Silver Dip Polish

Do You Need Silver Dip Polish?

Homemade Silver Polish

Is your silver tarnished? Do you dread using it because it is so difficult to get it clean and sparkling? Do you wish you had a butler to take care of it so you didn’t have to? Do you loathe having yet another cleaning compound in the house that has only 1 use? Stick with me and I’ll show you how to polish your silver with common kitchen items, and little to no elbow grease. We’ll make Silver Dip Polish (Homemade silver polish)

What is silver Tarnish?

Before we make the silver dip polish (homemade silver polish), a little background. The tarnish on silver is the compound silver sulfide Ag2S, if it forms at a temperature of less than 173°C it has a specific physical structure and is known as Acanthite. If it forms above 176°C it takes on a different physical structure and is known as Argentite, if the crystal is cooled below 173°C it will deform into the Acanthite crystalline structure. There is second crystalline structure of Argentite that is found above 586°C. Acanthite is the only form that you or I will ever see close up as the other forms are not stable at “normal” temperatures.

Remove Silver Tarnish, the Hard Way

So now that you know what it is, how do you get rid of it? There are any number of silver polishes out there that you can rub onto your silver item with a soft cloth or sponge and remove the tarnish with. Here are several examples that have been rated 4 stars or better by other users:

Silver Dip Polish Silver Polish Silver dip

Remove Silver Tarnish, the Easy Way

Our setup to make silver dip polish (homemade silver polish) is simple, easy and best of all, inexpensive. It uses common household items and is “Green”, otherwise known as environmentally friendly. Any reasonably stocked kitchen will have everything…

Silver Dip Polish Ingredients
Homemade silver polish

Aluminum foil
Baking Soda: Sodium Bicarbonate;
(NaHCO3)
-OR-
Washing Soda: Sodium Carbonate;
(Na2CO3)
Hot water

Silver dip polish equipment
(Homemade Silver Polish)

Glass, Plastic or foil container big enough
to fill with water covering the silver item
you want to clean
Maybe some tongs
Pan to heat water in

Place the foil in the bottom of the container. You will place the item to be cleaned on the foil. NOTE: you can use an aluminum foil pan like I’ve shown above and forgo the foil. Dissolve the soda in the hot water, pour it into the container, covering the foil NOTE: it doesn’t matter what type you use, some people add table salt to the solution too. What you are creating is an electrolyte (an electrically conductive solutions) you could use only salt too. (Perhaps an experiment?) The quantity is NOT critical.  Try somewhere between 1 and 3 tablespoons per quart of liquid.  At 20C the solubility limit is 90 grams per liter.  At 100C it is 236grams.  More than these amounts is wasted as it won’t go into solution. It will be sitting on the bottom of the container doing nothing…
Place the item you want to remove the tarnish from into the container on top of the foil. It is important that the silver and aluminum contact each other. The reaction that converts the Silver tarnish (silver sulfide) back into silver requires that the two metals exchange electrons. As they exchange electrons, the sulfur is moved from the silver to the aluminum. This is done in the ionic electrolyte solution and is known as a single replacement reaction.

Depending on how thick the layer of tarnish is and how hot your solution, the tarnish can be removed nearly instantaneously. I’ll create and post a video for you to watch.

Once the tarnish is removed remove the item from the bath, rinse in cool fresh water and dry with a soft, lint free cloth.

What’s happening with the Silver dip?

You re witnessing a simple “Oxidation-Reduction” or “Red-Ox” (pronounced REE – Dox) reaction. One component is being reduced simultaneously while another is being oxidized. here is the overall chemical reaction and the “half” reactions: :
(s) means solid
(aq) means aqueous or “in solution”

3Ag_{2}S + 2Al(s)\hspace{8 pt} \underrightarrow{NaHCO_{3}(aq)}\hspace{8pt} 6Ag(s) + Al_{2}S_{3}

Silver is Reduced (gains electrons):
Ag^{+} + 1e^{-} \rightarrow Ag^{0}(s)

Aluminum is Oxidized (loses electrons):
Al^{0}(s) \rightarrow Al^{3-} + 3e^{-}
The arrow indicates that the reaction moves from left to right and the chemical above the arrow is our electrolyte. (Baking Soda)

Preventing Silver Tarnish

A question I’m often asked is “Is there a way to prevent silver tarnish in the first place?” and the answer is an absolute Yes. It requires some work and vigilance. All you need to do is prevent any sulfur from contacting the silver pieces. That can be done in a number of ways. Seal the silver pieces in an airtight container and remove all of the air from the container. You could use one of those food saver devices.

Probably an easier thing to do is to store them in a specially crafted silver storage box. We have a box that we were given as a wedding present. It was lined with a cloth that contains a compound that reacts preferentially with any sulfur compounds that get inside the box. That will wear out eventually as all of the active ingredient combines with the sulfur in the air. When that happens you can either by new cloths or these strips. These strips have the advantage of they can be used inside of larger cabinets. So, for example you want to display a silver coffee service that includes a tray and decanter, you simply lay one or two of these strips on the same shelf with your silver pieces.

These protective strips should be kept in a sealed bag if not being used to protect your silver. They will last longer in a closed environment than when in an open area. Some people report up to a year or more of useful life when sealed.

Please let me know in the comments below when you’ve made your own Silver Dip Polish and how it worked.

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11 comments… add one
  • Elaine Monroy

    Oh my god, I couldn’t believe my eyes. This 75 year old silver plate flatware looks so much better. My only suggestion would be to give some sort of measurements for the baking soda and to warn folks that adding baking soda to boiling water causes it to foam up and overflow. The good news is that it cleans the stove really well when you wipe it up. Thanks so much,this was so easy compared to my normal routine.

    • Dan

      Glad it worked. I had one super tarnished small decorative box (completely black) that it wouldn’t work on. Most likely due to my impatience. I believe that if I’d been willing to wait hours (days?) it would have eventually worked.

  • Richard Dubey

    You need to use WASHING soda, not baking soda..

    • Dan

      Thanks for the comment, washing soda is not necessary. All you’re trying to do is to create an electrolyte. Anything that allows the solution to conduct electricity and not attack the metal (i.e. no strong acids) would be acceptable.

  • A great article indeed – thanks!
    Happy recently posted..11 Wonderful and Easy Tricks to Clean Silver at HomeMy Profile

  • How much baking soda do you use? It does not disclose the amount

  • How much soda do you use?

  • Chris

    My silver is precious to me so I am afraid to try this with out some kind of guide line,if only approximate, of measurements soda to water.

  • Cat

    Amazing! It worked instantaneously…. We just boiled water and eyeballed the baking soda just enough so it bubbles up and then poured over a glass pan with foil. Roughly, around 3 cups of water and 3-4 tablespoon of baking soda.

  • Artemis

    Have you posted a video yet? Have tried this but it didn’t really work for me. I live at 6000ft. This may sound ridiculous but altitude does alter things, like requiring less flour to make a cake, or lower temperature etc. Should the water be hot rather than cool? I react better when I can see things being done, rather than hearing or reading about them. Grateful you let me know.

  • Nikki Thomas

    I put 6 tablespoons in two quarts and poured it over my tarnished jewelry which I’d set on aluminum foil in the bottom of a glass casserole. I could see it was working (and smell it) instantly. AMAZING. This was so much faster and less gross than silver polish.

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