I bought this little bowl a few days ago, you might have seen it in my first thrift finds of 2015 post.
It was pretty badly tarnished, and on sale for only $2. The first thing to figure out before you try to polish any metal is what it’s made of, silver plate, sterling silver etc. The easiest method is to check for a label. On the bottom of my bowl, was the faintest remains of what once said Paul Revere Reproductions. I’ve seen these plenty of times before at thrift stores. They were made in sterling silver and silver plated varieties. In America sterling silver will always have either the word sterling or the number 925 on it. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver hence the 925. If no label is present it is most likely silver plated. Which is copper electroplated with a thin layer of silver. With old pieces there is also a good chance you can look at the silver finish and find a couple spots that look coppery colored.
I didn’t find any sterling silver markings on the bowl, plus there are several spots on the inside that are copper colored. To polish silver plating the most important thing is to be gently since you are an infinitesimal amount of silver away from a copper piece. Here is the bowl interior before polishing:
I mixed up a little water with baking soda, and applied it to half the bowl with a toothbrush:
Immediately there was grey sludge instead of white paste. I found that letting the mixture sit on the tarnish loosed it without too much need to scrub hard with the brush. Here is the end result after a 10 minute scrub on the right side:
I then used a store bought silver polish on the left side, which did work quicker, here it is after a 5 minute scrub:
I would have to say that although the baking soda/water took a little longer, it achieves a good shine without chemicals, or a nasty smell for much cheaper than the polish. On the really tarnished parts the polish worked much faster, but the baking soda does get it done in the end. If you had tons of silver to polish perhaps it would end up being a worthwhile time saver. Here is the bowl totally shined up:
I also tried the baking soda paste on my sterling silver jewelry box, a thrift store find from many years ago. It doesn’t tarnish too much but it does get very dull looking here it is before (left) and after (right):