Not all that shines is gold — some of it is silver, too, but there are ways your silver can lose its shine. Remember how disappointed you were the last time you reached for your favorite silver bracelet, only to find it discolored and tarnished? Lucky for you, this guide will teach you how to clean tarnished silver and never experience this unpleasant surprise again.
Tarnish results from a chemical reaction where a metal is exposed to a non-metal, such as oxygen or sulfur dioxide, and comes out as a yellow, brownish, or black stain on the surface of your jewelry.
Recovering your silver jewelry is easy and simple, but you should be careful as some products may damage it. We’ve compiled the best tools and cleaning methods, including tips on what to avoid and how to store your jewelry items. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get right into it!
The Best Ways to Clean Silver Jewelry
You can’t really stop your jewelry from tarnishing. Chemicals in cosmetic products, soaps, creams, or cleaning products can react with silver and cause tarnish. Silver deteriorates even in reaction to your skin’s PH and the surrounding air. A particularly aggressive chemical is chlorine, which is harmful not only to silver jewelry but also to dyed hair.
There are different methods and products to clean tarnished jewelry, depending on the damage and the material. Online jewelers offer accompanying cleaners for their pieces, so you don’t have to lose any sleep over choosing or making a remedy yourself.
In addition, If you’re ready to make a habit of cleaning your silver jewelry, we advise you to get a hold of these essential items:
- At least two lint-free gentle cloths — a cleaning and a drying one
- Kitchen towels to mop up water after rinsing
- A soft-bristled brush for reaching tricky areas and removing residue
- A pair of rubber gloves
You can use many simple products to polish your jewelry back into its prime. We’re here to present you with the most efficient options for different kinds of jewelry, so let’s begin.
How to clean silver jewelry with soap and water
A soap solution is a good start to a successful and more thorough cleanse. Soap and water alone can’t remove tarnish, but they can remove other particles, such as dust or grime, making the tarnish more accessible.
Pick a gentle and fragrance-free liquid soap and dilute it in warm water. Using your cleaning cloth or a soft-bristled brush, gently clean the jewelry while in the solution, but be careful not to scratch it.
After applying a cleaning product or formula, you can use this solution to rinse off the residual chemical particles.
How to clean sterling silver with silver dips or baths
Silver dips are ready-made products considered the best way to clean sterling silver. As you might know, sterling silver is pure silver with a small percentage of alloys, like copper, so they’re very likely to tarnish quickly.
If the jewelry is not heavily tarnished, the dip will remove it within less than a minute. SIlver dips won’t just restore the shine of your silver jewelry. They’ll also keep it shiny for weeks due to their anti-tarnish formula.
The best way to clean silver jewelry after more potent cleaning formulas is to use this option as a finishing touch. It will thoroughly cleanse inaccessible surfaces of intricate jewelry you can’t clean with a cloth, making it an excellent way to clean rings, earrings, or bracelets.
It’s essential to strictly follow the instructions on the dip you purchased as not all of them are the same. Don’t forget to thoroughly rinse your jewelry after a dip, as any leftover chemicals will only speed up tarnishing.
How to clean a silver necklace with aluminum foil and baking soda
An eco-friendly version of a silver dip is a homemade recipe using aluminum foil and baking soda. This is one of the most effective ways to cleanse silver chains and necklaces, and it’s also cost-effective as you have the necessary items in your kitchen. The process is straightforward:
- Line the entire surface of a bowl with aluminum foil, turning the shiny side up.
- Fill the bowl with boiling water, enough to submerge your jewelry.
- Add a tablespoon of baking soda per 16 oz of water.
- Place your chain in the water and let it soak for no more than half an hour.
These and other cleaning formulas are not exactly skin-friendly, so remember to apply delicate skincare when you’re done.
How to make a silver cleaner at home
A homemade cleaner is an advanced version of the previous recipe with an electrochemical component, meaning the formula is heavier.
The setup is the same — you’ll need a bowl or small glass and cover the bottom with aluminum foil. Pour boiling water and add a tablespoon of salt, a tablespoon of baking soda, and a tablespoon of some gentle detergent. Make sure the detergent is colorless and fragrance-free.
Submerge the jewelry in the DIY silver cleaner to settle on the foil and leave it for 5 to 10 minutes. Then remove the pieces and discard the foil and the solution. If necessary, you can repeat this process with fresh items. After you finish, buff the pieces gently with a polishing cloth to remove any remaining tarnish.
