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How to clean silver and restore its shine

Tarnished silver spoons
Tarnished silver spoons (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Whether it’s silver jewelry, tableware or your valuable coin collection, you’ll need to know how to clean silver to restore its shine. Over time, silver will naturally tarnish or start looking dull. However, knowing how to clean silver can help bring its shine back without damaging it. 

Tarnish (when silver discolors) is essentially a chemical reaction caused by exposure to air or moisture. Similar to knowing how to clean stainless steel without damaging it, removing tarnish from a soft metal can be tricky. This is because cleaning metal items too harshly can remove some silver or damage their thin plating.

Also, if you have diamond rings, check out how to clean a diamond ring or how to clean jewelry if you want to bring the sparkle back. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of natural DIY solutions for cleaning silver that are less abrasive or toxic than commercial polishers. Best of all, you’re likely to find these common ingredients at home, saving you time and money. Find out how to clean silver to restore its shine with these quick and easy steps. 

How to clean silver with baking soda and water 

Baking soda and water in glass

Baking soda and water in glass (Image credit: Shutterstock)

 — First, mix three parts baking soda to one part water to create a paste. 

— Next, gently rub the mixture onto the silver with a soft, lint-free or microfiber cloth. Ensure to work the paste into the crevices or awkward spots, turning the cloth over as you go. For smaller items like rings, use an old toothbrush to clean with.

— Then, rinse the silver thoroughly and buff dry with a microfiber cloth. 

How to clean silver with aluminum foil and baking soda

Aluminum foil and baking soda to clean silver

Aluminum foil and baking soda to clean silver (Image credit: Shutterstock)

 — First take a large bowl to fit all of your tarnished silver. Line the bowl with aluminum foil

— Next, carefully fill the bowl by two thirds with hot water and baking soda, using one tablespoon of baking soda per one cup of water.

— Then add the silver to the bowl, letting it soak in the solution for up to 10 minutes. This will allow the chemical reaction to break down the tarnish.

— Finally, remove the silver from the solution before drying with a soft cloth. 

How to clean silver with dish soap and water

Silver cutlery in soapy water

Silver cutlery in soapy water (Image credit: Shutterstock)

— First, fill a bowl with warm water and a few drops of dish soap. Then place your tarnished silver in the bowl and allow to soak for about 15 minutes. 

— Next, rub the silver gently with a soft cloth to clean, before rinsing thoroughly with clean water.

— Finally, dry and buff with a soft cloth or microfiber towel.

How to clean silver with white distilled vinegar and baking soda 

Baking soda and vinegar bottle

Baking soda and vinegar bottle (Image credit: Shutterstock)

— Similar to the baking soda and water method, mix half a cup of white vinegar with two tablespoons of baking soda in a bowl of lukewarm water.

— Next, soak your silver in the bowl and leave for around two to three hours for the chemical reaction to get to work.

— Once this has lifted any tarnish, rinse thoroughly with cold water before drying with a soft cloth.

How to clean silver with toothpaste

Toothpaste and brush to clean silver

Toothpaste and brush to clean silver (Image credit: Shutterstock)

— First, use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to a microfiber cloth or old toothbrush.

— Then, rub the toothpaste onto the silver in circular motions to polish and clean any tarnish.

— Leave on for around 5 minutes before rinsing the toothpaste off thoroughly with warm water and then dry. 

Choose a plain toothpaste that contains no tartar control, whitening agents or any ‘extras’ which may be too abrasive for silver and will scratch.  

How to clean silver with lemon juice and bath salt

Squeezing a lemon into bowl

Squeezing a lemon into bowl (Image credit: Shutterstock)

— Simply squeeze one lemon into a bowl and add four tablespoons of bath salts and add hot water.

— Next, place your silver in the solution and leave to soak for up to 5 minutes.

— Then take the silver out to rub off the tarnish with a soft cloth before rinsing completely and drying

How to clean silver with hand sanitizer 

Hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer  (Image credit: Shutterstock)

— First, squeeze a few drops of hand sanitizer on a soft lint-free cloth, and gently rub away the tarnish on your silver items.

— Then, rinse with warm water before drying with a clean cloth.  

While alcohol-based sanitizers are good for removing tarnish on silver, don’t use this on jewelry with encrusted mineral stones. The harsh ingredients might damage the stone, which could be costly.

How often should I clean silver?

Polishing silverware

Polishing silverware (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Generally, this will depend on how badly tarnished your silver gets. But it’s recommended to polish silver 2-6 times a year to keep it in pristine condition. Alongside DIY cleaning methods, you could always invest in a good silver polisher. We can recommend Weiman Silver Polish and Cleaner ($7, Amazon) to restore its luster. 

For more top tips on making things shine again, you may also want to read how to clean jewelry and how to clean stainless steel without damaging it.

Cynthia Lawrence specialises in Homes ecommerce, covering all things homes and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 


Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.


With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!