We put your best tips for cleaning silver to the test on a single spoon—here's which method proved most effective.
My first attempt at testing your tips for silver cleaning resulted in a sad, sad story: The silver pieces I picked up at a flea market called The Golden Nugget (maybe the name should have been an indicator) turned out to be mostly silver-plated. So despite my best efforts and your good ideas, some of the pieces just wouldn't clean—and would have to be re-plated if I hadn't just paid $1 for each utensil and thrown in the towel. You called it when I mentioned rust, and you were right.
For the second test, I borrowed a silver spoon from Amanda Hesser and tried six different solutions in bands across it to see which one cleaned best—meaning without stripping away the good tarnish, but getting things much shinier. Here are your suggestions, what we tested, and the winning trick:
From the bottle:
The Spoon Test:
From the top of that spoon (pictured above) moving down, these are all the solutions we tested and how they fared as cleaners:
Tiffany Silver Polish Spray (white):
Wright's Silver Cream (pink):
Lemon juice + baking soda (foamy):
Hubcap cleaner (clear):
Aluminum foil + baking soda + hot water (underwater in left image):
While true silver polishes, such as both Tiffany's and Wright's, cleaned the spoon very much to our liking (meaning thoroughly but without excessive abrasion), nothing compared in ease, effectiveness, and lack of mess than the combination of baking soda, hot water, and aluminum foil. It's all-natural, effective because of a chemical reaction (which we geekily love), and seemed impossible to mess up. We also loved how simple it would be for cleaning a whole pile of silver.
If you happen to live near a Tiffany's and don't mind forking over for a bottle, or have a tub of Wright's on hand for cleaning earrings, they wouldn't be bad in a pinch. Our tube of toothpaste didn't seem very effective, but the real concern would be that every tube is different so the potency would be hard to moniter. Both lemon juice + baking soda and hubcap cleaner were so powerful we'd be scared to try them on good silver—and the latter was just a little gross to consider for untensils.
How to use baking soda + hot water + aluminum foil to clean your silver:
First photo by Bobbi Lin; all others by Alpha Smoot.