How to clean silver the “green” way

Many of us have pieces of silver we cherish for one reason or another. Maybe it’s been passed down through generations or it’s a beloved picture frame. But whatever it is, one thing’s for certain: It’s going to tarnish. How to clean silver safely and effectively without harming the piece, yourself, or the environment is just a few easy steps away.


Toothpaste can be used for a variety of purposes besides keeping those pearly whites of yours sparkling clean. Plain, white toothpaste–no gels–is great for instantly cleaning smaller pieces of silver. Simply apply a small amount directly to the silver and begin rubbing it in with your fingers or a clean, soft cloth and it comes off instantly. Rinse the silver with warm water. It’s just that simple. Finish by drying it with a clean, soft towel. If you’re cleaning a very small piece of silver such as a ring or brooch, apply a small amount of paste directly to your fingertips, gently massage it into the silver, rinse, and dry. If there’s filigree or etching involved, you can use an old, very soft toothbrush. But don’t get carried away! Brush gently.

Baking soda

If you’re wondering how to clean silver in larger amounts all at once, as you would with flatware, there are a couple of methods that work quite well and save time without using harsh chemicals. You’ll need a shallow metal baking dish, aluminum foil, water, 1 tbsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, a soft cloth, and a small amount of olive oil. For flatware, take your shallow pan or baking dish and line the bottom with aluminum foil. Place your silver in the bottom of the pan, ensuring that it’s touching the foil. Pour in enough water to cover the silver, and sprinkle salt and baking soda across the top of the water. Cover the pan and let it sit for 4-5 hours or overnight. When it’s clean, drain the water and rinse the silver well with hot water.

Stove top method

The stove top method for how to clean silver with baking soda is exactly the same method as stated above, only you place the pan on a burner of your stove, bring the water to a gentle boil for 2-3 minutes, and watch the tarnish quickly disappear! This method is amazingly quick. Simply remove the silver from the pan with tongs, rinse it under running water, and dry it with a soft, clean cloth. As you’re removing pieces and freeing up space, you can add more silver to the pan. Warning: This method is not recommended for antique candlesticks or knives that aren’t one piece in design, such as knives with attached handles. Soaking them in water for long periods of time or boiling them could result in the disintegration of any glues used to hold them together. For these pieces, use the toothpaste method.


  • In the unlikely event the tarnish isn’t removed completely the first time, repeat the cleaning process.
  • For drying, add 2-3 drops of olive oil to a soft, cotton cloth and rub the silver with it. This dries and polishes it and provides a natural anti-tarnish all at once.
  • For keeping moisture from your silver, store it with a piece of plain white chalk.
  • When using toothpaste on jewelry with precious or semi-precious stones, avoid rubbing the paste directly onto the stones to avoid any inadvertent scratching. Otherwise, it should not harm them. Now you know how to clean silver and care for it the “green” way.

Photo source: Flickr