allow the contents to soak for 15 minutes
  7. Remove using tongs. Rinse and dry the silver using a soft cloth.

Method 4: White vinegar and aluminum foil

Aluminum foil may also be used in combination with white vinegar to clean silver. White vinegar is an effective remover for basically any stain you can think of–food, drink, crayon, salt, water stains, pet messes and much more.


  • 1 bottle of white vinegar
  • 1 sheet of aluminum foil
  • 1 small skillet or saucepan
  • 1 pair of tongs


  1. Line a small skillet or saucepan with aluminum foil. The shiny side should face up.
  2. Place the silver item or items in the skillet.
  3. Mix 1 cup of white vinegar with 1 quart of water in a pot.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  5. Pour the mixture over the silver items. Allow soaking for 5 minutes. Keep the stove on so the skillet remains heated as the items soak.
  6. Remove silver with tongs and rinse them with hot water
  7. Dry the silver using a clean, soft cloth.

Method 5: Rubbing alcohol

As with toothpaste, baking soda, white vinegar and aluminum foil, rubbing alcohol is a common household item that may be used to clean silver. Alcohol works well on both silver jewelry and silver flatware.


  • 1 bottle of rubbing alcohol
  • 1 small or medium sized bowl
  • 1 piece of clean cloth
  • 1 working stove


  1. Combine 1-part rubbing alcohol with 4-parts water in a small or medium-sized bowl.
  2. Dip a clean cloth in the mixture.
  3. Use the cloth to clean affected areas of silver.
  4. Wipe silver dry using a clean, soft cloth.

Method 6: Liquid dish soap and silver polish

Liquid dish soap is another option you may want to explore for removing light tarnish.


  • 1 bottle of liquid dish soap
  • 1 bottle of silver polish
  • 1 piece of polishing cloth
  • 1 working stove

Additional advice

If you will not have at least eight hours to allow the brushes to dry, a small fan set on low will help. The fan should be pointed directly at the brushes, blowing from handle to brush. This will keep the bristles in their natural form.


  1. Fill a medium or large bowl with warm water.
  2. Add three to five drops of liquid dish soap to the water.
  3. Place silver items in the sudsy mixture.
  4. Clean silver using a sponge.
  5. Rinse silver in warm water.
  6. Dry thoroughly with a clean towel.
  7. Place a small amount of silver polish on a polishing cloth.
  8. Rub tarnished areas with the polish as per manufacturer directions.
  9. Use a clean polishing cloth to buff the polish off the silver. Again, follow manufacturer directions.
  10. Lightly rinse and dry the silver if necessary. Most silver polishes do not require rinsing the silver following use.

Do’s and Don’ts of silver cleaning


  • Keep silver away from tarnish-causing agents, including wool, onions, rubber, felt, eggs, mustard, latex gloves and paints.
  • Proper washing of silver flatware helps prevent tarnish.


  • Avoid placing silver in close contain contact with stainless steel and do not clean them at the same time as it causes damage and staining if the metals touch.
  • Do not allow silver to touch rubber. Rubber contains sulfur, which causes corrosion. Keep it away from rubber placemats, rubber bands, and dish mats.

After your silver is cleaned

“Keep your silver stored in plastic bags in a dry environment.”

Properly storing your silver

Maintaining tarnish-free silver requires proper storage, such as plastic bags, which prevent air from affecting silver items. Keep your silver stored in plastic bags in a dry environment. Placing a piece of chalk or charcoal in the area silver is stored is also helpful in terms of preventing tarnish. Charcoal and chalk work as “air scrubbers” that remove pollutants, such as sulphur, from the air surrounding the silver.


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