How To Clean Silver

Updated: Oct. 24, 2023

These DIY methods and top-rated products help clean silver and keep it looking beautiful.

While the silver in your home may not require as much care as items like linens or glass, it still needs some TLC. It’s important to learn how to clean silver, as well as how to care for and store it.

“Without proper care, over time, silver picks up sulfur contaminants either in the air, on the skin, or from contact with other objects,” says Gabrielle Martin, a supervisor for Bio Recovery, a professional cleaning service. “Sulfur reacts with the surface of silver. Although you may not see it at first, over time the sulfur changes the color of the silver.”

Clean your silver on a regular schedule, from twice a year to every other month, to help break down most of the sulfur compounds that cause tarnishing, Martin says. There still may be some tarnish because of age, especially with older silver. But cleaning can significantly slow the process.

Try one of these easy methods to clean sliver in your home and keep it looking its best.

Clean Silver with Soap and Water

A little household soap and water can go a long way in keeping silver clean, Martin says. Rinse silver under warm water and gently wash with a mild, unscented dish soap.

The trick is to use a non-abrasive sponge or microfiber cloth to avoid scratching your silver. Dish soap and water can help remove excess tarnish, dirt or dust buildup.

Clean Silver with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Make a homemade silver cleaning solution with these two items, which you likely already have in your pantry. “Dilute a 1/2 cup of cleaning vinegar with [two tablespoons] of baking soda in lukewarm water,” Martin says. “Put the solution in a spray bottle and spray it on the silver and wipe it down with a microfiber cloth, or let it soak in the solution.”

If you choose the soaking method, be careful with your timing, Martin says. The chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar helps dissolve tarnish, but if you leave silver in that solution too long, it can remove or change the color. Aim for a max soak of two to three hours.

Clean Silver with Toothpaste

Cleaning the cutlery with a brush and paste. Cleaning Darkened silverware with Toothpaste or cleaning pasteIryna Imago/Getty Images

Yes, good old toothpaste can actually clean silver as long as it’s non-abrasive, Martin says. That means it doesn’t have high amounts of gritty compounds.

When choosing, steer clear of ingredients like aluminum oxide, calcium pyrophosphate and silica. Or consult the Relative Dentin Abrasivity Scale for a low-ranking option like Arm & Hammer Advance White. The toothpaste acts as a buffer, smoothing away any tarnish buildup, dust or dirt.

To clean silver with toothpaste, squeeze an inch or two on a microfiber cloth, then gently rub it into the silver until the tarnish begins to disappear. Rinse with warm water and pat dry with a clean cloth.

Clean Silver with Silver Cleaner or Polish

While DIY silver cleaning methods can keep silver clean, sometimes it’s faster and more convenient to turn to professional silver cleaning products. Silver cleaners or polishes are usually easy to find online, or in home improvement or general merchandise big box stores. Here are a few top-rated products to consider: