Question regarding the foil baking soda technique for removing tarnish on sterling silver electroplate

Chemical dips and baking soda/aluminium are not the same thing. ALL polishing agents are ‘chemicals.’

It sounds like your suggestion is just to go ahead and leave it tarnished and throw it away because there’s no other recourse.

FUD notwithstanding, I’ve used baking soda/aluminium with great results for DECADES. Are there microscopic changes to the outer layer of the silver? Yep. You know what else leaves those? Any kind of polishing of any kind. Also, regular wear and use. Also time. Also contact with air.

There are no non-destructive methods of polishing. They do not exist. That’s not how polishing works.



how did you know!?!…speaking of glue…in addition to all the damage mentioned previously, the electric “candlesticks” were glued into the cups…!…literally flooded with glue…!…

the good news is that the glue used had became quite brittle…i was able to twist and torque with barely any force, and the candlesticks and glue released quickly and cleanly.



Hi all,

So, i am trying to wrap my head around all this science…

am i correct in my understanding below…

electroplating is a thin surface layer of sterling, over a base metal…

the black tarnish is a layer, of indeterminant thickness, on the surface of this thin layer of sterling…

  1. it could be mechanically (buff/ hand/ etc) removed…which takes the whole layer of tarnish and all it is comprised of, away…in order to reveal any clean sterling below (if any remains)

if one is lucky, then this layer of tarnish is not too thick, and a thin layer of sterling silver remains underneath, which can then be gently hand and cream polished, so as not to remove any more of it.

  1. or, instead of mechanically, it “could” (but not should !) be chemically removed…the aluminum foil method that i ignorantly used (youtube is a double edged sword…take care) is a way of chemically converting the thin layer of tarnish, basically into two things…fine silver residue which remains on the metal…and oxide residue which transfers to the aluminum

in this instance, an indeterminant thickness of delicate fine silver layer remains on the surface, but will/ may eventually be removed when buffing, or may be removed if hand cream polishing is done …to eliminate the now dull matte grey surface that resulted from the aluminum foil bath…

hmmm…burnishing comes to mind…

so, in either method, the tarnished layer of the sterling plate, of indeterminant thickness, will be removed…one way or another…as well as any surface patina that was deliberately applied…

the fine silver residue layer “might” be gently preserved by the hand cream buffing…(?)…

and if one is lucky, there will be some sterling silver plate, of indeterminant thickness, left on the surface, that can be gently hand cream polished to a shiny finish…

if the tarnish layer was all the way thru the sterling plate, then upon removal of tarnish, by any means, will reveal the base metal, which may or not subsequently polish up shiny…

at this later stage, of a potential layer of fine silver residue, sitting atop the remaining sterling plate…or atop the base metal…one can either gently hand cream polish the fine silver layer…or buff the base metal…

and/ or have the piece electroplated again…

(my above is just my thoughts…not what should be done, or what a professional restorer would do if given the damaged piece from the get go)



It’s useful to know exactly what sort of plating is on the pieces. Could you post the exact wording stamped on them?


here is a photo of the stamping on the bottom:

on another note, before “the foil bath”, i struggled to get the blitz silver polish to remove any of the original shiny grey/ black tarnish…i possibly was not diligent enough or did not apply enough pressure…

after “the foil bath”, and thinking about the situation a bit more, and having already buffed one candelabra with my flexshaft and a balloon buff charged with tripoli, i decided to try the blitz silver polish again by hand, on the other, now matte white/ grey candelabra…

i am finding that it is working better for me now…but that may just be because i am now attempting to polish what is now a newly deposited layer of fine silver…

working slowly by hand, i can now see “areas” that i presume to be base metal…

having received the candelabra in already bad condition, i am not sure what damage i did, and what was there before…not that it matters…just a thought…


the saga continues

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potato peels are very slightly abrasive… that’s probably how it works and why it takes so much rubbing to clean silverware…the acidity is so low that it would have no effect.

I always figured it was a way for my mom to keep me busy. Old world Danish parents who had the idea. “ALL kids must be working at all times from when they woke until they went to bed.” We did have the brightest silver, cleaned often.

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A: “It sounds like your suggestion is just to go ahead and leave it tarnished and throw it away because there’s no other recourse.”
Uh no. I used to make and restore sterling silver hollow ware and flat ware for private individuals as well as ecclesiastical clients. I started in 1969. My work is easy to find with a google search.
B: “FUD notwithstanding, I’ve used baking soda/aluminium with great results for DECADES. Are there microscopic changes to the outer layer of the silver? Yep. You know what else leaves those? Any kind of polishing of any kind. Also, regular wear and use. Also time. Also contact with air.” C:“There are no non-destructive methods of polishing. They do not exist. That’s not how polishing works.” Before the 18th century and still practiced in some 3rd world countries burnishing was a preferred method of polishing. It does not remove metal but just moves it around.
So may I ask, Are you a professional Silver smith and/or a silver restoration expert?
Given a choice I’m still gonna listen to Jeff Herman.From his web site…
I have been working in silver since 1976. I earned a BFA degree in silversmithing and jewelry making from Maine College of Art where I studied under Harold Schremmer and Ernest T. Thompson. Upon graduating, I was hired by Gorham as a designer, sample maker, and technical illustrator. I then worked at Pilz Ltd., a small silver company where I created ecclesiastical and specialty ware prior to starting my own business in 1984.

