Saturday, March 2, 2013

DIY Chemistry Project - Cleaning SIlver

My drawer of silverware was in serious need to polishing, and  I decided to try an easier way than actual polishing.   I had tried the baking soda, aluminum, salt and hot water method in the past with less than spectacular results.  Then Maureen commented on my blog post about my silverware find, and  she recommended using washing soda instead of regular baking soda.  I had to hunt around on several stores to find the stuff, but it made all the difference.  Thank you, Maureen.
Close the sink drain, then line the sink (or a plastic tub) with the aluminum foil.  I read that you can also use those disposable aluminum cake pans.  Fill the sink with boiling water, then add the washing soda and some salt.  I didn't measure this - just dumped in about half the box of soda and a handful of salt.  I stirred it up with a wooden spoon and then put my silverware into the solution.
Whoosh - the reaction was spectacular!  It's hard to see in these photos, but the solution was hissing and bubbling and swirling like a magic cauldron!  I did not get that spectacular reaction when I used plain baking soda.

 This picture shows the swirling water - pretty cool!

I let the silver sit in the water for about thirty minutes.  The tarnish was nearly gone, and what was left appeared to be sitting right on top.  A swipe with a sponge removed the remaining tarnish.
In case you are a science geek, here's why this works.  I didn't  write this explanation  -  my high school teacher would readily acknowledge my total lack of interest in his droning lectures. Anyway, this is why it works .  Info from  here:
"The tarnish-removal method used in this experiment uses a chemical reaction to convert the silver sulfide back into silver. Many metals in addition to silver form compounds with sulfur. Some of them have a greater affinity for sulfur than silver does. Aluminum is such a metal. In this experiment, the silver sulfide reacts with aluminum. In the reaction, sulfur atoms are transferred from silver to aluminum, freeing the silver metal and forming aluminum sulfide. Chemists represent this reaction with a chemical equation.
The reaction between silver sulfide and aluminum takes place when the two are in contact while they are immersed in a baking soda solution. The reaction is faster when the solution is warm. The solution carries the sulfur from the silver to the aluminum. The aluminum sulfide may adhere to the aluminum foil, or it may form tiny, pale yellow flakes in the bottom of the pan. The silver and aluminum must be in contact with each other, because a small electric current flows between them during the reaction. This type of reaction, which involves an electric current, is called an electrochemical reaction".
Well, now that THAT's cleared up, check out my sparkling silver:

I do live an exciting life!


  1. So pleased that you found it worked well for you.

    It really is exciting to watch. For me it means I can buy and use silver stuff, it was the dreary cleaning as put me off! It also is a good method with highly ornate pieces.

  2. Silver cleaning is by far the most difficult cleaning job! I mean you always need a 'chemical' that can help you in gaining shine plus keeps off the stains away from it.


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