Introduction: Eco Silver Polishing

Picture of Eco Silver Polishing

A quick and easy way to polish oxidized silver jewelry and other stuff without using toxic* chemicals.

This technique is especially good if you have intricate filigreed jewelry for example.

*or at least they don't SMELL toxic. Are they?

Step 1: Put Baking Soda and Foil in Water

Picture of Put Baking Soda and Foil in Water

I put about 1 tablespoon of baking soda and a piece of foil about 4" square or so.

Boil it until the silver starts to look silver.

(Unfortunately this doesn't clean my burnt up old pot) ;)

Step 2: Voila

Picture of Voila

I don't use precise measurements but it seems to work every time within a couple of minutes!

(The black part on the leaves in the jewelry shown here is intended to be black. You can see the rest came out silver.)


thesilversmith made it! (author)2016-08-21

I’ve been a silver conservator for over 30 years and have
just developed a non-toxic, earth-friendly, fragrance-free tarnish remover that
will not harm your silver (or you). Learn more about Herman's Simply Clean
Collectors Silver Polish here:

HollieM (author)2015-09-04

@thesilversmith, I have a silver plated piece, almost mint, but looks like previous owner may have gotten water into it, or left water after a washing.... May be a bit pitted, any way to clean this up?

paqrat (author)2014-01-01

I've been thinking about using one of those aluminum pans for roasting. I think one should be able to de-tarnish a silver plate coffee service in one of those. A silver plate tray too.

paqrat (author)2011-02-10

I was just wondering if anyone has tried doing this with an aluminum soft drink can. No foil just the can, sodium bicarbonate and boiling water? Does anyone know if the inside of these cans are coated in any way? If it would work it would sure make cleanup simple. Just pour out remainder of liquid and toss the can into the recycling bin.

hmcafee (author)paqrat2012-11-19

Just asked my husband what he thinks of the soda can idea and he said you might not want to do that b/c of the coloring and whatnot they use on can labels.

paqrat (author)hmcafee2012-11-19

Since posting my remark I have tried using cut up pieces of aluminum soft drink cans. They didn't work very efficiently. I think there is probaly some sort of coating on the insides of the cans that inhibit the desired reaction.

broregret (author)paqrat2013-12-30

Aluminum cans often have a thin plastic coating applied to the inside. Those that don't will develop a dull thin coating of aluminum oxide. In either case, not good for aluminum based chemistry.

hmcafee (author)paqrat2012-11-19

I've not tried this Instructable yet, but I imagine that the soda can idea might work. I was also thinking that using an aluminum pie plate would work as well. That's what I plan on doing. I'll let y'all know how it goes. :D

paqrat (author)hmcafee2012-11-19

I found an old aluminum tumbler that was not in shape to sell and used it. It did work but I don't know how long it would continue to without cleaning of some sort.

thesilversmith (author)2013-02-01

I'm a professional silver restoration and conservationist. This process, known as electrochemical (Galvanic) Reduction, uses aluminum foil or an aluminum/ aluminum alloy plate and a warm solution of sodium carbonate (washing soda). When the object comes into contact with the plate in the solution, it removes only light tarnish, not the thick, black tarnish produced by years of neglect. Pitting of the object can occur if the aluminum plate is not periodically cleaned. Another not-so-obvious problem is scratching of the object when in contact with the plate.

Objects cleaned by this method may tarnish more quickly than silver that has been polished, for the object's surface will act like a sponge and more readily absorb tarnish-producing gases and moisture. The solution can also seep into hollow areas such as coffeepot handles, unsoldered spun beads around the tops of lightweight holloware, weighted pieces with minute holes, and any porous attachments. For these reasons, this cleaning technique is not recommended.

Visit my Web site for additional silver care information:

andrea313 (author)2007-07-27

kaytracy: is this with the baking soda & water, or is it just foil (and water?). Sorry to be dense.

hmcafee (author)andrea3132012-11-19

I know you were addressing that question to kaytracy, but you use *both* baking soda AND aluminum foil IN the water. :D

breinke527 (author)2008-12-12

Ok what am i doing wrong? I boiled my silver in a pan with 1tblspoon of baking soda and it actually turned black!!

hmcafee (author)breinke5272012-11-19

Did you put the aluminum foil in there too? Perhaps if you heated the water more slowly.

lemonie (author)2007-01-01

I'm interested in the "black part on the leaves - is intended to be black". Could you explain how this is intended & produced? Also, excepting cutlery & eggs, I had not thought pure silver that prone to tarnishing(?). (Caustic soda can work wonders on tea & coffee pots)

paqrat (author)lemonie2011-02-10

According to a long time jeweler pure silver doesn't tarnish. It is the copper in the alloy that allows the alloy to tarnish. The problem with the pure silver is its softness. In ring form it would probably deform each time anyone gripped anything. He told of making a silver ring that would not tarnish. He took a regular sterling ring and left it in the pickling pot for some time. The acid in the pickling pot dissolved the copper from the alloy leaving the surface of the ring pure silver. Then he put the ring in a tumbler with steel shot and tumbled it. The steel shot pummeled the ring hardening the silver surface. So he ended up with a sterling ring with a hardened pure silver surface. Best of both worlds.

Intentional blackening on silver can be produced by liver of sulphur.

lemonie (author)paqrat2011-02-11

Old question, but thanks for filling me in on those details.


paqrat (author)lemonie2011-02-12

Oops. I forget to look at the date on these things. Glad I could supply some info.

ironsmiter (author)lemonie2007-04-16

This is replying to an old post, I know, but in case you're tracking, or to those new to instructables Liver of Sulphur(smells like rotten eggs) is the "main" chemical concoction used to patina silver to a nice matte black. It's usual use is being painted on, then polished off of the high spots. The black matte color provides high contrast to the brightly polished bits and pieces. There are plenty of other chemicals that produce different colors. Most chemicals react simmilarly, regardless of the metal, but there are special chemicals to produce almost any color, on most metals...penut oil, and heat produce shades of brown... amonia produces green to blue, debending on the base...

