A Silver Tarnish Dip

    Kids,  how would you like to make your own silver polishing dip?  Ask your adult partner if they happen to have some older silverware, trays, servingware, jewelry etc. around the house. Is it nice and shiny or is it dull and dark? As silver (element Ag) is exposed to the small amounts of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in the air it will “tarnish”. This layer of tarnish is silver sulfide (Ag2S) that can be removed without polishing and scrubbing by simply dipping into a non-toxic electrochemical dip. Another big advantage to using a dip is that the liquid can reach places a polishing cloth cannot.

    Please note:  All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision.

    First, line the bottom of the sink or a glass baking dish with a sheet of aluminum foil. Then have your adult partner fill the foil-lined container with steaming hot water. Add salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, Na2CO3) to the water. Some recipes call for 2 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp salt, whereas others call for 2 tablespoons each of baking soda and salt. Obviously the exact amounts do not matter, so just add a bit of each. Drop the silver items into the container so that they are touching each other and resting on the foil. You should actually be able to watch the tarnish disappear!

    Leave heavily tarnished items in the solution for as long as 5 minutes. Otherwise, remove the silver when it appears clean. Rinse the silver with water and gently buff it dry with a soft towel. Ideally, the silver should be stored in a low-humidity environment. Placing a container of activated charcoal or a piece of chalk in the storage area (to soak up moisture) can minimize future tarnish. Also, wrapping the silver items to protect from air seems to help.

    Silver Tips:

    1. Use care when polishing or dipping silver plated items. It is easy to wear away the thin layer of silver and cause more harm than good through overcleaning.

    2. Minimize exposing your silver to foods and other items that contain sulfur such as mayonnaise, eggs, mustard, onions, latex, and wool because the sulfur will cause corrosion.

    3. Using your silver flatware or wearing silver jewelry will actually help to keep them free from tarnish. 

    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs ; [email protected]
    September 2006
    Reference: Anne Marie Helmenstine at

    ADDENDUM (11/18/2018): The good folks at Tips Bulletin have noticed this article, and alerted us to some additional means of cleaning silver using household materials. Check them out here:

    If you try different methods and compare them, let us know which you like best and why! Email [email protected].