16 January 2011
This morning as I pulled out some of the family silver in preparation for a little dinner I'm planning, I was greeted by the sight of black-tipped fork tines.
Then I got to the spoons. Ugh!
Now, tarnished silver can be a major headache to clean, but for me, thanks to my grandmother in Germany, I know that this is really quite an effortless process.
When my Oma showed me how this worked, my world totally changed! I am so glad I got in on the secret. Well...a quick internet search showed me that this method isn't so "secret" anymore, but I am surprised by how few people still seem to know about this trick! And, I figured now would be a good time to share it.
It's pure chemistry, really, in which the tarnished silver, the water, and the aluminum exchange atoms. (For the science nerds, the reaction is silver sulfide + aluminum + water --> silver + aluminum oxide + hydrogen sulfide.) When you're watching the reaction (which is aided by the presence of salt), it looks like the silver tarnish gets "transferred" to aluminum foil, and you end up with clean pieces of silver, a tarnished piece of aluminum foil, and the release of some smelly hydrogen sulfide. Sorry, it will smell a little like rotten eggs, but the sparkling silver is so worth it!
Oma's Silver Cleaner
6 cups water (I use water filtered by reverse-osmosis)
1-2 Tbs. salt
Bring water to a boil in a large (non-reactive) saute pan. Dissolve salt in the water, and line the pan with a piece of aluminum foil.
Using tongs (rubber-tipped to protect your silver from scratches), transfer tarnished silver pieces into the boiling water. As soon as the tarnish dissolves, transfer silver to a soft cloth to cool, then wash and rinse silver to remove salt residues. Dry silver with a soft cloth to avoid water spots.
As you work through your silver, be sure to change out the aluminum foil whenever it gets black, so that the chemical reaction can continue efficiently.
Disclaimer: While this has always been a reliable way for me to clean my silver (and yes, what you see here are real before-and-after pictures), I hereby state that I take no responsibility for any damage that might be incurred to your special silver pieces through this process. Just sayin'!
Posted by erica at 1:13 PM