Silver Jewelry Cleaning Tips

Silver Jewelry Cleaning Tips

 If you wear silver jewelry, you are probably familiar with tarnish. Almost any metal used to make jewelry will tarnish over time.  So, what is it? Tarnish is simply a reaction between the copper in sterling silver and oxygen in the air.  You can do a few things to reduce the formation of tarnish.

  1. Wear your jewelry. Oddly enough, wearing your favorite piece all the time will help prevent tarnish build-up.  Oils from your skin form a barrier that slows the reaction, and just by wearing the piece, you will rub some of the tarnish away.
  2. When you are not wearing your jewelry, you can store it in a box or plastic bag to reduce exposure to oxygen. Adding Anti Tarnish Strips will add additional protection. 
  3. Try not to wear your jewelry while exercising, swimming, or showering. Exposing your jewelry to sweat, pool chemicals, the ocean, shampoo, and body wash will all hasten tarnishing. The chemicals in swimming pools can cause other reactions that cannot be easily fixed.

But as I said, tarnishing is inevitable, and jewelry gets dirty.  So here are my recommendations for cleaning your jewelry. Regardless of your chosen method, be sure to rinse the chemicals off your jewelry and dry it with a soft cloth after cleaning. Please don’t use any of these methods on pearls and if your piece includes porous stones, stick to mild soap and water.   

If your jewelry is just a little dirty, some mild soap and water will do the trick. 

Combine a small squirt of Dawn Dish Washing Liquid with warm water in a small bowl.  Soak your piece for a couple of minutes.  Then use a soft toothbrush to remove build-up on the piece of jewelry.  Rinse thoroughly and then dry the jewelry with a soft cloth. *You can use your favorite dishwashing liquid, Dr. Bronners, or other soaps; just avoid ones that claim to soften your skin or have harsh detergents.

If you have minor tarnish to remove, try Sunshine Polishing Cloths. They are embedded with a micro abrasive and cleaning agent.  The polishing cloths quickly remove tarnish.  They are great to keep near your jewelry for a quick sprucing up.  You can reuse this cloth until it is covered in tarnish.  These can be used on the metal, but be very careful that you don’t rub them on porous stones or pearls.

If you have tarnish build-up, you will need a chemical reaction to remove it.  You can choose a home remedy or purchase chemicals that are ready-made. 

My favorite home remedies are the lemon solution and the aluminum foil solution. Both are doable with everyday items you probably have in your kitchen right now and will take about a half an hour.

The Lemon Solution needs lemon juice (citric acid), salt, mild soap, a toothbrush, and a soft cloth. The acid in the lemon will remove the tarnish, and the salt will speed up the reaction.  This is a great use for your lemons that are a little past their yummy point.  If you aren’t ready to use them immediately, just pop the lemon juice in the freezer until you are ready.

  1. Juice 1-2 lemons, about ½ a cup
  2. Add ½ a cup of hot water and a tablespoon of salt.
  3. Add your jewelry, and swish it around to make sure it gets in all the nooks and crannies.
  4. Let it set for about 15 minutes, gently scrub with a toothbrush, wash with mild soap, and rinse thoroughly.
  5. Dry with a soft cloth.

The Aluminum Foil Solution needs hot water, salt, baking soda, a piece of aluminum foil, a small dish, and something to stir with, like a wooden chopstick or a plastic spoon, that is not your stainless-steel silverware. Trust me on this one. You will also want some mild soap and a soft dry cloth. 

  1. Place your aluminum foil in the bottom of your small dish and put your silver jewelry on top and in contact with the aluminum foil. You only need enough room to cover your jewelry in water, so a small container will work.
  2. Add a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of baking soda to your cup of hot water. Stir to combine. If you are cleaning several pieces, you can scale this up to make as much as you need.
  3. Pour the water solution over the jewelry and aluminum foil.
  4. Gently stir and allow them to sit for about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove your piece and wash with a little dish soap and warm water, and dry with a soft cloth. It’s important to remove this or any chemical you use to clean your jewelry with so that it does not transfer to your skin or damage your jewelry. 

If you are interested in learning more about the chemical reaction that makes this work, I found a great article by Mel Science that talks about the chemistry.

Chemical cleaners

I have used Blitz Gem and Jewelry Cleaner.  This one comes with a packet of concentrated cleaner that you add water to. It has a little metal basket to place your jewelry in, and you just put the lid back on and swish it around for a few minutes.  Rinse well and dry with a soft cloth. 

You can also prevent tarnish with Anti-tarnish bags and Anti-Tarnish strips. I’ve had success with Intercept strips in sealed bags.  You can cut a piece to size and place it in a box. It’s just important that the box or bag be closed to maintain the life of the strip.  

I hope this helps you keep your treasures clean and shiny. This is a good time to check any connections, clasps, prongs, and your chain for wear.  As always, if you have any questions, just reach out, I’m happy to answer any questions you have.

*These methods have worked for me, but use at your own risk.  If in doubt, your piece of jewelry is an heirloom, or very expensive, it's worth taking it to a jeweler for professional cleaning.  

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