How to Polish Silver: 13 Weird Tricks That Really Work

Make your tarnished silver and dull jewelry shine like new after a cleaning with these trusted common household items.

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aluminum foil
iStock / leeser87

Aluminum foil

Tarnished silver is no match for this aluminum foil “recipe.” Bring one liter of water, one tablespoon of baking soda and one piece of aluminum foil to a boil. Drop silverware in the pot for 10 seconds (longer if it’s very tarnished), then remove using kitchen tongs. Magic! Here’s how to polish silver if the built-up tarnish persists: make a thick paste with 1/4 cup baking soda and two tablespoons of water. Apply with a damp sponge, then rinse and dry.

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Laundry detergent
iStock / exl01

Laundry detergent

To make your jewelry or silverware sparkle, line a medium-sized bowl with aluminum foil and fill it with hot water. Mix in one tablespoon of powdered laundry detergent, then soak your silver for one minute. Rinse with clean water, and air-dry. Learn which 5 laundry detergents are the safest to use.

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Ketchup in wooden spoon
iStock / FotografiaBasica


If your silver is tarnished, ketchup can help. Here’s how to polish silver with this common condiment: Squirt a small amount on a paper towel, and rub gently over the tarnished areas. If your silver isn’t getting shinier, let the ketchup sit for 15 minutes, then rub with a soft cloth and rinse clean. For items that have textured details, as with some candlesticks or fancy silverware, use a toothbrush to clean between the crevices.

Here are some more unexpected ways you can clean with ketchup.

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Corn starch
iStock / vikif


A paste of cornstarch and water will make silver look new again. Apply with a damp cloth, let dry, then rub off with something mildly abrasive, like cheesecloth or a rough towel. Tip: You can substitute cream of tartar if you’re out of cornstarch. These are the differences between cornstarch, flour and arrowroot, plus when you should use each.

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hand sanitizer
iStock / Elenathewise

Hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer not only fights germs, but it provides a great method for how to polish silver. Squirt a few drops on a soft cloth and rub away the tarnish. Here’s why hand sanitizer might not be as effective on your hands as you think it is.

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Lemon-lime soda
iStock / bhofack2

Lemon-lime soda

Recapture shine by dunking your silver items in a bowl of lemon-lime soda for one hour. Rinse and dry thoroughly. This might actually be a better way to use soda than drinking it.

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Toothpaste on a brush
iStock / DNY59


Squeeze a small amount of toothpaste on a rag and polish your silver. Then rinse—and see how it shines!

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Window cleaner

Window cleaner

Here’s how to polish silver while you’re cleaning your windows—kill two chores with one stone. Spray window cleaner on a rag or toothbrush, and use it to gently scrub your sterling silver. You should be able to restore your silver to its original shiny state.

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Hair conditioner
iStock / Stephan Zabel

Hair conditioner

If you want to prevent tarnish, try rubbing conditioner on clean silver.

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Sticks of colorful chalk
iStock / andydidyk


Silverware will stay shiny if you keep a few pieces of chalk in the drawer or chest where you store it. The chalk absorbs moisture, preventing your nice utensils from tarnishing.

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Bottles of ammonia
iStock / supergabur


Brighten silver trinkets by soaking them for 10 minutes in a solution of one cup warm water and 1/2 cup clear ammonia. Gently wipe clean and dry.

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White vinegar on the wooden table top
focal point/Shutterstock


Here’s how to polish silver with vinegar, which you may not know is an incredibly versatile cleaning tool. Return luster and shine to your silverware and jewelry by soaking it in 1/2 cup white vinegar mixed with 2 tablespoons of baking soda for two to three hours. Rinse under cold water, and dry thoroughly.

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lemon juice, best natural cleaning products
Shutterstock / Gayvoronskaya_Yana

Lemon juice and salt

Your silver will sparkle after soaking overnight in a mixture of 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 1/2 cups water, and 1/2 cup of instant dry milk.

Check out more ways lemon juice can clean your house.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest