Cleaning Silver using Toothpaste

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How does silver tarnish?

Tarnish is the black color you’ll find that builds up on your silverware over time. It’s caused by a chemical reaction between the silver and another nonmetal compound, like oxygen and sulfur dioxide. 

Jewelry is usually the first to go as the metal touching different areas of the body that are prone to sweat, makeup, oils and more, kickstarts these reactions more regularly.

Video

How do you clean heavily tarnished silver plate?

Tarnished silver is no match for this aluminum foil “recipe.” Bring one liter of water, one tablespoon of baking soda, and one piece of aluminum foil to a boil. Drop silverware in the pot for 10 seconds (longer if it’s very tarnished), then remove using kitchen tongs. Magic!

Why Do Silver Coins Tarnish?

Tarnishing is a chemical reaction that can occur when silver metals come into contact with humidity. Chemicals in the air react with the humidity in the silver causing it to lose its luster and shine. A layer of silver oxide is created on the surface of your coin when the metal reacts with oxygen, and like rust, it performs a protective (yet unattractive) barrier around the coin. Don’t worry; this chemical reaction is limited to the outer layer of your coin and can be easily remedied. This process is common with a host of other precious and semi-precious metals, including copper and brass. 

Sometimes, this process of oxidation can lead to colorful toning. Some find toning attractive as it can produce rainbow colors on silver coins like the United States Franklin Half-Dollar. It’s up to personal preference, however, most dealers will prefer a whining white metal coin. Most toning and tarnishing can be removed with one of several simple processes, but there are cases where the reaction has gone too far. Very old coins can sometimes feature deep, black oxidation, and even pitting on the metal’s surface. This is a sign that the tarnishing process has gone too far, but the silver still has value. 

Most coin collectors will recommend never using harsh chemicals to clean rare and valuable coins. This is especially the case for coins with historical value, as you risk removing the natural surface shading on the coin, and making microscopic abrasions on its surface. Whether you keep silver coins as a keepsake, a collector’s item, or a silver bullion investment; clean and tarnish-free coins are always the preferred choice. 

It's important to keep your silver coins clean and

It’s important to keep your silver coins clean and in mint condition for added value.

1. How to clean silver with baking soda

Use this clever, and eco-friendly hack for astonishing results. All you’ll need is baking soda. Then, get a plastic container or bin big enough to hold the tarnished silver items, and line it with aluminum foil shiny side up. Next, boil enough water to cover all the items you’re cleaning once they’re in the bowl. Pour the water into the container, and add two tablespoons of baking soda per a litre of water/ 1 cup per gallon. Place the silver items in the container – we tried this with a silver plate and placed it upside down first. Leave for a few minutes while the tarnish lifts, then flip it over if using a plate/take the items out using kitchen tongs because of the hot water. When the item of silverware is cool enough to handle, rub off any remaining tarnish using a Scotch Bright scrubber or a soft polishing cloth. 

Top tip: You can repeat the process if there’s any tarnish still remaining.

Is it OK to clean silver with toothpaste?

Toothpaste contains abrasive particles that can polish off tarnish. These same particles can scratch silver up as well. The best way to clean these delicate items is to buff them with a silver polishing cloth. Toothpaste is considered safe for satin or matte silver.

Baking Soda and Water

Marcus Chung / Getty Images

Instead of a chemical reaction, this method relies on abrasion—a physical process—to remove the tarnish.

Steps

  1. Mix baking soda and water in a small bowl until you have a paste-like consistency. Add more baking soda to thicken, or conversely, add more water to thin.
  2. Once the texture is right, rub your paste onto the tarnished silver until polished.
  3. For easy clean-up, polish over a towel.

Silver Care Tips

If you’re hoping to avoid having to clean your silver often, here are some recommendations for storing and protecting your favorite jewelry and silverware. 

Jewelry

Store your favorite silver jewelry out of sunlight, in a cool and dark location. Consider purchasing anti-tarnish bags or making your own jewelry box liner for safe keeping.

Avoid storing multiple pieces of jewelry together, so that your necklaces, bracelets, and earrings don’t become tangled or scratched. 

Silverware

Acidic ingredients like fruit juice, as well as sulphuric ones like eggs, can damage silver. If you use silverware to serve or consume any of these food products, make sure to clean it immediately after use, rather than letting them sit out. 

Just like your jewelry, it’s best to keep silverware away from heat, humidity, and direct sun. A highly recommended storage method? Simply wrap your silver in a cloth (ideally unbleached cotton), place it in a reusable zip bag, and add a small piece of chalk to absorb any lingering moisture.  

Rinse, Rub and Repeat

Gently rinse the silver in more water, rub it with a soft cloth, and inspect. If tarnish remains, repeat the process. The bigger and more tarnished the silver, the more elbow grease and repetitions you might need.

Things You’ll Need

  • Plain, solid-colored toothpaste (not gel)
  • Paper towels, tissues, or q-tips
  • Water
  • Bowl or squirt bottle of water (recommended)
  • Soft cloth
  • Clean, soft towel

Make Your Silver Coins Shine

Many people around the world own silver coins for different reasons. Some people value the collectible aspect of ancient and rare coins, whereas others see silver as a smart new investment. No matter the reason, every coin needs care and attention to remain in the best possible mintage. You can use any of our methods to remove dirt and tarnish from your silver coins and help them to shine once more. From common silver dollars to Silver Eagles from the US Mint, coin dealers all over will be pleased with clean metal. Keep your silver coins in top condition for the best return on investments, and the most pride in your collection. 

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