How to remove rust & tarnish from sterling silver

Sterling silver is a popular material for various items including jewellery, silverware and blades. As sterling silver ages it is not uncommon for it to develop rust or tarnish. Rust will occur when excessive moisture on the silver oxidises. Tarnish is a reaction that occurs when silver encounters sulphur in the air. Both rust and tarnish will leave an unsightly discolouration on your silver. Fortunately, there are natural ways to remove both rust and tarnish without using harsh chemicals, which could further damage your silver.

Fill a bowl large enough to hold the sterling silver item with undiluted white vinegar.

Submerge the sterling silver in the vinegar and let it soak for one to two hours.

Scrub the silver with a lint-free cloth. Allow the silver to soak for another hour if the rust is still present.

Rinse the sterling silver under cool running water and dry with a lint-free towel.

Mix 2 tbsp water with 1/4 cup baking soda to create a paste. Dampen a clean sponge with cool water and dip the sponge into the paste.

Rub the tarnished silver with the sponge. Continuing applying more paste and rubbing the silver until you have removed the tarnish.

Rinse the paste residue off the silver and buff dry with a lint-free towel.


Ammonia can be used to remove tarnish from silver. Gently scrub the tarnish with an old toothbrush dampened with ammonia. Wipe the excess liquid off the sterling silver with a lint-free cloth. According to The Society of America Silversmiths, do not try to clean carbon steel or silver knife or sword blades that have a large amount of rust present. Trying to remove the rust may damage the silver blade beyond repair. Instead, contact a silver restoration specialist.

Things You'll Need

  • Bowl large enough to hold the silver
  • White vinegar
  • Lint-free cloths
  • Lint-free towel
  • Baking soda
  • Sponge
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About the Author

Amanda Flanigan began writing professionally in 2007. Flanigan has written for various publications, including WV Living and American Craft Council, and has published several eBooks on craft and garden-related subjects. Flanigan completed two writing courses at Pierpont Community and Technical College.