Polishing Silver the Modern, Frugal Way


When I think about housewives of eras gone by, I can’t help but recall their organized routine of cleaning.  Every household task was assigned a specific day to be tackled.  There were daily chores, weekly chores and monthly chores.

One of those monthly chores was to polish the silver.  Depending on how often a woman used her silver serving sets, she may have to polish it more frequently.  I remember watching and then helping my mother polish the silver when I was a child.  It was a chore which took a good amount of time.  And if you skipped a month, boy did you pay the price later because the tarnish would be twice as bad.

Even when I left home and joined a sorority, polishing the silver was one of our sorority house duties.  It seemed if you wanted to enjoy silver, you had to spend the time to keep it polished.  In today’s busy world, polishing silver has moved to the bottom of the chore list.

Easy, DIY Silver Polishing

My mom’s silver tea set. The “Before” photo.

Over the last few years, my mother and mother-in-law have been passing down family heirloom pieces of silver.  In fact, I even received my mom’s beautiful coffee and tea serving set.  I love all these pieces and love to have them displayed.  But…I do not have time to keep them polished.  So, I have lowered my standards and settled on the nice “shabby chic” look of tarnished silver.  It’s hip and trendy right now, right?

Last week as I was preparing for my absolute favorite event…Easter Brunch, I decided I really wanted to use my mom’s serving set.  I carefully pulled it out and found it deeply tarnished.  I had zero time to polish it.  I did quickly grab one of those special polishing cloths and tried to shine it…but it was looking like days before these poor items would ever see any shine.

How to Polish Tarnished Silver with Salt

Tarnished teaspoons would never do!

I was ready to tuck the silver away and rethink my brunch plans.  But I recalled a trick I had read about and decided I had a few minutes while the boys were dying their Easter eggs, to give it a try.  I was fairly confident it wasn’t going to work but I was desperate enough to at least try.  If anything, maybe it would take the tarnish down just a notch.

I filled my kitchen sink up with the hottest water out of the faucet.  Then I lined the sink with tin foil and added about ¼ cup of salt.  I swished the water until the salt dissolved.  Then I place a couple of the silver pieces into the water.  If they fit, I completely submersed them.  If they were too big (like the serving tray) then I just did one half at a time.

Polish tarnished silver with a tinfoil-lined sink and salt.

Dissolve a 1/4 cup of salt in a tinfoil-lined sink with hot tap water.

What happened right before my very eyes was nothing short of a miracle! Within literally seconds, these beautiful, antique pieces of silver which had been hidden under the tarnish of neglect suddenly gleamed with new life!  I was utterly shocked at the speed it took!  There were a few pieces I soaked for a little longer because they were more tarnished than others.

It happened so quickly, that I ran into the dining room and grabbed more silver pieces to test it again.  Every single time, the shine of these pieces almost blinded me.  In 30 minutes, I had polished at least a dozen severely tarnished silver serving pieces.  And I should mention that I did this without harmful chemicals or any muscle on my part.

Silver polish creams and cloths are not cheap but in the past they seemed a necessary evil if you were to enjoy any sort of tarnish-free silver.  Using roughly 4 feet of tin foil and ¼ cup of salt added up to literally a few coins to clean dozens of silver pieces.  Frugal?  You bet!

Quick and Easy Silver Polishing.

We enjoyed Easter brunch served with our family’s heirloom silver pieces!

Upon seeing and hearing how I salvaged the beautiful, timeless treasures both my mother and mother-in-law were stunned and thrilled.  They recounted the hours they would spend polishing silver every month.  In fact, my mother made a passing comment about taking her silver service back now that she could keep up with the polishing.  Oh, no…I shouldn’t have said anything!  Haha!

Our family enjoyed a beautiful Easter brunch served with heirloom silver pieces some of which have been part of our family for generations.  I am so happy to have found a frugal and easy way to keep these special family pieces protected, ready for use and show off their beauty.

Adding this monthly chore to my list of household tasks is one I’ll readily take on…zero time and almost zero cost.  I do love modern housekeeping!


 Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, sticking to a budget, and living sustainably in her blog archive.


Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.

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