Many brides choose to wear silver at their weddings - especially for winter weddings as silver goes so well with winter white. However, silver tarnishes naturally as it is exposed to sulfur or hydrogen sulfide in the air. This silver reacts with the sulfur and a dark coating of silver sulfide forms, which can dull the look of bridal jewelry.
The attractive shine of silver can be restored in one of two ways:
- The silver sulfide coating can be removed with an abrasive chemical polish. Or the silver can be dipped into a polishing liquid that dissolves the silver sulfide. In both cases, some silver is removed along with the silver sulfide.
- Alternatively, the natural chemical reaction that caused the silver to darken can be reversed. In this case the silver sulfide is converted back into silver and all the silver remains intact. This can be done safely at home with baking soda, water, and aluminum foil.
How Baking Soda Removes Silver Tarnish
Just as silver can react to form a compound with sulfur, so can aluminum. Using aluminum foil to clean silver transfers sulfur atoms from the silver to the aluminum, reversing the silver’s tarnish and restoring its sheen. A safe and natural solution of warm water and baking soda is used for this transfer.
Using Baking Soda And Aluminum To Safely Polish Silver
To begin, line a glass baking pan with aluminum foil and put it in the kitchen sink to avoid spills and to help prevent burns. Line the pan with the flatware, jewelry, coins, or other silver that you wish to polish, ensuring that each piece of silver is physically in contact with the aluminum.
Next, cover the silver completely with baking soda and water. For small pans, add four cups of boiling water followed by roughly a quarter cup of baking soda. You can double or triple the recipe, as needed. Once the mixture is added to the pan it will begin to foam, which is normal and safe.
The tarnish will rapidly begin to disappear, and you may see the resulting aluminum sulfide stick to the aluminum foil or form yellow flakes at the bottom of the pan. Lightly tarnished silver will be restored in several minutes; heavily tarnished silver may require several treatments. Once the silver is clean, remove it from the pan, rinse it with clean water, and dry with a soft cloth.
Silver tarnishes naturally with exposure to air, but you can slow the process and keep its sheen longer by storing silver in air-tight bags or boxes.
Discarding the used baking soda and aluminum
The used baking soda solution can be safely poured down the drain, letting it cool if it is too hot to touch. The used tin foil may be put into the recycle bin if your recycling facility accepts it, or discarded with the regular household trash.
This cleaning method is suitable for silver items, but may not be appropriate for silver jewelry or keepsakes that contain other types of metals, stones, gems, resins or glues.