Vintage silver is one of my favorite things. I find it all the time at thrift stores and estate sales. It’s pretty much always silverplate, or at least if a real piece of sterling has ever made it into my thrifting bounty I wasn’t astute enough to realize. I don’t mind the lower quality of silverplate. In fact, I kinda like the warm patina it develops over time when the base metal is copper.
I bring home a lot of tarnished silver, but for some reason I have never actually obtained a bottle of silver polish. To be honest, I usually just use toothpaste. True story. Toothpaste does an excellent job of gently polishing silver and I don’t have to worry about the fumes. I didn’t take any “before” pictures for this post because I didn’t realize until I was well into plan B that it might be worth posting about. I bought this silver bowl with the intention of selling it in my shop, but it was badly tarnished. I figured some toothpaste, maybe some baking soda, and some elbow grease would do the trick, but after what seemed like quite a long time of working on it all I had to show was some sore muscles and a minty-fresh smelling bowl.
I turned to my old friend google and came up with this non-toxic solution: aluminum foil, salt, baking soda, and very hot water. So I lined the bottom of my sink with tin foil and sprinkled a generous amount of salt and baking powder into the bowl.
Then I filled up the biggest pot I own with water and waited a loooong time for it to come to a boil.
It barely filled the bottom of the sink. But what it lacked in volume it made up for in dramatic steam.
I filled the sink the rest of the way with the hottest water I could get from the tap and it was still pretty hot. Then I left it to sit for a while, using tongs to tilt it around periodically so I could check the progress.
It seemed like the inside and top edges were not really coming clean as quickly, so I wrapped them in extra tin foil. Seemed like a good idea at a time.
I started to worry about the silver on the outside bottom half coming off entirely, so I took it out of the water and sat it in the empty side of the sink with the water/salt/baking soda/tin foil mixture sitting inside. I left it like that for another several minutes, checking periodically. I was totally just winging it at this point.
And I guess it worked, because by the time I finally freed the bowl of its aluminum wrapping it was looking perfectly imperfect, just the way I like it.
Look how pretty it looks now, inside and out!
I totally want to try this now on some other pieces that I could never get polished as nicely as I wanted.