The “Does It Work?” Challenge: Polishing Silver with Baking Soda

created at: 03/12/2012

In observance of Cleaning and Organization month on Curbly, we’re staging our own version of Mythbusters and trying out some fabled household tips and tricks to see if they really work. Yesterday, I tried cleaning windows with newspaper and coffee filters. Today I attempt polishing silver with a shortcut using baking soda, but not in the way you might think….
First I gathered up my tarnished silver. Despite my high falutin’ nature, I didn’t have that much to choose from. I found a letter opener I got as a high school graduation gift and a mint julep cup I keep my lipsticks in.
I consulted this article from Real Simple for my Challenge instructions and it said to place my tarnished items in a large pot lined with aluminum foil, then combine 1/4 cup baking soda and a teaspoon of salt. 
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Then I poured a quart of boiling water on top of it. Supposedly, the instant chemical reaction with the baking soda and salt would remove the tarnish. I poured the water directly on top and, with tongs, rotated the cup so that all sides would get to soak for a second or two. 
It was kinda stinky. Like rotten eggs.
Here’s how the cup and letter opener looked afterwards:
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As you can see, the cup was perfectly polished, the letter opener less so. I’m guessing it’s because the cup was newly tarnished. It had maybe been 6 months to a year since it was last polished. Meanwhile the letter opener has probably gone at least 5 years. Also, if you look at how I dumped the baking soda on the letter opener, most of the powder was on the stainless blade instead of the silver handle. So, there might be some user error going on here.
I took some silver polish cream to it and the rest of the tarnish gave up without a fight.
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So, does it work?
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I’d say if you have really tarnished pieces, then this method might be a good way to loosen it up so you don’t have to polish as thoroughly. If it’s not that bad, then this is pretty simple and effective, but I can’t say it’s any less time consuming than just using silver polish. It’s just more Mr. Wizard.
Tomorrow, Part III: Cleaning my floor Swiffer-style using wax paper. Will it work?