Treating silver galvanically can be accomplished by using mossy zinc oraluminum in caustic soda, asdescribed earlier for iron. Variations include using mossy zinc or aluminum granules with heated 30percent formic acid (Plenderleith and Torraca 1968:241-246; Plenderleith and Werner 1971:197, 221). After treatment, the metal is rinsedthoroughly and then dehydrated in a water-misciblesolvent and sealed with clear acrylic lacquer. Galvanic cleaning is effective, butthere is no reason to recommend it over electrolyticreduction or alkaline dithionite treatments.
ELECTROLYTIC REDUCTION CLEANING
The electrolytic cleaning of silver takes advantage of the reduction action of electrolysis by removing the chloride and sulfide ions fromsilver chloride and silver sulfide. When a direct current is applied, the negatively charged chloride and sulfide ions migrate toward thepositively charged anode. The chlorides may form as chlorine in the solution,and the sulfides oxidize to sulfates. Since the anions donot react with the inert anodes, they accumulate in the electrolyte and arediscarded with it. During the process, the silver in thecorrosion compounds is left in a metallic state.Two methods of electrolytic reduction cleaning have been described in theconservation literature; the methods are referred to by Organ (1956) as normal reduction and consolidative reduction. Normalelectrolytic reduction uses a fully rectified direct current (DC)power supply. Consolidative reduction employs a partially rectified(asymmetrical) alternating current (AC) power supply. Bothtechniques require that a metal core be present in the object. The ConservationResearch Laboratory at Texas A&M University dealsprimarily with the normal reduction process in 5 percent formic acid, essentially as it is described in Plenderleith and Werner(1971:222). Both techniques are discussed below.
Two electrolytes, formic acid (HCOOH) and sodium hydroxide (NaOH), are usedto clean silver. Although electrolyte concentrationsof 5-30 percent HCOOH and 2-15 percent NaOH in de-ionized water have beenproposed (Organ 1956:129; Plenderleith and Werner1971:222; Pearson 1974:299), 5 percent HCOOH or 2 percent NaOH solutionsare generally used as electrolytes for cleaning silver.