Skip to Content

How to Clean Silver Plate Without Harsh Chemicals

If you’ve inherited or bought an antique tea service, you may be curious as to how it can be cleaned without damaging it. It’s especially important to consider appropriate cleaning methods if you have antique silver since it can be easily damaged by the wrong cleaners.

There are plenty of commercial silver cleaners on the market that can help you polish your silver tea service. They stink to high heavens and they’re full of chemicals.  Why buy these expensive cleaners when you probably already have the household items needed to clean your silver plate at home already? 

Read on to learn more about how to clean the silver on your tea service and avoid damaging it when you do – all with simple ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. 

diy silver cleaning

How To Clean Badly Tarnished Silver at Home

If you haven’t used your silver for a while, or if you’ve just found a beautiful piece at the flea market and want to restore that luster, there are several ways to clean it safely with ingredients you already have at home. Before you know it your silver will be fit for an elegant British afternoon tea.

These methods all involve soaking your silver.  Soaking is a great method to use since it is a non-harmful way to remove tarnish without scratching the silver plate.   Buffing and scrubbing actions can remove tarnish, but you run the risk of removing or damaging the silver finish in the process.  

How to Clean Silver with Aluminum Foil, Salt, and Baking Soda

This cleaning method has the advantage of using commonly found household items and also not taking that much time to complete. It’s also a great way to remove tarnish from any antique tea service you acquire without exposing it to potentially damaging chemicals. 

Here’s the method you should use to remove that built up tarnish on any silver whether it be a silver tea service, or that cool silver bowl you found when you were thrifting.   

You’ll need to gather the following items:

  • Baking soda 
  • Table salt
  • Hot water
  • Aluminum foil
  • A soaking container large enough to immerse your item in
  • A soft rag for wiping and drying
clean silverware

Here are the simple steps to follow to get that silver shiny and gorgeous again. 

  1. Line the soaking container with a layer of aluminum foil.  You want your silver piece to actually touch the foil when you put it in the container.  The more direct contact the better.  For large items, you can line your kitchen sink.  
  2. Boil enough water in a separate container to completely cover your tarnished item. Pour into the soaking container. 
  3. Add baking soda and salt.  See below for amounts 
  4. Carefully Immerse your tarnished item.
  5. Allow to soak fully submerged and touching the aluminum foil for up to 30 minutes. 
  6. Remove and gently wipe and dry with a soft cloth

How Much Salt and Baking Soda to Clean Silver?

  • Large Items:  Use 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of baking soda
  • Small Items:  Use ¼ cup of salt and ¼ cup of baking soda

And that’s all there is to it! This cleaning method is gentler than most commercial silver polishes, and is just as effective at removing tarnish. Plus you won’t have to buy a bunch of expensive chemicals and tools to pull it off. 

How to Clean Silver with Vinegar

For extremely resistant tarnish, follow the instructions above, but add white vinegar to the salt and soda mixture:  1 cup for large items, ¼ cup for small items.  Be prepared for the vinegar and soda mixture to bubble up.  Follow the rest of the instructions for soaking and drying. 

How Does Baking Soda, Salt, and Vinegar Clean Silver Plate?

The salt, baking soda, water and aluminum foil combine to cause a chemical reaction called ion exchange. This chemical reaction converts the silver sulfide on the surface of the silver plate (tarnish) back into silver, separating it from the sulfide. The sulfide is then trapped on the aluminum foil lining the soaking container. (Source: The Spruce)

The end result is a silver tea service that is as bright as the day it was made. This cleaning method is perfect for antique silver plate since you don’t have to do any scrubbing that might damage it.

Everyday Cleaning for Silver Plate

If you just want to maintain the beautiful luster of silver you use every day, a quick wash in soapy water is the way to go.  Simply wash, rinse and dry well with a soft cloth every time you use it.  Make sure to store in a dry place until you use it again.  

clean silver with foil

Can You Clean a Silver Tea Service Every Day?

If you use your silver on a daily basis, a simple wash with regular dish soap and water as above will keep your silver shiny ready for its next use.  Using your silver every day keeps the tarnish from building up the way it would if it was stored away for a long period.  

Just make sure not to scrub or rub the surface with anything abrasive – that’s what damages the silver patina.

Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Silver Tea Service

Maintaining your tea service is an important part of serving tea on silver. However, these are some general rules you should follow for cleaning your silver tea set if you want to avoid scratching or corroding it (Source: Southern Living): 

  • Avoid abrasive cleaning materials. This includes stainless steel wool and even hard sponges. These abrasive surfaces can leave scratches in the silver plate that will expose the silver to tarnish and pitting.
  • Avoid commercial cleaners. Not only are these cleaners more expensive than the household cleaning solution described above, they can also cause damage to silver if they aren’t used correctly because of their chemical strength.
  • Clean silver immediately. Certain ingredients such as salt can corrode silver very quickly if left in contact with the metal for extended periods, so never stick your silver tea set in a sink of water to clean later. It should be cleaned, dried, and polished immediately after use to prevent the accumulation of tarnish or other blemishes.
  • Keep stainless steel away. Stainless steel is much harder than silver and can put deep scratches or dents in it if the two metal types are knocked against each other. Handle silver tea sets carefully and keep them isolated from other serving ware to avoid damage. 

Even though an antique silver tea service may seem fancy, it doesn’t require a ton of maintenance to keep it looking nice. Just following these simple rules can help keep your tea service looking brand-new for years. 

Cleaning Silver Plate Keeps It Looking New

For some antique silver, you may want to avoid too much cleaning since this can strip away the patina of oxidation that gives antique silver its vintage look. However, for daily tea service, the cleaning method above can help keep your silver tea service shiny each time you pull it out. 

Want to save this how to clean silver at home article to use later?  Save it to your favorite Pinterest board and pass it on!

how to clean silver plate at home graphic