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Polishing Silver the Easy Way - With SCIENCE!

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This Instructable will show you how you can take even the most heavily tarnished silver jewelry and restore it almost instantly, without chemicals, acids, or scrubbing and polishing.

Instead of polishing or acid etching off precious silver or potentially damaging set stones or other features on the items, we will use electrolysis to instead convert the tarnish (silver sulfide) back to silver metal!

I will demonstrate two different methods for doing this. In the first method, which works best on only lightly tarnished items, we won't even use a power source to perform the electrolysis, relying on the properties of two metals to pass ions between each other. In the second method, I will show how more aggressive cleaning can be done with a DC power supply, such as a 4 AA battery pack.

Once we complete the electrochemical conversion of silver sulfide to silver, we might want to remove surface scratches as well, in the case of items like jewelry, and for this I have chosen a Dremel with buffing wheels and compound, but you can use a jeweler's cloth as well.


What you will need:

Common for Both Methods

  • Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • Salt (sodium chloride)
  • Pitcher of Warm Water (heat increases solubility)
  • Wooden Spoon (or similar, to stir water with)
  • Large Non-Metallic Dish (Pyrex or glass recommended)
  • Old Toothbrush or Similar Item
  • Soft, Clean Cloth
  • (Optional) Dremel or similar tool and accessories to buff the end result
  • Tarnished Silver to be Cleaned

 

 

Simple Method

  • Aluminum Foil (aluminium for readers across the pond)

 

 

Advanced Method

  • Copper Metal (scrap PCB, pennies, plumbing scrap - will be damaged in process)
  • DC Power Supply (4 AA holder with switch recommended)
  • Alligator Clip Jumper Wires (optional - cathode may rust during cleaning)
 
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jkeehn23457 months ago
Great way to clean silver, cost effective and environmentally friendly. Works just like instructed.
gsuguitanjr11 months ago
I've tried this and it works.

Thanks a lot for this wonderful instructables.
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: http://www.hermansilver.com.
Dr.Bill2 years ago
Hmmmm. Ionic Transfer.
Dont really need the wires and all.

I've used an aluminum baking pan, hot boiling water, and super saturated solution of baking soda.

just drop the silver piece in the solution and its clean as fast as that.

needs to be wiped clean with a soft clean cotton cloth.
GuiltyPixel (author)  Dr.Bill2 years ago
The point was to demonstrate the process in an interesting and educational manner, while explaining what is going on to readers. Thanks for commenting.
sunshiine2 years ago
Very very interesting! I don't like the cleaners they sell I will try this sometime. I don't have anything now to try it on but that is what is great about Instructables! I start my search here and most of the time that is as far as I need to search. Thanks for sharing your hard work! Sunshiine
GuiltyPixel (author)  sunshiine2 years ago
I really don't like the destructive methods for cleaning silver, and they are inappropriate for antiques or things like silver bars and bullion since they strip away some of the mass every time. Some cleaners aren't safe on certain stones as well. This method solves those problems.

I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for commenting!
UW! I will vote when it is excepted. For some reason I am not getting notified on my page at instructables. I usually answer all my comments from there. Keep on keeping on I am liking your stuff. Sunshiine