You can also buy a jewelry cleaner, and all you need is a soft cloth to rub the paste over your jewelry and remove the tarnish.
How to Polish Silver
Many stains, like those of nail glue, leave persistent traces that are hard to remove. Similarly, heavily tarnished jewelry will take more than a cleanse to shine again. This is where polishing comes into play. Let’s look at some good polishing products that should complement your silver cleaning kit.
How to polish jewelry with a polishing cloth
A jewelry polishing cloth is the least aggressive polishing method that removes heavier stains than those a silver dip can remove, but is still less effective than a silver cream or polish.
Polishing cloths contain chemicals for tarnish removal, and a good-quality cloth won’t be as abrasive as a silver polish. Don’t press the cloth too hard on the jewelry so you wouldn’t scratch it. Remember to rinse your jewelry after polishing to remove any residue.
Polishing silver with a cloth is easy and quick, leaving your jewelry shiny and sparkling. You can make great use of these cloths if you combine them with one of the above-mentioned cleaning techniques, like silver dips.
Your cloth will become black from tarnish removal over time, which is normal. You’ll need to buy a new one when it becomes completely black because it will lose its polishing qualities if you wash it.
How to use polish or cream to clean silver
Polish and cream are the most effective solution for heavy tarnish. Be careful to get a polish specifically designed for silver jewelry and recommended by housekeeping experts. You don’t want to buy an overly abrasive polish for different metals.
Products for silver are still abrasive to an extent, so use them carefully. There are more gentle brands on the market, although not as gentle as dips, DIY electrochemical cleaners, and cloths. Try to use them as your last resort on heavily tarnished silver.
Take a dry, soft cloth, put a small amount of polish or cream on an area the size of your fingertip, and gently rub the tarnished surfaces. After rinsing your jewelry, you might want to finish with a silver dip to ensure there’s no residual tarnish. Use a soft cloth to dry the jewelry thoroughly immediately after you’re done.
How to Store Silver Jewelry After Cleaning and Polishing
We’ve established that there’s no stopping tarnish, only prevention with regular care. What you can do is learn the reasons silver tarnishes and how to store it properly.
The only way your clean jewelry won’t tarnish is to store it so that it doesn’t come in contact with humid air or moisture. You have several options on your hands:
- Wrap the jewelry in a cloth, a pouch, or a zip lock bag. You can even buy anti-tarnish bags.
- Don’t throw away the silica gel sachets that come with your shoes — they can absorb any unwanted moisture around your silver. The same goes for a piece of chalk.
- Keep all silver jewelry in the same jewelry box. This way, pieces from different metals won’t tarnish if they come in contact.
- Keep your jewelry in a dry and dark place.
What to Avoid When Cleaning Your Silver Jewelry
You’ve probably read your share of articles about home remedies to clean silver jewelry. Still, most of them fail to mention that some remedies simply don’t work or cause further and irreversible damage. When opting for a home remedy, ensure you’re well informed of its effectiveness and safety before application.
Here are some popular online methods that we suggest you avoid:
- Baking soda paste — although you can use baking soda in a liquid solution, the paste is too abrasive and may end up scuffing your silver jewelry pieces.
- Toothpaste — another widely recommended silver jewelry cleaner on the internet that we suggest you pass. It only partially removes the tarnish and leaves scratches.
- Lemon juice — citruses are rich with acids that are harmful to metals, so definitely skip this one.
- Olive oil — while it may remove a persistent stain, oil leaves sticky stains of its own that are also difficult to clean, so why double the work?
- Vinegar — for the same reason you should avoid lemon juice, trying to clean silver jewelry with vinegar might do more harm than good.
- Rubber — rubber corrodes silver, so don’t use rubber gloves when cleaning and polishing, and don’t keep rubber bands near your silver jewelry.
Here are a few quick tips on how to take care of your jewelry so that it wouldn’t tarnish so quickly.
Wear your jewelry regularly because most of the tarnish and grime are removed when the jewelry comes rubs against your skin and clothing.
On the other hand, don’t forget to take your jewelry off when you wash the dishes, go for a swim or use various cleaning products packed with chemicals.
Finally, establish a regular cleaning habit and an appropriate kit. You can use the products we’ve listed and combine them for maximum effectiveness.
Silver jewelry is a beautiful and stylish accessory with a unique charm. This is why we get so agitated when it tarnishes, but proper care and storing habits can help prevent that. We hope this guide equipped you with enough info to stop wondering how to clean a silver necklace or polish your favorite silver ring.