Milk Is The Unexpected Secret To Polished Silverware

With the holidays right around the corner, it will soon be time to break out the good silverware in anticipation of dinner with friends and family. If you notice that your silver serving trays and utensils are looking a little duller than usual, there's an effective solution hiding in plain sight right in your kitchen. By submerging silver pieces in milk overnight, you can wake up to shiny, vibrant utensils that will be the stars of your holiday spread (along with your painstakingly prepared recipes, of course).

Tarnished silver can take on yellow, purple, or even black shades as time goes on. This discoloration results from prolonged air exposure, as air contains chemical compounds like hydrogen sulfide. When hydrogen sulfide comes into contact with silver, it creates another compound known as silver sulfide, aka silver tarnish. Keeping silverware in areas with higher humidity levels, such as the kitchen, increases the rate at which this chemical reaction occurs. Fortunately, milk contains a very important substance that can undo the ravages of air exposure on silver.

The secret ingredient is lactic acid

The lactic acid found in milk and other dairy products is a great option for removing tarnish from silver. Its acidic characteristics mean that lactic acid can effectively break down the silver sulfide that causes utensils and other items to become discolored. Plus, lactic acid is not so harsh that it will damage silverware — score! Many dairy products, such as yogurt, are fermented thanks to the addition of lactic acid bacteria. Milk also contains lactic acid but in very small amounts compared to fermented dairy products. However, this concentration of lactic acid increases as milk goes sour. 

Thus, sour milk is much more effective at removing the tarnish from silverware when compared to unspoiled milk. However, no one wants to allow a gallon of milk to go bad in their fridge just for the purpose of polishing silver. In this case, there's another method you can use that combines milk with a few other tarnish-busting ingredients.

DIY sour milk to make silverware look like new again

Leaving your silverware to linger in milk overnight certainly isn't the most efficient polishing method, especially when you have an impending social event on your holiday agenda. Additionally, keeping spoiled milk around the home might not seem very appealing when you consider the overpowering odor it generates. Fortunately, you can easily create your own sour milk concoction that's capable of removing tarnish from silver in as little as half an hour.

Simply take one cup of milk and pour in one tablespoon of white vinegar. Next, submerge your silverware in the mixture to restore the original sheen. If you need more milk to soak pieces, just increase the ratio of white vinegar to milk. Consider that a neutral pH is about 7, while white vinegar has a pH of 2.4, and the increased acidity allows tarnish to be removed from silver at a much faster rate. With the help of a few basic kitchen ingredients, you can have dazzling silverware to show off at your next dinner party or family gathering — no polish required.