Cool Science: Restore Silver with Electrochemistry

Cool Science: Restore Silver with Electrochemistry

Hello fellow Nerds. In this video we’ll be electrochemically restoring these tarnished silver bars. We’ll show you two ways of doing this. One using aluminum foil, the other using a battery. For the aluminum foil method, get a shallow tray with a piece of aluminum foil much larger than your silver. Add a solution of salt and baking soda to cover both pieces. Now when we add it, as long as the silver does not touch the aluminum, nothing will happen! Because we need an electrical connection between the them. The tarnish is only removed when it directly receives electrons from the aluminum. So to get it to work, we simply place the silver on the aluminum to make a connection. As you can see, the results are very quick and quite dramatic. We did not time lapse the restoration process. What you saw actually happened that fast. Let’s try that again with another piece of tarnished silver. This one is going slower because of the very thick layer of tarnish. As you can see, you need the solution of baking soda to touch all parts of the silver in order to restore it. Now let’s try this experiment again with a piece of copper instead of a piece of aluminum foil. Aluminum gives electrons very easily but copper does not, so let’s see what happens. As you can see, nothing will happen because the copper won’t easily give its electrons to silver. However, we can force the electron flow using a battery. To do this, we simply connect the copper to the positive end of the battery and then connect the negative end to the silver. This setup will use the energy of the battery to force electrons from the copper into the silver. This is quite dramatic so watch carefully. 3…2…1… Did you miss it? Let me show you again As long as you have a battery, this process will occur with any electrode, not just copper. So there you have it, we’ve restored tarnished silver with both aluminum and a battery. Thanks for watching another NurdRage original video. Please subscribe, rate and comment!


  1. Is this a worthwhile method of polishing silver at home while guaranteeing I won't devalue the antiques? I mean, traditional polish removes small amounts off the surface to make it shiny. Does forcing electrons back into the oxide layer make it shiny, or just un-tarnished?

  2. Since it only works on elemental silver, this can be a way to determine if a piece of metal or jewelry is silver or not.

  3. Just as a word of precaution, THIS SHOULD BE DONE OUTSIDE, because it produces some kind of sulfuric gas (my guess is hydrosulfuric avid since it made me nauseous enough to vomit and feel very dissociated for a couple hours).The gas will smell very foul, and if it is a sulfuric acid, it is corrosive, and it is extremely dangerous.

  4. Nooooooo, maybe you just had a stomach ache from something you ate. Lets see the materials – H2O, NaCl, CaCO3, Ag, Cu/Al…………. Not a single sulfur atom in there buddy, looms like you just ate some bad food earlier

  5. I liked the Aluminium method. Probably because it's the easier method for me and copper is more expensive.

  6. If you read the description ''old silver is often tarnished by a thin layer of silver sulfide''. So there is some sulfur.

  7. the reaction produces a small quantity of hydrogen sulfide H2S. i was processing a pretty large batch and it gave me a killer headache and a stomach with a mind on it's own. i still can't believe the rotten egg smell didn't ring a bell right away. for all people trying this !! take safety precautions

  8. you said in the description the tarnish is silver sulfide it can be converted back to silver by the negative charge

    but some people say they tried it and it produced hydrogen sulfide gas

    I think because the silver sulfide is reacting with the hydrogen gas being formed at the negative electrode
    so the result would be silver and hydrogen sulfide

    I cant believe you didn't say that in the description


  9. yea there is a possibility we will be marked down at A level for spelling it that way. everyone has just convened to American convention

  10. I feel I ought to withdraw my ignorant opinion from the debate. Clearly I did not realise from behind my veil of anonyminity when I wrote it how dreadfully ill informed I was and how vastly insufficient was my wisdom. There perhaps is a debate here, but I was not the person to argue it. I can see now that the preservation of traditional Latinate spelling is more important than a few silly marks or some misplaced, petty, doctrinaire pedantry. I trust you will forgive my lapse of humility.

  11. Wait dosent silver have a higher reducing potential than copper? So technically should'nt copper give those e- to silver ?

  12. The 2nd method might give the silver a small coating of copper — I didn't like it. To be safe you can use a graphite electrode (e.g, a pencil sharpened on both ends for example).

  13. Chemical silver restoring solutions are not only expensive they are bad for your silver… They strip of layers of silver off at a time, they smell bad and they make your silver re-tarnish faster afterwords. Dip your silver in lemon juice to help keep it tarnish free..

  14. Hi that's quite effective with silver. Thank you.

    What about restoring tarnished copper items, brass and bronze?

    Tried the same with copper as Al is more electro-positive than Cu. But it wasn't spontaneous and needed applied EMF which made the cu bright but dint remove the dark marks

    Tried the same with emf, Al and brass/bronze, made them both darker !

    Plz help Thx.

  15. Reverse the polarity of your electrodes. You might actually be making the object you are trying to brighten up the donor electrode if that is happening.

  16. A light layer of mineral oil after cleaning works just as well. I've found 'baby' oil to be better at this than medical or machine grade mineral oil though.

