As I mentioned before, Richard and I collect antique or vintage silverware, instead of getting a proper set. We love the idea of using these pieces that often get relegated to a “fancy cutlery” drawer, in our day to day use. But there’s a reason that people avoid silver cutlery in favor of stainless steel – tarnish. So how do we go about keeping our mismatched set looking nice?
A few years back I was told this magic trick by an antique store owner on Fort Street in Victoria. Simply combine baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and boiling water in a container, with aluminum foil covering the bottom. What happens is some sort of chemical reaction where the tarnish is attracted from the silver to the foil, removing tarnish almost instantly! I don’t know how, but it does! Trust me.
I’ve read various recipes for this – some specify that the foil should be shiny side up, some add a bit of salt, and others use water softener instead of baking soda. The general rule of thumb tends to be about 2 tablespoons of baking soda, to one litre of water.
To be honest, I don’t often measure how much I use. I simply line the bottom of my container (or sink if yours is stainless like mine, and have lots to clean) with foil, sprinkle on some baking soda, and pour over the boiling water to dissolve the soda. Then add your pieces either by dipping, or submerging, depending on how bad the tarnish is. Mild tarnish will come off instantly, while more build up can take a few minutes.
You can see the line of where I dipped the spoon. It took only seconds to do that!
If you find that you still have discoloration after about 5-10 minutes soaking, try making a baking soda paste and rubbing the tarnish with it. In some cases, it could be that the silver plating has worn off and nothing you do can fix it. (I say that after having a few recent spoon purchases with this very problem.)
And that’s it! Simply remove your pieces, give them a quick wash to remove any residue, and dry! Easy-peasy no?
One important thing to note – never use this on anything with stones in it, only use it for full silver pieces. Also, any modern jewelry with “antiqued” detailing – like faux darkening in the etching – shouldn’t be treated this way. That dark stuff in between the detailing, will simply turn white, not silver.
I know that from experience 🙁
So if you’re into old stuff, but don’t always want it looking that old – give this method a try!