Ketchup to clean metal?

Dear Orchidians,

During my holidays I read about someone using ketchup to clean
silver but now I am home I cannot make it clean anything. In fact it
seems to be darkening the tarnish. Did I completely misunderstand the
previous e-mails about this or is there some secret to using it? Does
it matter what brand? I am using Heinz, made in Thailand. At least
the label says that. On closer inspection the labels are not attached
exactly evenly, slightly ascew, which often means it is a counterfeit
product. This country, Bangladesh, has counrterfeit products of
almost everything from soaps to glue sticks to many, many food
products. At any rate I thought I would ask for more details and if
need be I can ask someone to buy me some when they go back to the
U.S. next time. Sorry to bring up the topic again but if something as
simple as ketchup can clean silver I would love to know how to use

Sharron in Dhaka with the end of the monsoon rains still with us and
flooding the streets

Hi Sharon -

I understood that ketchup was only useful to clean copper? Not at
all sure about silver, though.


During my holidays I read about someone using ketchup to clean
silver but now I am home I cannot make it clean anything. In fact
it seems to be darkening the tarnish. 

I would be very surprised if ketchup where any good at cleaning. The
only thing about it that I can think of being of use is that it’s
probably slightly acidic. The same effect could be achieved with a
solution of sodium bisulphate, and it would probably work much

Paul Anderson

Hi Sharron,

I haven’t actually seen anyone use ketchup on silver, but when I was
a kid we used to polish our penny collections with it. It takes A LOT
of elbow grease, but it shouldn’t matter what brand you’re using. If
you have silver jewelry you’re trying to get the tarnish off of,
there’s the fun chemistry experiment of taking a sheet of regular
aluminum foil (the type you wrap food in), placing it in the bottom
of a large glass container (such as a mixing bowl), sprinkling a
small handful of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) over it, a good bit
of table salt on top of that, and then drowning the whole thing in
really hot water. Then you submerge your piece(s) of sterling in the
solution (making sure they’re in contact with the aluminum) and the
tarnish is “zapped” off the silver and onto the foil. It’s really
pretty cool. I wouldn’t recommend it for anything with and
especially super soft or delicate ones, but I use this every year
when I have to haul the silverplate serving stuff out for holiday
meals. It really beats using the silver creams, and usually only
requires a little touch-up. Plus, there’s the added bonus of
entertaining the kids! When you pull it out, rinse it, wash it gently
in a pH balanced soap (like liquid handsoap), dry immediately, and
voi la! Anyone else have favorite home “remedies” for cleaning


Ketchup is mostly made from tomatoes and vinegar, so it’s a little
acidic. Google tells me its pH is 3.8-3.9 or so.

I’ve never tried it on silver before, but when I was a kid I
remember putting old copper pennies in ketchup overnight and having
them be pink and fresh in the morning. It’s basically a weak pickle

Willis Hance

I was the one the brought up that I use ketchup to clean my silver.
We have not had that problem, we use Hunt ketchup brand. My husband
said it could be that if you are out of country your ketchup may
have sulfates in the blend. This will darken the metal.

Fresh tomato paste as I am thinking it is the acid in the tomatoes
that are cleaning it or maybe fresh cut lemon, disclaimer, I have not
tried these and remember not to use on delicate material.

Good luck !

CreatedWithFire Studio’s