When you buy a new piece of silver jewelry, it’s all nice and shiny. We all love that first look. But what if I told you that you can make sure it looks new every single time you wear it? All you have to do is to learn how to clean silver jewelry.
The most common suspect that makes you want to learn how to clean silver is tarnished. Before learning how to remove it, let’s see what it is and why it haunts your silver jewelry.
What is tarnish, and why does silver jewelry tarnish?
Tarnish is some kind of corrosion. It often happens to silver, which can be yellow, brown, grey, or even black. The funny thing is that pure silver is immune to it, but your silver jewelry is not pure silver.
Pure silver is considered too soft of a material, which is why your silver pieces are most likely sterling silver. Sterling silver is made of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% some kind of composite material. Copper is the most common.
So why does tarnish happen? Because there is a chemical reaction between the sterling silver and chemicals such as chlorine, sulfur, and some acids. You may think to yourself that you don’t come in contact with such chemicals, but you do more often than you think. Chlorine is in tap water, so you come in contact with it when you shower, wash your hands, do the dishes, etc. Swimming pools too. Plus, tarnishing happens when you use moisturizers and soaps. Even perfumes contain chemicals that cause your silver jewelry to tarnish.
Now that you know what tarnish is and why it comes after your jewelry, let’s learn how to get rid of it, shall we?
How to clean tarnished silver jewelry?
Believe it or not, there is a ton of methods that can revive the sparkle in your silver jewelry. The good news is that most of them include household items that you already have in your home. Baking soda, dish soap, aluminum foil, detergent, etc., are all common products that everyone has.
Here are some of the people’s favorite methods of cleaning tarnished silver:
- Silver polish – silver polish is not a product everyone has in a cupboard, but it proved to be the most efficient. After all, it’s specially designed for the job. Apply a small amount on a soft polishing cloth to remove the tarnish and start rubbing. Rough cloths can scratch the metal, so pay attention to this small detail. Once you’re done, rinse the silver, and dry it.
- Warm water and dish soap – this is as easy as it gets. In a small recipient, put some hot water and some dish soap. Soak your jewelry for about half an hour, and then take them out. Give them a rinse and dry them off. For better results, you can use a small brush to remove the tarnish from the tiny spaces.
- Baking soda – to use this method, you must use two parts baking soda and one part water. They will form a paste you then apply to your jewelry. Rinse it well and dry it off with a soft cloth.
- Vinegar and baking soda – vinegar and baking soda are good at dissolving pretty much anything, which is why it comes as no surprise that people use it for dissolving tarnish as well. In half a cup of white vinegar, put 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Soak the silver pieces in the mixture for about two hours. They will shine brighter than ever.
- Toothpaste – use some diluted toothpaste and a soft-bristle brush for this one. Just remember not to use a whitening formula, and you should avoid using this method on silver-plated pieces.
To be honest, the list can continue. I’ve read about people using aluminum foil and detergent. Even crazier, ketchup. It makes sense due to the acidity in tomatoes. However, I think you have enough to get going. Now we’re going to move on to learn how to clean specific pieces of silver jewelry. You’d think that there is a one-size-fits-all kind of situation, but not exactly.
How to clean silver earrings
Silver earrings are easy to clean, and if you’re wearing them, they don’t need to be cleaned often. They get a good soak every time you shower. Even so, if you store them in a jewelry box, the earrings need some help.
It’s very important to clean your sterling silver earrings every single time you decide to put them on. Surely you don’t need an ear infection. It happens more often than you think to wake up with a red and achy ear lobe just because you haven’t cleaned the earrings before putting them on.
I recommend you use dish soap, warm water, and a soft-bristle brush for earrings. Soak the earrings in the mixture, let them in for half-hour, and then rinse them thoroughly. Dry them out with a soft cloth, and voila!
How to clean silver rings
Silver rings come in contact with more tarnishing elements than earrings, for instance. That’s because they come in contact with pretty much anything you touch. Besides, few people take their rings off when they moisturize their hands.
Now, cleaning a silver ring depends on what other details it has. For instance, does it have stones or pearls? Are there any other precious metals involved? For example, if it has gold (which is a soft metal), you can’t use baking soda because your ring will become scratched. At the same time, vinegar harms porous stones. The safest way to go is with warm water and dish soap.
However, if the ring is made of all silver, all the methods described above will work just fine.
How to clean a silver necklace
Silver necklaces tarnish very fast because they come in contact with perfumes, lotions, and perspiration. Special care is necessary, and you can use some of the methods explained above. However, my favorite is the aluminum foil method.
In most cases, the tarnish that forms of necklaces is silver sulfide. The aluminum foil pulls the sulfur atoms away from the silver. Keep in mind that the following method is a bit smelly.
You must line the surface of a bowl with aluminum foil and fill it with boiling water. Add ¼ cup of baking soda and two teaspoons of kosher salt and mix well. Place your necklace in the mix and stir. Let it sit for 5 minutes and dry it out. The chain should look as good as new.
How to prevent silver jewelry from tarnishing
The best way to keep your silver jewelry tarnish-free is to prevent it from happening. You can’t always do that, but you can limit exposure thanks to several products on the market.
The most effective method of preventing your silver jewelry from tarnishing is to…wear it. The friction of your everyday activities will keep your silver pieces shiny.
Of course, you can’t wear all your silver jewelry, and you might change it for something else. That’s why it’s essential to store silver properly. For one thing, you can use anti-tarnish bags you find online. They’re inexpensive, and once you place your silver in a cool dark place, your jewelry will be tarnish-free for longer.
Another way is to use silica gel packs. The ones you get when you buy a new pair of shoes work just fine. As long as you change them regularly, your jewelry box will stay moisture-free, thus protecting your silver jewelry from tarnish. I’ve read that some people use chalk. It makes sense because it absorbs moisture.
Lastly, I know it’s tempting, but don’t leave your silver jewelry in the bathroom. The bathroom is the place with the most moisture, which is a very inviting environment for tarnish. You should also remove any piece before you shower, do dishes, or go swimming.
How to clean silver jewelry – conclusion
As you can see, there are various methods you can use to clean silver jewelry. Most of them use household items, which is great, and none of them are complicated to go through. Nevertheless, if you have some old silver or costly sterling silver jewelry, it’s best to use the services of a professional.
Last Updated on March 9, 2023
Dustin Hopkins has over 12 years in the cleaning industry, working in the past for one of the top 5 cleaning companies in the US. Currently, he is the chief editor of CleaningRank.com and the proud father of a 5-year-old, Chris.