Eco Silver Polishing

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Introduction: Eco Silver Polishing

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

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

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

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.)

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44 Discussions

@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?

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.

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.

5 replies

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

1 reply

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

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

1 reply

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

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)

4 replies

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.

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

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...

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!

1 reply

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.