Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Harnessing The Mighty Power of the Electron - The Easiest Way to Polish Sterling Silver

I love sterling silver jewelry, but hate how it oxidizes. Most of my sterling silver I keep in air tight storage so that they go decades without tarnishing. But, I happen to have a favorite plumeria flower ring from Hawaii that is sterling silver. This ring never leaves my finger which means after a couple of months it looks more like pewter than it does silver.

I have used traditional silver polishes on it for years, but with all it's crevasses and grooves it takes forever to polish it all (and I go through A LOT of Q-tips doing it). About a year ago I discovered a great method for cleaning sterling silver anything - it is the fastest and easiest that I've found.

Here's what ya do:

Gather the items that you want to de-tarnish. Do a surface cleaning on them - for me that means using a toothpick to get all the lotion gunk out of the crevasses of my ring.

Line an appropriately sized pan with aluminum foil - shiny side up. For me and my little ring, a small bowl will do. If you're polishing silver flatware you will want to use a 9x13 pan.

Bring to boil enough water to submerge your silver objects. For my ring it only takes about a cup. I do this in the microwave because it's faster than the stove top, during the summer it doesn't heat up my kitchen and it gives the inside of my microwave a nice little steam bath which loosens up all the crud and I can take 30 seconds to wipe it out when I'm done.

While the water is coming to a boil, pour table salt onto the aluminum foil. I don't have an exact amount for you - Just make a thin layer of salt along the entire bottom of the dish that you're using.

Place all of your silver into the dish. Once the water is boiling, pour it over the silver. Allow to sit for 20 minutes.

It has been too many years since my last in-organic chemistry class to tell you the science behind this method. But, I know it has something to do with ions moving stuff around. Basically, electrons do all the dirty work while you sit back and relax (hah!).

After 20 minutes, check on your silver. You will notice a dark ring on the aluminum foil - that's all the "tarnish" molecules that have been magically removed from your silver and deposited onto the foil.

If your silver is heavily tarnished it may take several soakings before your silver is looking like new. But, the great part is that it requires very little work for you. If your silver still is tarnished after 1 soaking, discard the water and foil and start all over again. It takes just a couple of minutes to set it all up. It sure beats polishing it all by hand. Especially if you have lots of tarnished silver - this method takes the same amount of time no matter how much you have.

Here's a shot of my ring before (sorry the picture is blurry - I'm no photographer and my camera is pretty pathetic too)

And here's an after shot:

The difference is pretty subtle in the pictures, but in real life it is more pronounced - my ring looks almost new.

If you take time to do some research I'm sure that you can find out the actual science behind all this and it would be a great lesson for the kiddos and show some science in action.

Get other great tips and tricks over at We are THAT Family's Works for Me Wednesdays


Vanessa said...

I get good results quickly by using an old toothbrush and arm-n-hammer toothpaste (which I use on my teeth too).
Just brush like you would your teeth. The baking soda polishes and the bristles get all the little crevases well. I bet the combo would really make that ring look new!

The Prudent Homemaker said...

I had seen the liquid silver polish but I never tried it; it was so much more than the paste.

I have a couple of serving spoons that need to be polished every now and then. I will try this!
That's much cheaper than buying polish!