Cleaning Silver with Aluminum Foil

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Silver is a wonderful alternative to gold when it comes to jewelry, picture frames and travel mementos such as spoons.

It’s shiny, elegant, less expensive and holds its value just as well. But silver, like gold, requires regular cleaning to retain its beauty.

Cleaning silver with aluminum foil (also spelled aluminum foil in Britain and Canada) is a tried and true way to protect your investment.

Why Silver Tarnishes

All silver pieces tarnish, whether they are made from sterling silver or are silver-plated.

Tarnish happens because a chemical reaction between the silver and sulfur in the air creates silver sulfide.

The combination of aluminum, baking soda, salt and hot water reverses this chemical reaction, allowing for the removal of the silver sulfide from the surface of the silver.

Cleaning silver with aluminum foil is kind of fun and can be a great weekend activity for the kids. Not only will you be able to sneak in a science lesson, you’ll also have clean silver.

Cleaning Tools

To clean silver with aluminum foil you’ll need to gather the following materials:

  1. The silver you want to clean
  2. A pan or dish deep enough to fill with enough hot water to cover the dirty silver
  3. Approximately 2 cups of baking soda
  4. Approximately 1/4 cup of salt
  5. A soft-bristled toothbrush
  6. A soft, lint-free cloth

The Cleaning Process

Line the pan or dish with aluminum foil, making sure that the entire bottom is covered. Also, make sure the sides of the pan or dish are lined if any part of the silver piece is touching them.

Pour enough hot (not boiling) water in the pan to cover the dirty silver. Add the baking soda and salt by sprinkling them evenly across the pan or dish. If you would like to, you can swirl the water around a little bit to mix the baking soda and salt, but it isn’t really necessary.

The chemical reaction will occur regardless of swirling the water. Let the silver stand in the water for five to 10 minutes, and then turn it over.

After it has completed the soak, remove the silver piece from the pan or dish and rub gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove any bits of tarnish, dirt or grimy rings that have not come off.

Rinse under cool water and dry thoroughly with the soft, lint-free cloth.

Adjusting the Strength

Note that the amount of baking soda and salt you add to the dish or pan depends on the size and number of dirty silver pieces that need to be cleaned.

For example, if you are cleaning only one tiny, silver spoon that you picked up on a weekend wine tour in Napa, you can use approximately 1/4 cup of baking soda and a tablespoon of salt.

Start out with smaller amounts of baking soda and salt when you are cleaning silver with aluminum foil. You can always add more if the piece isn’t coming clean.

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