Non-Toxic Way to Polish Your Silverware

non-toxic way to polish silver by ecokaren
When I got married, my grandmother gave us a set of ‘his’ and ‘hers’ silver spoons and chopsticks. They came in a beautiful blue velvet case. I didn’t use them for over twenty years because, frankly, I was too lazy to clean them. But more than that, I hated the toxic silver polish that I had to use to clean them. I couldn’t fathom putting the spoon in my mouth after polishing them with toxic silver cleaners however many times I was supposed to rinse them afterwards.

cleaned silverware ecokaren

But now, I found a way to polish them naturally using a few household items.

You’ll need:

  1. 1/4 C of Washing Soda – NOT baking soda
  2. 2 Tbsp of salt
  3. 1 sheet of aluminum foil to fit a large pan
  4. 1 large pan with cover
  5. 1 Qt of boiling water

So how does this work? Here is your Chemistry lesson of the day. This is when I sound smart but I’m just borrowing it from Wiki.

The elevated pH (from the Washing Soda) dissolves the aluminum oxide layer on the foil and enables an electrolytic cell to be established. Hydrogen ions produced by this reaction reduce the sulphide ions on the silver restoring silver metal. The sulphide can be released as small amounts of hydrogen sulphide. ~Wikipedia

Did you get that? Thought so.

Caution: Make sure the room is well ventilated room. You’ll smell sulfur smell – kinda like hard boiled egg smell except more foul.

1. Wash your silver in mild, soapy water to remove any dirt.
2. Place a sheet of aluminum foil at the bottom of a large pot, and put the silver pieces on top of it. Or use an old aluminum baking pan.
3. In a separate pot, mix a quart of boiling water with 1/4 cup Washing Soda (NOT baking soda but soda ash) and 2 tablespoons salt. Double or triple the recipe to cover larger pieces.
4. Pour the solution into the pot with the silver, cover, and leave for five minutes. (Remember, this creates a sulfur smell, so you may want to open a window.)

cleanng silver ecokaren

5. Remove the silver from the pot, rinse, and then dry it with a soft cotton towel.
6. If you still have stubborn spots, apply plant-derived silver polish (like the ones from with a damp cotton flannel cloth, or for ornate designs, a cuticle stick wrapped in cotton (or Q-tips).

When you pour the boiling solution over the silverware, you can actually see the tarnish disappearing before your eyes and you can smell that rotten egg sulfur smell. So quickly cover the pot and let the chemical reaction take place. Take the silverware out in a few minutes.

WORD OF CAUTION: Make sure the room is well ventilated and watch carefully since salt can take away the silver finish if you leave it too long.

So from this…
dirty silver ecokaren

I got this…Look at my grandma’s silverware now. Thanks Grandma. Now, I can use them and think of you more often!

cleaned silver ecokaren


  1. chelseaboots says

    I have been doing it this way for years and it saves so much time. It made me appreciate the items that I have inherited since I don’t have to take so much time and effort to polish now. I have never tried salt with it and it still works. The key is making sure the water is hot enough. I didn’t have the water hot enough one time and it took a lot longer for the tarnish to disappear.

  2. says

    Maura, when I polished the spoon and chopsticks that are pictured here, it was instantaneous. As soon as the solution touched the silver, it sparkled. So you may not need to “soak” them for five minutes. Make the solution and see if you can wipe the plant stand with a cloth dipped in the solution. Make sure to wear a mask and clean in a well ventilated room. It will stink.

    Amy, this was so easy to do and less toxic for sure.

    • says

      Ah good to know! Ok will give that a try and let you know how it goes. Heavy storm supposed to coming this way so could be a few days before I tackle the job outside – if I am organised (lol) I’ll try before and after pics.

  3. Amy says

    Taking note of this for my silver! I don’t have much, but it’s nice to have a safer way to clean it!

  4. says

    This is so timely- I just spent hours yesterday cleaning a not too big but very ornate old plant stand with regular metal cleaner/polish. And yes it is vile stuff! Don’t have a pot or tub big enough to try this on the stand (though I will be on the lookout now for any old tin baths that might be on offer through freecycle) but will try this out for some smaller ornaments.

    Thanks for the tip and how too!

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