How To Clean and Polish Silver

How To Clean and Polish Silver

Erika Tracy
Mar 8, 2015
(Image credit: Erika Tracy)

When company's coming or Derby season is around the corner, it's time to start thinking about polishing the silver.

It never hurts to have an arsenal of tried-and- true polish products handy, but if your chest of flatware or julep cups are looking less than occasion-ready, this kitchen remedy made of simple ingredients can save you a lot of time and a big mess.

(Image credit: Erika Tracy)

How It Works

This simple setup isn't too far from an elementary-school science project. Using a glass baking dish lined with aluminum foil (shiny side up) or an aluminum baking dish, create a soak area for your silver.

Combine the baking soda, salt, vinegar and boiling water and pour over silver into dish. The simple but showy chemical reaction should begin to remove the tarnish immediately. Heavily-tarnished pieces may need to soak a little longer.

Utensils should come out quite fine with a good buffing with a dry cloth.

→ If you want to get real nerdy, read this explanation of the science behind this process from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

(Image credit: Erika Tracy)

How to get a great shine after cleaning

After you've cleaned your silver and removed all the tarnish, you'll want to give it a good shine! Most of my fine Southern friends keep a jar of Wright's Silver Cream tucked in the pantry. It's their Old Reliable and gets the job done without too much elbow grease. The gorgeous shine on that julep cup needed a little extra help from Wright's Silver Cream, even after a longer soak, but it was worth the mess to see it gleam.

An Iowan friend of mine, regular to the task of silver polishing and whom I trust completely in this matter, rated Happich Simichrome as offering the best shine but cautioned that it can be quite abrasive and may be reserved for heavy tarnish or salt stains. He also suggested Hagerty Silversmith's Spray Polish for hollowware (bowls, pitchers, teapots and trays) because "it does a nice job of keeping the tarnish in the design of pieces [where it should be]."

Do you have a trusted polish how-to or a favorite product? Or maybe you're lucky enough to have a friend that finds happiness in removing tarnish for fun. When all else fails, why not make polishing the occasion? Invite a few friends over and start with the julep cups, then use them!

Silver Polishing Products You Can Buy

How To Clean and Polish Silver

What You Need

1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 cup white vinegar

Aluminum foil
Glass dish or aluminum baking pan
Rag for polishing


  1. Combine baking soda and sea salt: Combine one tablespoon of baking soda and one tablespoon of sea salt.
  2. Prepare your dish or pan: Line a glass baking dish with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Place silver in a single layer so that each piece is touching foil. Pour in the baking soda and sea salt mixture.
  3. Add white vinegar and boiling water: Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar and one cup of boiling water. The chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar will begin to remove tarnish. Heavily tarnished pieces will need a longer soak.
  4. Dry and buff: Dry the piece thoroughly, then buff with a clean cloth.
  5. Touch-up with silver cream: A silver polish cream can address small crevices and offer a shining finish. See above notes for which silver cream to use!

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