I have garnered an international reputation for honest advice and quality craftsmanship with special attention to surface finishing. As a sole-proprietor I have restored, reconstructed, and hand finished everything from everyday disposal-damaged and dishwasher-dulled flatware to major surgery on historically important tankards, tureens, and tea services made by Revere, Storr, Bateman, Gorham, Tiffany, Whiting, and Fletcher & Gardiner. EVERY piece receives love and care, regardless of its value. And as an environmentalist, I use the safest, non-toxic, products available in one of the best equipped restoration workshops in the world.

In 1989 I founded the Society of American Silversmiths to preserve and promote this beautiful art form. Find my CV here.

Some of my Art

© Jeffrey Herman, sterling vase with five pearls, 5" tall x 3" dia., raised from a rectangular sheet and allowed cracks to natually occur. High polish inside and out. Photo: Bill Hicks

Professional Affiliations

Founder & Executive Director
Society of American Silversmiths

Advisor on Restoration & Silver Care
International Institute of Modern Butlers
International Match Safe Association
New York Silver Society
Total Superyacht
Silver Magazine

Moderator on Silver Care & Techniques

Fellow – Institute of Professional Goldsmiths, UK
Collections Care and Conservation Alliance
Professional Restorers International
Preservation Artisans Guild
New York Silver Society


Consultant to the Silver Industry
Consultant to Lampert Pulse Arc Welders
Listed with Jewelers Board of Trade Recommended by

Museums / Associations
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Yale University Art Gallery
RI School of Design Museum of Art
Indiana Museum of Art
Cape Ann Museum
Mystic Seaport Museum
International Tennis Hall of Fame
United States Sailing Association
Trinity Church, Newport, RI

Beverly Bremer Silver Shop
Drucker Antiques
Firestone & Parson
Georg Jensen
James Robinson, Inc.
Jonathan Trace
M. Ford Creech Antiques
Marsh & Ackerman Antiques
Nate Ivey, DC Silver
S.J. Shrubsole
Spencer Marks Antiques

Auction Houses
Christie’s / Heritage / Skinner / Sotheby’s

And finally

"Aluminum Foil Technique ©


Above: The top sterling fork was left unpolished. The lower fork is another piece from the same lot that was that was subjected to the aluminum foil technique for only two minutes, resulting in stripped factory-applied patina. The whiteness is the result from copper that was etched (as seen under 10X magnification) from the sterling, leaving fine silver behind. Here’s another shocking example.

This process, known as electrochemical (galvanic) reduction, uses aluminum foil (or an aluminum plate); a ceramic or other non-heat-sensitive bowl or pan; sodium carbonate (washing soda) or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda); and boiling water. The aluminum is placed in the bottom of the bowl with either the washing soda or baking soda distributed on the aluminum surface. Boiling water is then poured over the powder and the sterling, coin silver, .800 (or other silver-copper alloy) object is immersed. When the object comes into contact with the aluminum in the solution, the tarnish (silver sulfide) is converted back to silver. And as with silver dips, factory-applied patinas will be dissolved. These pieces will eventually require repatinating. Case in point: This action will happen to both tarnished and polished silver. (Note: washing soda etches more severely than baking soda.)

Pieces cleaned may tarnish more quickly than silver that has been polished with a paste or liquid, for the object’s rough surface will act like a sponge and more readily absorb tarnish-producing gases and moisture. This same solution can also seep into hollow areas such as coffeepot and teapot handle sockets, unsoldered spun beads around the tops and bottoms of some holloware, and weighted pieces with minute holes that developed from over polishing. Another not-so-obvious problem is scratching of the object when dragged over the aluminum. For all these reasons this tarnish removal technique is not recommended."

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“I’d never do it on plated materials or something like a coin or a piece of historic value. But on simple solid silver, it’s just fine.”

I’m not sure how much clearer I can be that we’re talking about completely different things. But whatever. You flex the way you want to flex.

from all of the above discussion, there seems to be NO non destructive way to remove tarnish, especially heavy tarnish…electrochemical, chemical and polishing (abrasives) all remove tarnish and silver. It seems that the only way to restore something would be stripping the tarnish, re-plating to rebuild the silver layer, and restoration of varnish and/or patina. That would be beyond the reach of anyone except a professional restorer… and beyond the price of shining up something that is in everyday use, like flatware…should everything be cleaned professionally?

Careful hand polishing with a really good silver polish and 100% cotton cloth can be used on both sterling and silver plate hollow ware and flat ware. There are proper ways to do it. Arms on a candelabra need to be supported while polishing. Same with handles, finials and spouts on pitchers, coffee and tea pots, etc. Jeffrey Herman’s guide to polishing silver is worth the read. And when hand polishing silver only a very small number of microns on the metal are removed. Silver plating is itself only microns thick. If hand polishing were “destructive” all of the silver plate out there would be stripped back to the base metal. The best way to keeps silver from tarnishing is to either store it wrapped in Pacific Silver Cloth, or if on display with anti tarnish strips.

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an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure… technically removing a few microns from plating that is microns thick will still remove more microns over time… how do you deal with very heavy black sulfide tarnish? if built up it will be thick…