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Earl Proulx's Recipe for Homemade Silver Cleaner

Earl Proulx’s Recipe for Homemade Silver Cleaner
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More often than not, when I meet a longtime Yankee reader and tell him or her that I work for the magazine, the first question is: “Did you know Earl Proulx?” I always get the feeling that I’m letting them down when I tell them that I didn’t, although his presence is certainly still felt in the Dublin offices. It’s become clear that our readers yearn for the no-nonsense advice he dished out, and in response to that, we’ve been bringing back some of his home hints and tips and featuring them in the home section of

Occasionally, I come across a tip that doesn’t seem as though it could possibly work—so I feel compelled to test it, which is how I ended up cleaning silver using the electrolytic method described in Yankee Magazine’s book Make it Last.

Make it Last by Earl Proulx and The Editors of Yankee Magazine

The instructions were quite simple, really, with only four ingredients.

Ingredients for Homemade Silver Cleaner:

  • 1 quart of hot water
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • 1 sheet of aluminum foil
  • non-aluminum dish
This method requires four household staples.

Instructions for Using Homemade Silver Cleaner:

  • Line bottom of non-aluminum dish with a sheet of aluminum foil
  • Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda into a quart of hot water
  • Soak for a half hour — time may vary depending on degree of tarnish
  • Buff with clean, dry cloth

I initially tested it out on some silver jewelry that had gotten lightly tarnished while I was on vacation. Lo and behold, it worked! With one success under my belt, I went in search of the most tarnished spoon I could find that didn’t have a raised design and tried the process again. (NOTE: Earl did not recommend using this on silver that had a raised design, as you may lose the dark accents that have built up over time, or using it on cemented pieces, as the soaking process could loosen the cement.)

The subject: A heavily tarnishsed spoon.

This time I heated the water in the microwave for two minutes, rather than relying on the temperature that the tap yielded, and let it soak for a half hour.

The process: Soak tarnished silver in a water/baking-soda bath.

The spoon emerged from its water/baking soda bath in sparkling condition.

The result: A spoon free of tarnish

I love this method of cleaning silver. It’s super-easy, uses common household staples, and, most important, doesn’t require gloves or messy chemicals.

Read more of Earl’s dos and don’ts of polishing silver and other household tasks at:

Brenda Darroch


Brenda Darroch


Brenda Darroch is a contributor to She lives in Kennebunk, Maine.
Updated Friday, September 23rd, 2011

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