How To Save Tarnished Silverware

I’ve gotten my hands on some of my mom-mom’s silverware. Tarnished silverware. Incredibly, disgustingly tarnished silverware. This is the story of the tarnished silverware, and how I saved it from another 20 plus years plopped in a box, stored in a basement.

Save Tarnished Silverware

See… in our “silverware drawer” you’ll find mismatched pieces from 3 sets of flatware from Ikea, Walmart and Target. We never registered for or purchased real silverware because I:

  • wasn’t spending money on it
  • didn’t want to maintain it.
  • couldn’t find a pattern we liked enough to justify either of the above options.
  • have nowhere to store it away, along with the good china which we also don’t have.

How did I stumble upon this amazing find?

After my mom-mom passed away when I was 15, my mom hoarded all the good stuff. This stuff would include the super dusty and cobweb filled antiques from her basement, handmade quilts and linens, tchotchkes, depression glass, heirloom-type items (like this tarnished silverware), and random goodies she knew the both of us would want some day simply because they’re amazing. Apparently mom-mom either didn’t know or didn’t care how to store silver, because it was delicately packaged in my mom-mom’s basement, inside an open Hennessy box, covered with dust. When I mentioned to my mom that I wanted to hit some thrift shops for some old silverware for the move, she dug the box from the belly of the beast basement. Which it’s been sitting in, since it was in my mom-mom’s basement, for who knows how long.
Two Ten Designs - How I Saved Tarnished Silverware

After doing some research, I found the silverware is silver-plate, the pattern is “Exquisite” by William Rogers & Son, and was made in the 1940’s. I’m assuming from my grandparents wedding. How amazing?! I just love them even more. I scoured Pinterest for a way to clean it without using Tarn-X or something similar. I’ve heard that can cause major respiratory problems and wasn’t even that fabulous to your silver to begin with. Since I’m pregnant, yet on a mission for sparkly silverware, I knew the baking soda, aluminum pan or foil, boiling water method was the way to go.

I tried a few methods on Pinterest with the same ingredients, but this one from Remarkable Wrinklies is what worked the best for me.

You’ll need..

Two Ten Designs - How I Saved Tarnished Silverware
  • aluminum foil (I used an aluminum pan and experimented with foil just because all my baking dishes are packed away)
  • tarnished silverware that’s horrible looking
  • baking soda
  • boiling water
  • soft cloths for drying/buffing
  • silver polish

I’m not a chemist or anything, but the chemical reaction to bid adieu to the tarnish requires the silverware and the aluminum to be touching. It also smells horrendous. Open those windows.

The steps are simple…

  • Boil water (enough to cover whatever you’ve got in your dish – I did a about 5 cups)
  • Arrange your silverware on the aluminum. Make sure each piece is touching the foil, and not overlapping or in a big pile.
  • Take the pot into the sink, add baking soda (I used about 2/3 cup) slowly to the water to dissolve. This will fizz like crazy, so watch out!
  • Pour the solution over the silverware. This is the part that smells incredibly awful.
    Two Ten Designs - How I Saved Tarnished Silverware
  • Let it soak for a bit (I did 15 minutes because mine was nearly black). You can also flip the pieces over if you need to rotate.
  • Wash with hot soapy water and dry with a soft cloth.
Here’s where I strayed.  I repeated the soaking for each batch 3 or 4 times. Each time they got much lighter, though I think if I started from the beginning with the aluminum foil instead of the aluminum pan, and used the 2/3 cup of baking soda (I started out using 1/4 cup because I wasn’t sure what I was doing). I could’ve gotten away with soaking once or twice for the really bad pieces.
Two Ten Designs - How I Saved Tarnished Silverware

In this photo, the first spoon is the original way I pulled them from the box, while the last spoon is the end result after a light polishing. The spoons in the middle show the progression of the tarnish after each soak.

Two Ten Designs - How I Saved Tarnished Silverware

Gross, right?

Two Ten Designs - How I Saved Tarnished Silverware

After the final soak, I threw in the towel and decided to polish the final bit. I had never used silver polish before, but it literally took a 1 minute buffing to get the last little bit of funk off. After googling for a good polish, I went with Weiman Tarnish Preventing Silver Polish after hearing good things about it, and it being the only polish at the store.

Two Ten Designs - How I Saved Tarnished Silverware

I’m sure with some elbow grease, I could’ve stopped soaking after the first or second time and just buffed my heart out. I did half the batch this way, and the other half this morning with 2 soaks and a tiny bit more polishing because my hands were so dry and chapped from the hot water! The pieces all look gorgeous and I can’t wait to toss out the old stuff, and use these pretties every day.



  1. Wow! We use silverplated utensils everyday here, dug them out of a box too! I have never polished mine. and run them thru the dishwasher! Probably the worst thing for them, but I Love them anyway! This makes me think I should tackle them and spruce them up a bit! Great post!
    -Amber @ Dimples and Pig Tales

  2. Hey Amber! I heard from a few places that you can run them through, but to take them out before the dry cycle and just dry them. I also heard from other places that you're not supposed to run them through the dishwasher at all. So I'm thinking I'm going to just run them through when it's convenient or when I've got a lot to wash (like, daily). If they were thousands of dollars or solid silver, I wouldn't, but they're well-used and well-loved like yours, so I'm not too worried about it. I do know the more you use them, the better off they are! Enjoy them 🙂
    Thanks for stopping by!!

  3. I have some silverware that my great grandpa gave to my great grandma when they got married. I should take the time to clean it up and use it sometime.

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