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Monday, May 23, 2011

A Lazy Lady Polishes Her Silver

You may already know that I've got a
boatload of old silverplated flatware.  

I love the stuff.

I hate to polish it.

With our daughter's wedding coming up in fewer than 5 weeks,
I want even my mismatched old silverware in its best bib and tucker for the occasion.

Leave me out in the air, and I wrinkle.
Leave silver out in the air, and it tarnishes.
It just happens, y'know?

But at least for the silver, there are remedies.

Below, The Lazy Lady's Silver Polishing treatment has begun for some pieces,
while their tarnished relatives wait patiently alongside the hot tub.
Welcome to The Lazy Lady's Silver Polishing Club.

All you need to join are some bits of silver.
Line them up like meek little lambs in a disposable aluminum pan.
(You can also line a non-reactive pan with aluminum foil.  I find the pan is easier.  I'm all about easy.)
Membership in this Club is free, or pretty darned close to it,
because the only thing you need to buy is a big box of this stuff, which is cheap:

Generously sprinkle baking soda over your waiting victims flatware.
And put the kettle on to boil.
It's not tea time.  Pour the boiling water over the baking-soda-covered flatware.

It will bubble up most gratifyingly, then settle down.
Walk away, put your feet up, have a cuppa, come back in a little while when it's not blistering hot.

Fish the flatware out of the aluminum pan, and rinse it in the sink.
Take an old, soft towel, and dry each piece, giving a quick light buffing to really bring out the shine.
And you are done.
Your old tarnished flatware can join its gleaming relatives,
where they will all admire one another's brilliance.
I didn't invent this method; it's been around for a long time. Even Martha Stewart has instructions for it on her web site.  It's a chemical reaction; the baking soda in water transfers the tarnish from the silver to the aluminum.

When you pour the boiling water over, you will smell tarnish -- you know that unpleasant metallic smell that settles in your nostrils?  And when the polishing is over, the pan or foil you used will be dark with tarnish, so you won't want to use that disposable pan for a batch of brownies to take to the church coffee hour.  Ick.  Save it for silver polishing!

Silver is hard to photograph.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Anyway, some pieces look dark; they are not.
One warning:  If you have valuable antique pieces, or other pieces that are purposefully antiqued, or you are particularly fond of a darkened patina on some of your silver, don't use this method.  It really polishes and cleans too well for that; you may lose those darkened areas, the ones that highlight any raised areas.  I haven't explained that very well, but you know what I mean!

Next project:  A furniture arrangement for our parlor;
we can't come up with a decent one.  It's just not working!   -- Cass


  1. I should really try this. I rarely use my silver even though it is the cheap stuff and my mom used it everyday.
    I think my main reason is that I would have a hard time keeping it out of the dishwasher. I would have to be on guard 24-7 around here.

  2. This suits my lazy self just fine! I LIKE IT!

  3. I have used this method to clean silver and it works great! Excellent post, Cass.

  4. Sisters separated at birth, we are! I use this method, and I love it. Better living through chemistry, as they say.

    I also have the same cream colored crock with the blue and pink stripe.


  5. You know, I keep over the years reading about this ... today is the day! I am going to try it. Your silver is GORGEOUS!!!

    Have a lovely week ~
    TTFN ~

  6. Looks like it works. Richard at My Old Historic House

  7. Hi Cass! Now you tell me as I've rubbed off my tiny fingers! I'm going to do this the next time I need to clean my silver.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  8. I must of been under a rock...I never saw this before...duh! I have tons of silver, looks like u you can use this method on the stainless knife blades too! THANKS!!

  9. I have heard of this method but never thought of using a foil pan. So much easier than lining a dish with aluminum foil. Your silver looks beautiful! Pamela

  10. I'd never thought of using a disposable pan - thank you! I've employed this method but then had to scrub out the sink afterwards, which put me off. I'll definitely try this.

  11. Wow! That definitely cleans it well. I'll have to remember this.

  12. I have been avoiding silver for what feels like a century for the very reason that it needs polishing. Thanks for sharing this amazing method for polishing, even I can manage this. I think it may be time to hit some estate sales or thrift stores and look for some silver treasures.

  13. Cass, I do that, too when I want to polish a lot of silver in a hurry -- but I never thought of those disposable alumnium pans!!! How clever -- BUT . . . I find this method causes the silver to tarnish faster -- but it's so easy -- basically, you just dry it that it really doesn't matter does it?

  14. Thanks for this tip. Is it really such a bad thing to clean out the dark areas in a design? Maybe I should experiment. As well as a ton of family silver, I have a $10 box full from an auction that is lovely stuff! Nancy H

  15. Neato.... it's all about knowing your chemistry I guess.


  16. I did this years ago, then forgot it. Thanks for the reminder and I love your gorgeous silver. Hugs, Marty

  17. Cass,

    You had me giggling like a school girl. lol
    You are just too cute.
    I also use the same method to clean silver.


  18. Thanks for this wonderful tip, Cass. I hate polishing silver, I get tired just thinking about it. Putting my feet up while the work is getting done is my kind of job!


  19. Oh wow! Thanks for the tip, Cass!...Christine

  20. A great tip!

    Thanks for sharing!


  21. I had forgotten about this method. Now if I could only find a aluminum bucket big enough to do my tea service in I would be a happy camper!...hmmm...maybe lining a sink with aluminum foil? GOLLLEEE! Or...maybe I could send it to you AFTER the wedding, of course, and you could do it for me? just a thought~ xxooDiana

  22. I have used this method too. Just FYI, for really heavy tarnish, it must be done more than once. Also, again, just fyi, most commercial silver polishes you can buy, REMOVE some of the SILVER!! This method only removes the tarnish!

  23. Cass, you have some beautiful pieces. I've never tried this method, but will. Thanks for the suggestion. Can you use the same aluminum pan over and over or do you need a clean one with each new batch?
    ~ Sarah

    1. Use the same pan, over and over again.
      Mine are black with tarnish by now!
      No one would ever mistakenly make lasagna in one of them, that's for sure.

  24. Great reminder, thanks! I too love silver but dislike the polishing!!

  25. I remember hubby's gramma doing something like this. I believe she had a big aluminum disk she put in the bottom of a big rubber dish and then did the baking soda and water. Weird what works, isn't it? xo Diana

  26. Oh wow! I just ran across this in an August, 1954, Farm least very similar. "Line enamel pan with aluminum foil. Add 1 tsp soda to each quart water, bring to boil. Immerse silver so it touches foil."


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