Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Put A Shine On It

I only use the "good" silverware a couple of times a year. We have a motley collection of patterns--most were obtained from my mom, but other pieces came from Tony's mom and random relatives that gifted pieces to us. As our family has grown, there are more people at our formal dinners. This Christmas I had plenty of forks and spoon, but not enough knives. I've been checking thrift shops for a few more, but I haven't had any luck finding them.

When I was looking for something else on a shelf in the basement, I found a coffee can full of cutlery. I have no idea when or how they got there, but upon closer review, I discovered all the pieces were silver! They were completely black with tarnish, but I knew that could be fixed. Today I brought a handful of knives upstairs, researched ways to easily clean tarnished silver, then did the actual job.

The picture on the left is the knives when I started. Some of them had beautiful details on the handles that were obscured by the heavy layer of tarnish. I knew I could take an entire afternoon sitting at the kitchen table using elbow grease, a bottle of silver polish, and rags to shine them, but I was looking for a lazy way to do it. I found a How To Clean Anything book on my bookshelf. It had several ideas, but I decided to try the "aluminum foil, baking soda, and salt" method. According to the book, a chemical reaction between the baking soda and foil would remove the tarnish from the silver.

The method:
Cover the bottom of a pan with a sheet of aluminum foil, add enough water to cover the knives (about 3 inches), 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring the water to a boil, add the silver, and boil it for three minutes.
When the time was up, I removed the knives one at time and buffed them with a soft cloth. A LOT of the tarnish came off, but not enough. I used baking soda and water to rub off the rest of the tarnish. It must have been loosened by the first process, because it came off quite easily. Here's a picture of my shiny knives right before I put them away in the chest in the dining room. Since I usually polish all the silverware before I use it, I'll remove the last of the offending tarnish then.


  1. Wow! They look great! What a difference!

  2. I used to have to polish silverwear everyday when I was a waitress. They used a vinegar solution and my hands would get all pruny and strange and I would smell of vinegar all the time.

    Very pretty though!

  3. My MIL gave us a gorgeous set of silver cutlery when we married almost 22 years ago. I've never used it. In fact, I don't think the box has been opened in all that time. I'll bet the silverware is completely black!