support Tone without tears Beginners' impro Patterns & exercises

Opinions over the use of vinegar on silver plating


Senior Member
SW of London Town
Has anyone used/tried, maybe by mistake, to use vinegar to clean silver plated instruments?

Here is why I ask: I will soon have in my hands a silver plated tenor, with what looks like a coat of clear lacquer (similar to what I have seen on many King Super 20 silver necks). As the lacquer is worn and peeling off, I thought of removing it (using vinegar) but obviously do not wish to disturb the plating, which looks pretty good.

I think that provided the sax is not pickled for weeks, the plating should be fine, but since I'm not a chemist, maybe there could be a reason to avoid this altogether.

Just wondered if anyone had experimented...
Thanks in advance! Manlio
I'm not sure that vinegar will remove lacquer easily, you'll probably need something more aggressive, like a paint stripper or organic solvent. However you may find that the acid in the vinegar attacks the silver. I wouldn't chance it.No doubt someone will correct me.

Both my saxes are silver plated, unlacquered, and so's my wife's flute. Do the initial polish with a silver cloth (slightly moistened), and then give the instument a quick, but thorough, wipe with a nice soft cloth after playing. should keep the silver looking good and last a long time. Probably no need to remove the lacquer this way.
As a chemist in a previous life I would steer clear of the vinegar. It may not attack the silver readily but could affect any brass showing and possibly tend to lift the plating from it. This is just my theory by the way, I haven't tried it. I remember as kids we used to clean old coins by soaking them in HP sauce (largely vinegar), They came out looking like new. kevgermany's advice sounds good.
Thank you all for your replies.

I know how to treat silver plating, but wondered how to go about removing the protective film created by the clear lacquer without disturbing the plating.
Of course when I'll get the sax I will try some sort of gentle polishing, but I fear it may not be enough.
BTW Kev, vinegar can be used to remove laquer, obviously not being as aggressive as a chemical paint stripper, it takes a lot longer to work... on the plus side it is organic and non toxic so safe to flush down the sink (or reuse on chips or salads, yum!).

Cheers to all,Manlio
Just thinking some more, what about using cellulose thinners (acetone)? I don't think it'll touch the newer epoxy lacquer, but will take most other paints off. Keep it away from the corks, it may affect the shellac.
Thanks for the suggestion Kev, you may be right. The only issue is that I cannot get acetone in the UK easily, it is only sold from chemists in tiny bottles for cosmetic purposes...

I still have some left from when I got it to remove my daughters hair extensions (and failed!), so I'll give it a go!

Nail varnish remover is acetone. But don't use the oily type. Can get that in reasonable size bottles.
Or go to a model shop and get dope thinners.
Car paint dealer should also be able to supply as cellulose thinners.

Failing that distil some pear drops >:)
I can't remember who it was that suggested it, either Griff or Stephen Howard, but vinegar was recommended as a cleaner for the inside or the crook. With the holes bunged up, you can fill the crook with warmed vinegar and leave it for about 30 minutes. It removes all the greasy and fatty deposits that hide in there. It really works and does wonders for your tone too. I don't see why you couldn't use it on a silver plated horn. Just test it on a hidden area first.
Sorry, I misunderstood: .... looks like a coat ... ! I regulary use a silver poslihing cloth after playing my saxes. When I do a real cleaning on a slilver plated sax, I put the sax, keys and neck in a tube and place aluminuim foil in the bottom of the tube + salt. Add hot water (boiled) and let sax have a bath! You must have a "clean sax" (no pads, corks or felts) for doing this. And protect the pearls as well if you leave them on. When the sax is shinny and clean you just dry it (no polishing). I use silver protection strips in the cases. That mean I store my sliverplated saxes in thier cases.

Before you try this method you can clean some other and smaller silverplated things first.

This method is not the best way to clean your sax. I just makes the silverplating to look better. Detergent/soap or vinegar + lukewarm water (not over 35 degrees Celius) and neck/body brushes is the best way clean the inside of your sax.

Vinegar won't have much of an effect on silver. It's a weak acid - which makes it ideal for very gentle cleaning of heavily tarnished bare brass...but silver is a far less reactive metal.
The point raised about vinegar possibly getting through to the brass and lifting the plate it a good one, and worth bearing in mind.

You can buy acetone in the UK by mail order (that's how I got mine), but you'll have to buy a sodding great bottle of it...and it's not really much good for removing the it's extremely nasty stuff.

As for the foil trick - it's worth having a look at this article:

I've used Nitromors for a similar job, but found that the lacquer tends to stick tenaciously to the silver it can be quite a messy job.

Thanks to Stephen, Thomas and all!

Yes, I agree, vinegar under plating could be and issue, I'll try on old tarnished flute joint I have somewhere.

Thomas, I know usually silverplated instruments are not lacquered, however this is a matt silver finish so the clear lacquer is meant to protect this matt finish. It is lla very nice when new, unfortunately this particular example has been well used and so it looks like it has a case of psoriasis (if that's how you spell it!), so the lacquer is peeling off.
I'd love to use the boiling water trick on something, I was always put off because of the tmperature at which you put the instrument under... if cryogenics (allegedly!) improves the sound, maybe high temperature has the opposite effect :shocked: , only joking!

I think I'll try diluted nitromors on a small area and see what happens.

Stephen, do you actually say that you bought pure acetone? I thought this was banned in the UK like pure alcohol... maybe I was misinformed.

Thanks to all,
I have removed the lacquer from numerous horns and have found nitromoors to be about the best. Don't get any on your skin though and make sure you wash it all off well with copious amounts of water.

Regards, Mike
You can still buy acetone - plenty of places online selling it. It's been banned from the postal service for quite some time (hazardous good etc.), but that's about it.


I have now received the horn and happy to say that I did not have to use anything harsher than hot water: I stuck the neck in hot water (mostly to remove some of the most disgusting white deposits I have ever witnessed in a sax!) and the clear lacquer just started peeling off. Not only that, but discovered that the neck is either solid silver or some silver alloy (being it a Borgani), bonus!


Similar threads... or are they? Maybe not but they could be worth reading anyway 😀

Support Cafesaxophone

Tutorials CDs PPT mouthpieces

Forum statistics

Latest member
Top Bottom