Silver Polishing Shortcut: Sprucing up an Estate Sale Find

by Julie on September 7, 2012 · 26 comments

For more posts like these, please visit my new blog, Creating This Life.

The garage is one of my favorite places to shop at estate sales. You find the usual assortment of rakes and lawn mowers and tools, but there’s usually other cool stuff out there too.

Case in point: this $10 silver urn/trophy cup/champagne bucket/vase that I found on a dusty shelf in the garage of an estate sale.

While I love the look of silver, I hate polishing it. So I use the super simple baking soda/aluminum foil method instead. It works like this.

First, line a glass or plastic tub with a layer of aluminum foil and cover it with baking soda. (If your sink is anything other than stainless steel, you can do this right in the sink and skip the tub.)

Place the silver item in the tub and add super hot water. Boiling water is best. If you’re using this method for multiple pieces of silver at the same time, just make sure that a part of each piece is touching the aluminum foil in some way.

Let the item(s) sit until the water cools. You will know that it’s all working when you see how the tarnish has transferred from the silver to the aluminum foil.

This particular piece was one of the most stubborn I’ve done, so I repeated the baking soda/boiling water process several times.

The result was much improved, but I finished it off with a little bit of silver polish to give it a bit more shine. It didn’t take much since most of the hard work had already been done for me.

Do you like using silver in your home? Do you have a silver polishing shortcut?

This post is part of Metamorphosis Monday, Nifty Thrifty Tuesday, Works for Me WednesdayFrugal Friday Thrifty Treasures One Project at a Time, and The William Morris Project.

Note: I'm no longer adding new posts to The Family CEO. I am, however, writing at Creating This Life, where we talk about home, books, travel, and other life stuff.

Click here to subscribe to Creating This Life or click here to visit. I hope to see you there! - Julie

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen@balancedlifebudget September 7, 2012 at 8:20 am

Wow! What a great find! I need to start looking for items like this to give my house more character (on a budget).


Julie September 7, 2012 at 8:30 am

Jen, generally speaking, I find silver pieces pretty easy to come by. Especially if you’re using it the way you described and aren’t too concerned about silver vs. silver plate, condition, etc. I actually like pieces that are worn in spots and have a little “character” to them. Happy hunting!


Sara Tetreault September 7, 2012 at 8:25 am

Great tips, Julie! I love that it came from an estate sale and that you used baking soda to clean it. I have not done the foil trick but will definitely try that. I do use baking soda with my silver polish because it gives it a little extra scrubbing action. And, I just did a post about turning a glass jar into a baking soda shaker for cleaning.
Great minds think alike ;)


Julie September 7, 2012 at 8:33 am

I love your baking soda shaker, Sara.


Teresa September 7, 2012 at 8:56 am

Wow! That looks great as a vase. I especially like the last picture with your newly upholstered chair in the background! You inspired me to check into a re-do for an old chair I have!


Julie September 7, 2012 at 8:59 am

Teresa…wonderful! Send a pic of the chair when it’s done.


Barb @ A Life in Balance September 7, 2012 at 9:43 am

Wow! Have you tried this with silverware? I have a set from my mom that needs polishing, and I hesitate to use it because of needing to polish it.


Julie September 7, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Barb, I do this with my silverplate silverware all the time. As Teresa said, if there is some patina that you are deliberately trying to keep, you won’t have much control over that. In other words, it might do too good of a job. But that’s never the case with me. If you try it, let us know how it works for you.


teresa September 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I’ve used that trick for years;eit’s especially useful on flatware. The only exception are pieces with the purposeful blackened patina in the insticial places as it will remove this as well. I often use this to take the wost of the tarnish off and follow with MAAS metal cleaner. It’s the miracle polisyou hardly use any at all and it keeps it from retarnishing. Check around as its price varies widely.
If you’re storing something wrap it tightly in plastic even using the vacdcum bags for good. It’s the atmosphere that causes tarnish and some are worse than others..
Lastly, the best advice is to USE your silver and plate. It develops a beautiful patina and soap and water washing (no dishwasher in general).keeps it tarnish-free.
Nice urn, BTW.CTD


teresa September 7, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Gee, I really need to check my comments for typos and general mistakes! Please excuse the unreadable in the prior post. I can’t even understand why I typed a few of the words I did; maybe thinking of something else while I typed. Too bad there’s no edit option. CTD
P.S. I meant the vacuum bags used to store food.


Julie September 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Teresa, thanks for sharing all that valuable info on caring for silver. I understand it all perfectly and I’m sure everyone else can too. I’m going to try some of your tips!


Sheila September 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Love your find and your tip with the baking soda!!


Julie September 7, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Sheila, thank you and I’m glad you found it helpful.


Little House September 8, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Great find and terrific tip on how to “easily” polish silver. Thanks for sharing!


Julie September 9, 2012 at 5:45 pm

You’re welcome, LH. :)


Courtney September 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm

I had to come see if this was the same as my shortcut, and it is! You are right – it works great. I actually read this trick in Southern Living last year (and blogged about it) and it encouraged me to start using more silver pieces in my house. Your urn looks super.


Julie September 9, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Courtney, you’re right that it makes it so much easier to use silver, which I love. Soaking beats polishing any day. Thanks for the comment.


Michele September 10, 2012 at 9:11 am

That’s a beautiful piece and a great find. I love how it looks in your living room. I am going to try this method soon.


Julie September 10, 2012 at 9:18 am

Good luck, Michele. Let me know how your silver turns out!


Liz September 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Thanks for the how to on this! Can you tell us how much water you pour into the pan? Did you need to cover the silver completely or turn it occasionally so it all got wet? Does it take long? Just wondering. I haven’t tried this yet, although I’ve been wanting to. I still polish, but once I get a plastic tub, I will definitely give it a whirl! I’ve been finding lots of silver at sales and Goodwill. Just found an urn similar to yours. Love it all polished!


Julie September 18, 2012 at 10:07 am

Liz, it’s best if the water completely covers whatever you’re trying to polish, but on large pieces like this, I find I need to turn it. I usually just let it sit until the water cools, but you can check your piece occasionally and remove it whenever it has the look you want.

There are definitely lots of thrifted silver finds to be had. Happy hunting!


Mrs A September 10, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Great idea, love the result!


Julie September 18, 2012 at 10:07 am

Thank you!


Tabitha September 16, 2012 at 7:01 pm

It’s party time at Debt Free Mommy Blog and we’d love to see you there! Please come join us and link up to Making Space Mondays. We’d love to see any post(s) about making your spaces better. Thanks, Tabitha


Julie September 18, 2012 at 10:08 am

Thanks, Tabitha. I’ve bookmarked your party. Hope to participate soon.


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