How to Polish Silver: 5 Internet Hacks, Tested

You’ve been wearing that minimalist bar necklace every day since you bought it…and now, it’s looking a little grungy. Kind of like that silverware you inherited from your great aunt, only to have it sit, slowly getting more tarnished, in the back of a drawer. It’s time to clean up your act—and it turns out, it’s not nearly the chore you might think it is.

You don’t need silver polish or any special tools; in fact, you probably have a perfectly good cleaner right in your cabinets—or fridge. Here’s how to polish silver using a few popular methods, with before-and-after photos so you can decide which method is right for you. (One quick word of caution, though: If you’re trying to polish silver jewelry that contains pearls or semi-precious stones, you’re better off waiting to have a pro clean it. Baking soda and other cleaners can damage them.)

How to Clean Your Washing Machine (Because Ew, It Smells)

how to polish silver with ketchup

1. the Ketchup Hack

Arguably the buzziest silver-cleaning trick you can find online, ketchup has long been touted as an easy way to remove tarnish. The gloppy consistency helps the acid in the vinegar and tomatoes really stay on the silver, or so the theory goes. People recommend covering the item in question—in our case, a fork—with the ketchup, letting it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then wiping it clean and rinsing it off.

Our results: After a full 15 minutes of soaking, the spoon we tested was, uh, 40 percent cleaner? Granted, it was a very tarnished spoon, but for the time commitment and mess involved, this isn’t your best bet.

how to polish silver with window cleaner
Candace Davison

2. the Window Cleaner Technique

There’s no lag time with this method: You simply spray window cleaner on a microfiber cloth (which is less likely to cause scratches) and scrub your silver, restoring its luster.

Our results: The cloth turned slightly brown, lifting a bit more tarnish than the ketchup hack. Still, it didn’t come close to restoring the fork we tested to its former glory.

how to polish silver with toothpaste
Candace Davison

3. the Toothpaste Trick

This hack is pretty similar to using window cleaner, only this time, you use a dampened cloth to make the toothpaste easier to spread. Squeeze a little onto the cloth and gently scrub away any tarnish.

Tip: Before busting out the Colgate (or Crest, or whatever you keep on hand), check out the consistency of the toothpaste—ones with grittier consistencies could harm your jewelry and silverware, creating teeny, tiny scratches.

Our results: Now this is more like it. The toothpaste immediately started removing the tarnish, to the point that we had to continually use new parts of the cloth to scrub the fork. In less than a minute, the cutlery was gleaming silver.

Candace Davison

4. the Baking Soda And Water Method

The key to this method is making a simple paste of three parts baking soda to one part water (say, 3 tablespoons baking soda to 1 tablespoon of H2O). Wet the silver, use a cloth to rub on the paste and buff off any oxidation that’s darkened it. Then rinse and dry it off.

Our results: The baking soda paste came together quickly and worked almost as well as using toothpaste. It’s a close second in our book.

how to polish silver with hand sanitizer
Candace Davison

5. the Hand Sanitizer Test

Given how valuable hand sanitizer is these days, it’s hard to imagine wasting a drop. So we did that for you! The instructions were so simple we were skeptical: Squirt a few drops onto a cloth, rub away tarnish.

Our results: After 5 solid minutes of scrubbing a single fork…nothing. Well, it did look a little shinier, we guess.

candace davison bio

VP of editorial, recipe developer, kitsch-lover

Candace Davison oversees PureWow's food and home content, as well as its franchises, like the PureWow100 review series and the Happy Kid Awards. She’s covered all things lifestyle...