Do you want to know a quick easy way to clean the silver cutlery for your Christmas dinner? An easier way than elbow grease and silver polish? We managed to get Keith to give us a tip using science to do the job for you.
Basically, silver gets tarnished on exposure to the air. The tarnish is a result of a chemical reaction between the silver and sulphur substances in the air. This produces a layer of silver sulphide on the silver. You can use polish to remove it, or you can use chemistry. Believe us, folks, the chemistry does the trick and you can get on with something else.
- a large dish to take about three or four pints of hot water
- a sheet of aluminium foil to cover the bottom.
- hot water
- gloves to protect your hands – you will be making an alkaline solution so don’t get it on your hands
- a tablespoon of baking soda
- a tablespoon of salt
- Lay the aluminium on the bottom of the dish or a pan (BUT NOT AN ALUMINIUM PAN!)
- Place the cutlery piece by piece on the foil. (IF THE CUTLERY HAS HANDLES OF ANY OTHER MATERIAL DO NOT DO THIS, YOU DO NOT WANT TO RISK AFFECTING THEM.)
- You need hot almost boiling water. Pour about two pints into a jug and put it in your sink. The reason you do it there is because you may get some effervescence or frothing. Add half a tablespoon of the baking soda and the same amount of salt salt and stir it up.
- Pour it over the cutlery in the large dish. Prepare another two pints of hot water and add the remaining half tablespoon of baking soda and half tablespoon of salt.
- Then just watch, you will see the tarnish mysteriously disappears and the silver is cleaned.
- The tarnish will be transferred to the aluminium, which will form as a residue on the foil.
- Using gloves, remove the silver when clean and thoroughly rinse and clean it in cold water.
- Pour the solution away.
[If you happen to get any of the solution near the eyes, wash with cold water]
This is a very simple electrochemical reaction that will not harm your silver. Essentially, Silver Sulphide in an alkaline medium will allow the sulphur in the Silver sulphide to react with the aluminium, to form aluminium sulphide, leaving the silver free of tranish.
If you are interested, this is shown by the chemical formula
3Ag2S + 2Al -> 6Ag + Al2S3
Silver Sulphide Alumnium Silver Aluminium sulphide
Remember to rinse thoroughly.
If you found that interesting and helpful, you may like to check out Keith’s book SCHOOLBOY SCIENCE REMEMBERED, available from Amazon. To get a flavour, just check out the video clip of the book – it will only take about a minute to view. You will find it in the September archive; just scroll down it. The book is available through the West Uist Chronicle bookshop at the bottom of the blog, or directly through Amazon
All the best for a Happy Christmas