Reviewing Household Silver Tarnish Cleaners

Working in the resale trade, I probably use more silver tarnish cleaner than the average household. Buying commercial silver cleaning products can get costly, so I am always interested in finding cheaper, easier ways to remove tarnish from my silver items. Sure, a lovely patina as the silver begins the early stages of tarnish can show well, but nothing pops like a brightly polished, shiny piece of silver!

I have had a number of household products recommended to me by clients and other sellers. I have also found some ideas for using everyday household products to clean silver while searching the internet. Since I have a group of silverplate serving pieces I need to clean up, I thought it would be fun to try some of them out and see which work best, and which is the most cost effective. I compiled my list of silver cleaning product candidates, and gathered them from around the house. Here is the list of solutions I tried:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Baking soda and vinegar (4 tablespoons of baking soda to 1 cup of vinegar)
  • Just baking soda (a 1:2 ratio of soda to water)
  • Toothpaste
  • Window cleaner
  • Ketchup

I selected the lid to a silverplate table server that was showing pretty heavy tarnish. It was past the point of being a pretty, pinkish-gray patina and had gone mottled dark gray and black. On the surface of the piece I placed a quarter-sized amount of each solution, leaving space between to make sure they didn’t run together. I then let the solutions sit for about ten minutes before removing them. 

When the ten minutes passed, I used a soft toothbrush to gently scrub each little circle of solution, one at a time, making sure to clean the brush for each one to avoid any mixing of solutions. I only gave each a few circular wipes; no serious scrubbing. I wanted to know which substance would remove the most silver tarnish with the least amount of effort. I then rinsed with water and gave a quick buff to dry.

When I had finished it looked to me like the winner was clear, the area where I had used toothpaste was the brightest. Some products didn’t look to me as though they had removed any of the tarnish. I don’t suppose that means those products won’t work, but to me it meant they required either more time, or more effort.

I applied toothpaste in an even, thin layer of the rest of the serving piece and let it stand for about 15 minutes. Using a fresh, soft microfiber towel, I buffed off the toothpaste and rinsed the silverplate under water. Presto! A bright, shiny table server ready to list for sale! 

There was still a little tarnish visible on the lid and a couple tough stains that would need extra scrubbing to remove. It got me wondering if using a commercial product, like Weiman’s silver polish, would be faster and more efficient. I had some in the cupboard, and I had a matching silverplate serving piece with a similar level of tarnish, so why not a side-by-side test?

Following the instructions on the bottle, I applied the Weidman’s silver polish, rinsed, and buffed dry. It is important to mention, when I was using toothpaste I didn’t worry about getting it on my skin. With the commercial polish, wear gloves!

I have to say, the Weidman’s silver polish won this competition in my opinion. Application was fast and easy. Tarnish came off without effort. Tough stained spots were scrubbed away with a little extra effort. I guess a purpose built product should beat an improvised solution, and in this case, it did.

If you would like to buy this beautiful table server, find it here:

Vintage Crescent 3-part Silverplate Serving Dish

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