How to clean silver at home using baking soda, Coke, toothpaste and other methods

Discover how to clean silver and restore your tarnished items to their former glory using baking soda, coke, toothpaste and more brilliant methods

how to clean silverware
(Image credit: Getty)

Want to know how to clean silver to make the most of your special items? From silver jewellery to silver plates, cutlery (that you save for best) and you may even have a vintage tea service too... Cleaning silver to lift tarnish and dullness is a job that we tend to put off, purely because it's messy and awkward with creams and other commercial cleaners. However, we're here to tell you that you can take care of your silver at home using baking soda, Coke, toothpaste and more interesting homemade methods for quick, easy and effective cleaning.

So, while cleaning the silverware may seem like a task reserved to the cast of Downton Abbey, think again...

What is the best home remedy to clean silver?

When cleaning silver, you need to be careful that the method you choose to remove the tarnish, doesn't leave you with a piece that looks flat and dull.  We swear by home remedies and natural methods: baking soda, vinegar and the likes, so simply take your pick and always start on just a small section if you're being cautious. 

Sometimes a little dark tarnish can actually help to define a delicate pattern. So be gentle and stop occasionally to see how the metal is faring under your ministrations.

And, if you are concerned about damaging a valuable piece when cleaning it, you can check with an expert, such as a jeweler or antique dealer, as to whether you should go ahead and what method you should use.

Silver: sterling, real, gilt or plate?

Not all silver is the same or has the same amount of the precious metal. Sterling silver is 92.5 per cent silver with 7.5 per cent other metals. Real silver will usually have a hallmark (or sterling mark). Silver gilt is silver that has been gilded with gold to give it a golden hue. Silver plate is where a thin layer of silver is bonded – through a process known as electroplating – to another base metal, such as copper or brass. Silver plate can be prone to the silver flaking off or turning green.

1. How to clean silver with baking soda

Use this clever, and eco-friendly hack for astonishing results. All you'll need is baking soda. Then, get a plastic container or bin big enough to hold the tarnished silver items, and line it with aluminum foil shiny side up. Next, boil enough water to cover all the items you’re cleaning once they’re in the bowl. Pour the water into the container, and add two tablespoons of baking soda per a litre of water/ 1 cup per gallon. Place the silver items in the container – we tried this with a silver plate and placed it upside down first. Leave for a few minutes while the tarnish lifts, then flip it over if using a plate/take the items out using kitchen tongs because of the hot water. When the item of silverware is cool enough to handle, rub off any remaining tarnish using a Scotch Bright scrubber or a soft polishing cloth. 

Top tip: You can repeat the process if there’s any tarnish still remaining.

2. How to clean silver with coke

This will work best for smaller items. Simply pour the coke into a bowl and submerge your silver into it. The acid in the coke will quickly remove the tarnish. Keep an eye on it – just a few minutes should be enough. Rinse with warm water and dry carefully with a soft cloth.

3. How to clean silver with toothpaste

Not only good for polishing your pearly whites, a non-gel, non abrasive toothpaste can also restore the lustre to your silverware. Squeeze some on to a soft cloth. Rub into the silver. Leave for five minutes then rinse off with water. Dry with a clean cloth.

4. How to clean silver with tomato sauce

Get your trusty bottle of ketchup and squirt a generous amount into a bowl. Submerge the item. Take it out after a few minutes (the acid in the vinegar and tomatoes could harm it if it’s left in too long), then use a small brush to work the sauce around. Rinse with warm water and dry.

5. How to clean silver cutlery with vinegar and baking soda

What is the best homemade silver cleaner?

As you'll see below, we recommend the baking soda/bicarbonate of soda and water combination as the best homemade silver cleaner. It's gentle but effective, eco-friendly and affordable!

The baking soda in a foil-lined plastic container works well for cleaning silver cutlery. If the tarnish is particularly marked, add a sprinkle (a tablespoon to half a litre of water will do) of salt to the bicarbonate of soda/water mix. If this isn't strong enough to remove the tarnish after a few minutes, add a half cup of white vinegar. Leave for three minutes – five at the most, then remove the silver and rinse in warm, soapy water, before drying with a clean, soft cloth.

6. How to clean silver jewelry naturally

If you've bought a heavily tarnished piece of silver jewellery – whether a necklace, bracelet or earrings, you can use the warm water/baking soda combination to clean them. If there are no precious stones, you can add some white vinegar to the mix to speed things up. Don't worry about the fizzing noise the mix makes – this will help remove the tarnish effectively. Keep an eye on the pieces you're leaving to soak – it could take minutes to clean them properly or some hours. Once clean, remove them, rinse under clean water then dry carefully. 

7. How to clean a silver teapot

Use the same technique as we have talked about above. If you're worried about leaving a silver teapot to soak for longer than the prescribed three minutes, remove it from the water carefully and buff at the tarnish with your soft cloth. What's not immediately removed by the bicarbonate/water mix can be with the help of a gentle rub.

tiramisu in silverware

(Image credit: Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash)

How does silver tarnish?

Tarnish is the black color you'll find that builds up on your silverware over time. It's caused by a chemical reaction between the silver and another nonmetal compound, like oxygen and sulfur dioxide. 

Jewelry is usually the first to go as the metal touching different areas of the body that are prone to sweat, makeup, oils and more, kickstarts these reactions more regularly.

How to stop silver tarnishing

The reason why silver tarnishes in the first place is usually down to it not being stored correctly. Look to wrap cutlery, plates and other silverware in tissue paper (acid free), specialist silver cloth or muslin clothes and stow away in a drawer or chest with the door shut. 

It's a good idea to wrap jewelry in the same way but to then seal it in a ziplock bag so as to limit the flow of oxygen. 

What is the best product to clean silver with?

If a commercial cream cleaner seems like the most straightforward method for you, then be prepared to use a little elbow grease too. Try something like Goddard’s which can be used on sterling silver or silver plate. Silvo silver polish wadding has a rough, fibrous quality so is abrasive enough to clean but won’t scratch.

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Alison Jones
Alison Jones

Alison is Assistant Editor on Real Homes magazine. She previously worked on national newspapers, in later years as a film critic and has also written on property, fashion and lifestyle. Having recently purchased a Victorian property in severe need of some updating, much of her time is spent solving the usual issues renovators encounter.