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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Polish Silver, Copper, Brass, and Bronze

By July 26, 2007

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I have a sterling silver dragon charm I wanted to wear the other day, but I had carelessly tossed it into my jewelry box when I took it off and it is more black than silver (I could have prevented that by sealing it in a small plastic bag). The dragon is intricate, so if I used a silver polish, I'd end up with a silver dragon encrusted with polish residue. Fortunately, kitchen chemistry can come to my rescue.

You can make your own silver, copper, and brass cleaners using common household ingredients. Not only will this save you money (and a trip to the store, if you're like me and never think to buy metal polish), but you'll save labor, too. The silver dip is hands-free, so you can have shining sterling silver (pure silver tends to not tarnish in the first place) without any rubbing or scrubbing. There's also a copper and brass cleaner that is easy to make. The greenish oxidation on brass, bronze, and copper is harder to remove than tarnish on silver, so this recipe uses flour as a non-scratch abrasive. The acidic ingredients react to dissolve the verdigris.

Copper & Brass Cleaner - Use ingredients from your kitchen to make your own copper and brass polish. This recipe works on decorative items, rails, brass instruments, and coins.
Silver Polishing Dip - This is a scrub-free way to polish silverware, holloware, and jewelry. You just drop the silver items into the dip and an electrochemical reaction takes away the tarnish.

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Comments

February 18, 2008 at 2:37 pm
(1) michelle says:

When you say powdered detergent (in the copper and brass cleaner), do you mean dish detergent or laundry? I’d like to try this with 45 year old bronze-ware. Many thanks for the post.

February 19, 2008 at 8:13 am
(2) chemistry says:

Either dishwashing or laundry detergent works fine.

March 19, 2009 at 5:08 pm
(3) Margaret M. says:

Isn’t the chemical reaction causing the electroplating process to be reversed? Thats what I was told. I have tried a silver cleaner called Silvermate for and engraved sterling tea set. It is a liquid and leaves no residue. It would work great on your dragon. :)

January 8, 2010 at 5:34 pm
(4) plastic media says:

Great post regarding polish!

May 12, 2010 at 2:44 pm
(5) Marge (one of those old wives) says:

An easy way to clean sterling or fine silver pendants: Line a small glass container with doubled up tin foil. Dump in a good palm full of baking soda on top the tin foil. Bury the pendant in the soda making sure part of the pendant touches the foil.
Pour BOILING water over the pendant to fully cover it. You want it to bubblke, fizz and foam. Let it all sit for just a few minutes. Stir. Remove the pendant and scrub lightly with scotch brite pad (a plastic scouring pad).
This is for any silver WITHOUT any semi-precious stones like turquoise, coral, pearls, amazonite, etc.

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