How to Revive a Tarnished Vintage Trophy

Whenever I go out shopping, there are a few things I find myself constantly drawn to…things like rusty scales, brown and white transferware, ironstone, baskets, vintage trophies and monogrammed silver. In fact, I love these things so much I almost always buy them when I see them because in this area of the country they’re hard to find.

The tarnish rarely bothers me. I use these pieces around the house to hold teacups,

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add interest to bookshelves,

and as part of my summer mantle vignette.

Each piece is a treasure no matter how small.

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Recently, I was lucky enough to find three trophies all at different places but within the same week. The varied shapes were awesome but I could barely read the inscription because they were so tarnished.

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Now, I don’t know if I would try this at home with my family’s silver but I had nothing to lose by trying to get the tarnish off of these trophies. You’ll need to use your best judgment to decide if you want to try this as well. There are usually silversmiths and qualified craftsmen at reputable jewelry stores that can help you with your heirloom pieces.

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I knew I wanted to use something that was natural to remove the tarnish so I could see the names of the recipients and their respective events. I can remember one of my grandmothers using a mix of salt, baking soda, tin foil and hot water to clean silver so I decided to try the same solution for these vintage trophies and it worked like a charm.

The first step is to line your clean sink with tin foil. Make sure the stopper is plugged in so you don’t lose any water.

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Next, I added hot water. This is a key element it needs to be near boiling.

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After you have hot water in the sink, add salt and baking soda. The amount of baking soda and salt ratio will depend on what you’re actually trying to get the tarnish off of. If you’re doing something small like forks you’ll only need approximately 2 tablespoons of each but if you’re doing something big like a trophy you’ll need approximately ½ cup of baking soda and ½ cup of salt.

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Submerge the trophy in the solution making sure the trophy is touching the tin foil and is completely covered by the hot water. Some of my pieces took about 15 minutes and others took about 30 minutes.

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You should start to see bits of tarnish swimming around in the water.

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Depending on the condition of the trophy, the tarnish may not all come off. You can make a paste with baking soda and a bit of hot water to try and spot treat if needed. Here’s another trophy from my collection for a quick before and after reference.

These turned out really nice because they still have bits of patina but I can also see the years the trophies were given out and the names of the recipients.

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’51, ’70 and ’74 must have been exciting years for these guys.

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Many blessings,

CoCo

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13 Comments

  1. Hey CoCo – First of all, your trophies are gorgeous! Secondly, thanks for sharing your cleaning method. We have not heard of using tin foil in the sink. Your grandmother is very resourceful and smart. We have a couple of trophies that need some cleaning and can’t wait to use this suggestion!

    1. Thanks so much ladies! There definitely something about the combination of the tin foil, the baking soda and the hot water that has those bits of tarnish running scared. Hugs for a happy day, Coco

  2. Wow Coco! These look fantastic! And you know I never thought to look for trophies as interest pieces for my bookshelves! Thank you so much for the decorating tip 🙂

    1. Angeline, I love vintage trophies! They’re not always easy to find so I’m constantly keeping my eyes peeled for them. Can’t wait to see what you do with your bookshelves. Hugs, CoCo

  3. Coco, I love all your vintage trophies and your tips are fabulous! I haven’t tried the baking soda trick so that looks awesome. Have a great day xo Lisa

    1. It’s definitely a natural way to clean vintage trophies, Lisa and give those beauties a shine. Hope your day is awesome too, Coco

  4. Teddee Grace says:

    This works great on higher grade silver plate, but is fairly destructive on lightweight pieces I have found. In fact, it totally melted the seams of some Indian silver goblets I had. I wouldn’t use it on anything I truly cherished. If it’s a thrift store find you don’t mind ruining, go for it!

    1. Thanks so much for letting us know about this, Teddee, we really appreciate it. I am so sorry that happened to your Indian silver goblets. As I shared in my post, I don’t know if I would try this method with my family’s silver but these trophies came from various thrift stores and were purchased for around $20. Your experience is a great reminder for all of us that we need to use our best judgment to decide if we want to try this method based on the quality of the silver and sentimentality of our vintage pieces. All the best, CoCo

  5. Love your vintage trophies!! Great finds! I’m got a few pieces of my own to try this own. Love that this is inexpensive (gotta love a cheap box of baking soda) and no harsh chemicals!! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Angie, I hope this works for you too! Just make sure the silver isn’t anything that’s heirloom quality. I would definitely take those to the jewelers. All three of these were inexpensive so I had nothing to lose by trying it. I swear baking soda is like a cure all. I bought a bigger box just this weekend 🙂 Hugs, Coco

  6. Mrs Thelma Shanks says:

    Hi, Coco! I just wanted to let you know you are a LIFE-SAVER!! My daughter was awarded a trophy for Music Performance two years ago, and it has been proudly sitting on our living room shelf since then. She has now been asked to return it to the Music Committee, but it had become sadly tarnished over the period. I did an online search of how to restore a tarnished trophy and came across your blog. I must admit I had my doubts but reasoned that trying your method couldn’t possibly make things worse, and what did I have to lose? Well!! I tried it today and Voila!! The trophy came out looking even better than when my daughter received it! I can’t possibly thank you enough for getting us out of this scrape. She can now happily return the trophy. I am only sorry I didn’t do a before/after set of photos!!! Thank you so much, again!

    1. That is so exciting to hear, Mrs. Thelma, happy to help! Congratulations to your daughter on her music performance and win too. While I wish she could have kept the trophy, I know her talent is still going strong and it’s always good to share the love. Music makes everything about our lives so much sweeter. I wouldn’t know what to do without it! Thanks so much for dropping by and hope your week is a special one, CoCo

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