Boiling My Sterling

A pile of arnished silverware
Before boiling
Silverware after the boiling process
After boiling

I’m a little odd. In my tiny cabin in the woods, I like to use sterling silver flatware. Now, that’s not the bad part… that’s the good part. The bad part is that my water has a fairly high concentration of sulphur. Any of you chemistry majors out there know what that does to my forks, knives and spoons? Although I love sterling silver, I’ve pretty much given it up in jewelry for this reason. I shower in my bling and sterling turns… well… black. I have the same tarnishing problem with my flatware although it takes a little longer. However, I’m not ready to give up on it and go to something gross like stainless… and I’m not quite rich enough to go 14K or platinum in the kitchen. :)

Tarnished spoon, just dropped into the boiling water
Tarnished spoon, just dropped into the boiling water
Silverware, beginning to lose the tarnish
Silverware, beginning to lose the tarnish. You can tell which ones were added first, can’t you?

So, about every two weeks, I have to polish the silver because I can’t stand to eat off the black tarnish any longer. After spending many years polishing once or twice a year with silver polish, I was looking for other options when I came across the aluminum foil method. I’ve been using it ever since. I place an appropriately sized stainless steel pan on the stove and cover the interior bottom and the sides with aluminum foil. Then I fill it with water and bring it to a boil. Then, I carefully submerge my sterling pieces and leave them just long enough for the oxidation to transfer from the utensils to the foil. Then, I fish them out with a pair of tongs.

Tarnished aluminum foil, after the silverware is removed
Tarnished aluminum foil, after the silverware is removed

The results are pretty impressive, I must say. And, it’s nice to have one less jar of cleaner (especially expensive cleaner) in stock. When I’m finished, I wad up the foil into a crinkly ball and put it in with my steel wool pads because wadded foil does a better job of removing burn and yuck from pans and baking dishes than any steel wool, metal mesh, or plastic mesh pad you can buy for that purpose. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little tarnished from the silverware cleaning, it still works just fine. Note: If you are being uber-frugal, you can use a piece of foil that was already used for covering something. Just clean it off before lining the bottom of the pan. Waste NOT! :)

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