  17. why does the tarnish fade away in such direction (right to left) at 1:53 ??
    shouldn't the electrons from the negative wire cause the tarnish at point of contact to start to fade first?? hence left to right…. which obviously didn't happen..
    welp plz :))

  18. when i tried this with aluminum and a silver plated creamer container the solution turned yellowish some of the tarnish wiped off but didn't change and smelled like death what happened?

  19. Elections do not Flow from Positive to Negative as Benjamin Franklin assumed in 1752.This Was proven incorrect by J.J. Thomson in 1897 during his experiments with cathode ray tubes.We now know Electrons Flow from the Negative Terminal to the Positive Terminal .Admittedly some Texts still use Benjamin Franklin's incorrect Conventional Current model and not J.J. Thomson's corrected Electron Flow model , But please stop spreading incorrect information over a century after it was disproved.

  20. Thank you for your videos. I have a 12 year old who is severely handicapped by science nerdism… we have found no cure. However, HE has found your videos and has enjoyed them and used them… right now, he's out trying to restore a turquoise and silver ring of mine. He's also growing bacteria in my oven… sigh. Keep up the great work, especially for my nerdistic son (who comes by it honestly from both parents).

  21. Will this work on sterling silver?  I saw that it says it only works with elemental silver but I don't really know if sterling silver is elemental.

  22. This is freaking awesome.  So glad to have found it here, I was really gonna go out there and buy an electrolysis jewelry cleaner, but not anymore thanks to your video. Thank you.

  23. Why do people SO often not inform on proper proportions of ingredients involved in stuff like this? Baking soda with water is not risk-free! Not very nerdy!

  24. I like to start by saying my children and I love all your videos.And we are thinking of starting a home lab.But I have been told that some lab glass ect is against the law (local andor federal) to have or purchase. Have you heard of this?And how do I go about staying with in the law. Sincerely James.

  25. Hi nurdrage, been having some fun trying some of your experiments in my workshop..
    In need of some advice here though.
    Been watching a youtube post by timetals and it shows an instant silver recovery system using an electrolysis cell. He has shown the cell and the process but refuses to let anyone know the solution in the cell.
    Very frustrating as I have a ton of silver plate flatware that I'd like to recycle the silver from for my jewellery making hobby..
    Any chance of some advice on this?
    He's running a 12v system using a car battery at 40 amps and a stainless steel anode.
    The solution is blue in colour so I was thinking copper sulphate solution but i don't want to take a hazardous chance..

    Any ideas? Would be grateful for the help!

  26. I have tried this method to restore silver but it did not work. Salt and baking powder in equal quantity in hot water. Placed aluminium foil and silver in solution. Nothing happened. My silver is very dark, I used anodizing method. Plz help??

  27. I made this my science project for a science fair and my dad and I tried this at home with a cup or chalice, I don't know but it is pure silver, we did this in a big glass cookie jar tried it, it didn't work. It was touching the aluminum foil which we wrapped on the bottom of the inside aswell as make the aluminum foil go up the sides of it, but not all the way up. we Don't know what we did was wrong. I am stating this 2-3 hours after that has happened. we used Morton Iodized salt ( which we looked at the ingrediants [sorry for bad spelling] and it had iodine [of course] and sugar we knew that it might turn out different.) Pure Baking Soda which we kept in the fridge. the amount of salt was 1/4 cup and same with the Baking soda, the water we had was one full cup, then we just kept filling it up afterward because the water was becoming the color of the baking Soda. we left it in there and, it was working, but very slowly and we had to rub the tarnish off. it barely worked except on the inside of cup/chalice thing itself, we saw a slight difference. so we then put the salt and baking soda water solution in the microwave to heat it up and them put that in the chalice thing aswell as some of the aluminum foil, we flip flopped it there and it worked better then inside the cup and it fizzed.

  28. I wonder how the aluminium can give its electrons to the silver if there's a thin layer of aluminium oxide covering its surface.

  29. Tried this just now with baking powder since I don't have baking soda, but it worked^^ Restored some old silver spoons

  30. Hey! Was wondering of this process can be used on other objects, say a chrome finish. I've tried it but haven't seen any success yet. Wondering if I has anything to do with the reactivity difference of the two metals. Hope to get in touch soon.

  31. I still watch this video every time my jewellery gets tarnished. Thank YouTube for the Favourites playlist haha

  32. I tried with aluminum foil and it worked beautifully. I tried the same piece with copper and battery and the silver seems to have turned copper while the copper developed darker orange deposits and sum (but far less greenish deposits). What went wrong and, if necessary, would it be reversible?

  33. I am a professional chemist. This is hands down the best practical explanation of electrochemistry I have ever seen. The elegance of your description and the dramatic presentation! Bravo!

  34. That was awesome!! Is the restoration with aluminum due to the displacement of the silver by the aluminum in some quick conversion of oxide to salt to metal?

  35. I've tried this with a 9v on a Sterling silver figaro chain and what has happened was it got darker instead of brightening it… Then instead of copper I used a stainless steel knife just to see if it works as well and the stainless steal butter knife started producing a rusty yellow fizz. And with the copper it started putting blue greenish copper crap on my chain… And when reversed it cleans that part but still is dark n not fixing it

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