Very Keri (author)2008-03-11

Is this process safe for stones? I have some antique silver stud earrings with an Amethyst in them, I wouldn't want to harm them since my Grandma has entrusted me with them. FYI, same Grandma says the best way to clean stainless steel pots is to make a paste of equal parts baking soda and salt and scrub the heck out of your pans with a scouring pad or steel wool. It really does work, it gets my pans back to their original luster. I'm not sure what the baking soda does, and I'm sure the salt is just an extra abrasive, but it really gets EVERYTHING off your pans. Just for the love of god, only do this with stainless steel!

paqrat (author)Very Keri2011-02-10

Chemically I don't think it would harm the stone. If the boiling water is poured onto the earrings I would be concerned about the expansion of the stone particularly if there are small cracks or flaws in the stones. If the water, w/ earrings in it is slowly brought to a boil then allowed to cool slowly I would be less concerned. What you want to avoid is rapid temperature change. Taking the earrings from boiling water and quenching them in cold water would be a very, very bad idea.

Goodhart (author)Very Keri2008-05-29

it, of itself, should not hurt the stones themselves. But if they are loose (in the setting) they could come free in the hot water since the metal and stone expand at different rates.

PosterGrampa (author)2010-08-26

Made my wife happy not having to polish all our silver ware and other silver stuff in our home. Regards,PG

theblindferrengi (author)2010-08-16

Will this work with aluminium powder instead of foil? Perhaps better because the powder has more surface area and better coverage of the silver.

cordelya (author)2010-07-19

For this to work well, your silver should be touching the foil. I usually lay the foil flat in the bottom of my basin and sit the silver item on top of the foil. The reaction is electrochemical and the two metals need to touch in order to complete the circuit. See this page for an explanation of the reaction, including the formula:

kkarn (author)2010-07-07

This is a variation on how museums clean silver. Not only is it a more green way to clean your silver jewelry and/or flatware, it's more gentle too.

Goodhart (author)2009-12-23

There are 2 types of polish out there.

Those that are abrasive, as the one you have described, and those REALLY toxic ones that restore the silver.

It is important to note the difference.  Any "polish" is probably abrasive, so each time to you use it, you lose silver.  With the  "dips" that restore the silver, you lose only the oxidation of the silver, and retain the silver itself.

If you are "polishing" silver Plated items, it would be best to dip them and restore the silver;  if you Polish them,  after only a few times, there will be no silver left and you will be down to the base metal.

If you decide to dip, PLEASE be careful....the chemicals ARE TRULY  TOXIC

container_gardener (author)2009-11-12

I've read about this method, but I didn't try it until I saw your Instructable. I cleaned some sterling silver filigree jewelry. Its great because its cheap and non-toxic.

meme_mhr (author)2008-12-10

beautiful idea thanks

dhawktx (author)2008-11-06

I've used this for quite a few years now. Hadn't thought to post it here - Great thing to share! Make sure you don't use this on stuff with organic bits (pearls, shell) or porous mineral-y stones like malachite, turquoise, etc. It's safe for quartz stones like amethyst, blue topaz, citrine, etc if you don't get it too hot then rinse it in cold water.

Fenris The bbw (author)2008-05-13

The reaction smells sulfurous. I wasn't expecting that. Great instructable.

lazemaple (author)2008-03-21

Keeping the solution hot is enough... boiling could damage some jewelry or stones. I use hot tap water and keep it warm with a cup warmer.

Bright Shadow (author)2008-01-29

Does this only work on silver? If it works on stainless steel, I know what I'm gonna be doin! ;)

susie (author)Bright Shadow2008-01-29

That's for me NOT to know and you to find out! Please report back. It's cheap and easy to try it so might as well!

Kaiven (author)2007-11-17

"boil it until the silver starts to look silver" what??

theodorehope (author)2007-07-28

The tarnish is silver sulfide. The electrochemical reaction makes the sulfur go over to the aluminum, so you end up with aluminum sulfide and the original silver is nice and clean :-)

I've used this process for quite a while and it's great. You don't _have_ to have boiling water, but it's faster that way.

The process is described here:

kaytracy (author)2007-07-07

not really any need to boil it, I use a glass pie plate and lay the item on top of the foil. Leave it sit while you go back the "puter for another instructable, andthen go rinse it off. I used to have to use the cream to polish the silverware when grandmother would come to visit, I like this method much much better! K

crestind (author)2006-12-21

Interesting. I suppose this involves some sort of chemical reaction.

bhagyesht (author)2006-12-21

just make sure that you dont try this in an aluminium utensil, else you need to get the mess of the pot then, Stainless steel is fine.

LasVegas (author)2006-12-20

While I agree that this is probably one of the best ways of cleaning Silver. It actually does use chemicals; Aluminum and Sodium Bicarbonate. Thank you though for not doing what some would and clean that piece until there's no trace of tarnish. The bit that you left is what gives it its character!

susie (author)LasVegas2006-12-20

Ok I edited it to say "non-toxic" chemicals. Is that accurate?

LasVegas (author)susie2006-12-20

Definitely! :)

TheCheese9921 (author)2006-12-20

is this just the same thing as those silver lightining things or whatever (they were on g4 in the morning)

Yeah it's the same thing, but closer to free.

zachninme (author)TheCheese99212006-12-20

Probably, just as those rods to remove the smell of garlic off your hands is stainless steel.

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Bio: My LED (I mean flashlight) Gummies profile photo is inspired by the LED Throwies.
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