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How to Clean Silver With Alka-Seltzer

Amanda Bell
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Jewelry stores and retailers stock an array of silver polishing products, but your medicine cabinet holds the key to quick, effective cleaning.

Gently scrub recessed areas with an extra soft toothbrush after soaking.

Original Alka-Seltzer tablets eradicate mild tarnish from silver jewelry, kitchenware and household decor, and unlike store-bought silver cleaning products, it doesn’t fill the air with heavy fumes. All it takes is a quick 5-minute soak and a few minutes with a dry flannel cloth.

Types of Silver

Alka-Seltzer safely cleans sterling silver, but could potentially damage the thin silver layer on silver-plated pieces as well as pure, fine silver. The tablets are rich in citric acid and sodium bicarbonate, the first of which can cause pitting in soft silver metals, while the latter has the potential to cause scratches. Because sterling silver is a silver alloy, it easily handles both ingredients, but while silver-plated and fine silver items may be fine after one cleaning with Alka-Seltzer, don't use it regularly. For similar reasons, avoid using this method on jewelry with soft stones such as pearls, opals, amber, moonstone and jade. Although this method won't work for everything, there are plenty of alternatives. Clean fine silver and silver-plated items with hot water and aluminum foil, and remove tarnish from gemstone jewelry with a calcium carbonate paste.

Prewash Silver Items

Hand wash the silver with a mild, alkaline-based dish soap and soft sponge. This removes any loose dirt and debris, allowing the subsequent Alka-Seltzer to better lift the underlying tarnish from the silver when soaking. After cleaning, rinse the piece thoroughly and buff it dry with a soft cloth. Pay special attention to tarnished areas while drying, buffing in circles to lift as much tarnish as you can by hand.

Container Choice

A plastic or glass container is ideal for this project, posing little risk of interfering with the chemical reaction between the Alka-Seltzer and the tarnish on the silver. Avoid using stainless steel containers; when this metal comes in contact with silver, it can cause additional tarnish. Choose a container large enough for the silver to be completely covered in the soaking solution. For small items, a mixing bowl, glass baking dish or food storage container work well; larger items may require a bucket, storage bin or even your bathtub.

Clean With Alka Seltzer

This process works best with original flavorless Alka-Seltzer tablets; flavored varieties leave a film on the silver even after rinsing. The standard ratio for cleaning silver is two Alka-Seltzer tablets dissolved in an 8-ounce cup of water. Adjust this depending on the size of your container and the size of the silver item you’re cleaning.

Cleaning Suggestions:

  • Bangles: Fill a food storage dish with 2 cups of water and add 4 tablets.
  • Serving platter: Combine 16 tablets in 8 cups of water in a deep casserole dish.
  • Large vase: Grab a 2 gallon bucket and add 32 tablets per 1 gallon of water.

Fill your container of choice with water and add the tablets. Immediately place the silver in the solution and let it soak for 2 to 5 minutes. You’ll get the best results by placing the silver in the solution while it’s still fizzing.

When It's Done

Remove the silver from the solution and rinse it well with cold water. Grab a cotton flannel polishing cloth, dry the silver and then take a second cloth and buff the silver until it shines. Regularly buffing in between cleanings helps to prevent future tarnish. Always hand wash and dry your silver service sets and silverware instead of placing them in the dishwasher. The detergents, high heat and potential interaction with other items, including stainless steel, can cause tarnish, spotting and even pitting in the silver. For jewelry, consider wrapping pieces in an anti-tarnish cloth or sliding an anti-tarnish strip in your jewelry box. These products absorb sulfur from the air, one of the common causes of tarnish.