Salvaging Old Flatware–How To Remove Tarnish from Antique Silverplate

Old flatware pieces have become a recent obsession of mine.

remove tarnish

I’m not quite sure where it came from, but I have a deep desire to buy these old, tarnished forks, spoons, and knives whenever I see them at a market.  I feel like it’s my duty to save them from the scrap yard.

I like the variety of these older pieces, as well as thinking through the stories from all of the meals they have seen.  It would be lovely to have a collected set of vintage flatware.

In order to make these pieces usable again though, they need some serious cleaning.  Most of the time, I’ve found that pieces can be brought back to life with a very simple cleaning.

remove tarnish

And even the most tarnished of pieces, with rust and oxidized spots, can be made beautiful again.

remove tarnish

Here is the best method I have found to remove tarnish, and restore the shine of old flatware.  For full disclosure, it’s not purely my own method, but adapted from many other sources online I have read and tried.

I promise it’s really very easy though, and uses common products that you already have lying around your house.

How to Remove Tarnish from Old Silverware

It starts with a pyrex dish lined with aluminum foil.

Add to the foil roughly a tablespoon of baking soda, a tablespoon of salt, and a half-cup white vinegar (watch out, it will foam up!).

MIx up the solution slightly, then place your flatware pieces in a single layer in the dish.

How to Remove Tarnish from Old Silverplate

Pour on top of them enough boiling water to cover every piece.  Allow the pieces to sit for at least a minute, while the chemical reaction from the foil, soda, and vinegar goes to work.

After they soak, remove the pieces one at a time (probably using some tongs, you are dealing with boiling water here!) and scrub each piece with very fine steel wool.

remove tarnish

It’s amazing . . . the tarnish just wipes right off.  For the rougher pieces that have rust or oxidization, you will have to scrub a little harder and a little longer.

How to Remove Tarnish from old Silerware

See?  Minimal effort for a great, shiny, reward.


Some of these pieces I took up to my space to sell, some of them I’m keeping to start my own collection. I am especially fond of any that have monogramming.

So the next time you spot a box of old flatware at a flea market, don’t just leave it for the junk pile.  It can be salvaged!


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Wednesday 18th of January 2023

I did this to my old Oneida set and they look almost new! It was really an incredible transformation. Thank you for the awesome tip.

Melanie Alexander

Thursday 19th of January 2023

You're welcome! Glad it helped :)

Lorelai @ Life With Lorelai

Thursday 5th of February 2015

These are great tips! I know I have some old silver that could sure use the help. We'd love to have you come share your blog posts at the Home Matters Linky Party! Come for a visit, the Door OPENS Friday. :)

~Lorelai Life With Lorelai

Jackie B

Thursday 5th of February 2015

I found a complete set of old silver plate with our initial for only $10.00! We have been using it for the past couple of years as our everyday flatware. It makes breakfast seem so special!

mary scott

Wednesday 4th of February 2015

I started collecting old mismatched SP salad forks, sugar shells & butter knives. I love to eat ice cream with a sugar shell!


Wednesday 4th of February 2015

You can do it with just the baking soda and no steelwool to scratch either. Also, be careful using a pyrex container as it can easily break due to thermal shock. I always give mine a little rub with silver polish to make them glow. The difference is amazing. Of course, if you use them everyday, you won't need to polish. Just avoid the dishwasher.