How to clean heavily tarnished silver

Updated April 17, 2017

Silver has been used for tableware, coins and jewellery since ancient times because of its pleasing colour, shine and malleable properties. Silver is generally easy to care for if cleaned regularly to prevent tarnish build-up. Silver care experts recommend storing silver in silvercloth, a tarnish-absorbing cloth. Heavy tarnish on silver pieces will make the surfaces appear dark and grubby.

Fill a deep sink with warm water and the mild washing-up liquid. Use a phosphate-free and non-scented brand. Line the sink with a cotton cloth to prevent "dings" or scratches on the silver piece.

Immerse the heavily tarnished silver in the soapy water for two to three minutes. Washing the silver piece with mild washing-up liquid removes embedded dirt and oils.

Remove the silver from the soapy water and rinse it thoroughly under clean running water.

Dry the silver with a soft cotton cloth. Cotton cloths absorb water without scratching the silver piece.

Apply silver cream or polish with a clean cotton cloth according to the product's directions.

Remove tarnish by wiping off the silver polish or cream with a clean cloth in a back-and-forth motion. Don't use a circular motion, as this may scratch the silver piece.

Apply additional polish and wipe it with clean cloths until all traces of tarnish are removed and the silver piece is shiny.


Silver care experts recommend using cotton gloves when handling clean silver.

Check with a reputable silver care specialist or jeweller for recommendations on silver polishes.


Never use toothpaste to clean silver, because it is too abrasive.

Silver dips are usually too harsh for general silver cleaning.

Don't use paper towels when you clean silver pieces, as they may scratch the silver.

Things You'll Need

  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) mild washing-up liquid
  • Soft cotton cloths
  • Silver cream or polish
  • Cotton gloves
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About the Author

Pat Kennelly is a blogger and freelance writer who has been writing professionally since 1999. She has been published in "Alembic," "The Pointed Circle" and "Poetry While You Wait," among other literary publications. Kennelly is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing from Goddard College.