How Do You Clean Tarnished Silver?

Silver is one of the most popular metals used by jewelers to make all types of jewelry. However, as you use silver jewelry, it tarnishes with time, making it look dull and diminishing its beauty. You must know how to clean tarnished silver so that your silver jewelry can always have that sparkle you loved from the first day.

2 Methods of Cleaning Tarnished Silver

Tarnished silver chain

There are several methods that you can use to clean tarnished silver jewelry. Thankfully, these methods are easy to do in the comfort of your home, and some of the items used are things that you probably already have. They are inexpensive to buy if you don’t already have them.

Method 1 — Using Aluminum Foil, Baking Powder, And Salt

How to Clean Tarnished Silver

You need the following items to clean tarnished silver with this simple method:

  • Bowl of warm water
  • Aluminum foil
  • Baking powder
  • Salt 

Once you have the items listed above, you can clean your tarnished silver by following the steps below.

Step 1 — Place the aluminum foil at the bottom of an empty bowl, and ensure that everywhere within the bowl is covered. While you can use any foil side, this method works best with the shiny side up.

Step 2 — Pour the warm water into the bowl and add salt and baking powder. Stir the solution a bit to make sure that everything is diluted.

Step 3 — Put the tarnished silver jewelry into the solution; ensure that the jewelry is completely immersed and touches the foil.

Step 4 — The tarnish should begin to come off in a few seconds. If, after a few minutes, the tarnish doesn’t come off or it isn’t completely clean, you can use the baking powder as a mild abrasive. Pour the baking powder on the affected spot and use your finger to rub it until it comes off completely.

Step 5 — Once the silver is clean, rinse it in clean water, pat dry it, and store it safely.

Method 2 — Clean Tarnished Jewelry Using Vinegar and Baking Soda

Clean Tarnished Jewelry Using Vinegar and Baking Soda

Vinegar works well as a cleaner, deodorizer, and disinfectant against tarnish. This method of using a vinegar cleaning solution is best for silver jewelry that is very heavily tarnished. To use this method, you’ll need the following items:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Table salt
  • Aluminum foil
  • Warm water

When you have the cleaning items ready, the steps to take are as follows:

Step 1 — Completely line a bowl or pan with aluminum foil.

Step 2 — Add 1 tablespoon of baking powder and salt into the bowl.

Step 3 — Pour half a cup of distilled white vinegar and 1 cup of boiling water. You would observe the solution fizz heavily when adding vinegar to the salt and baking powder.

Step 4 — Place the silver jewelry items into the solution and ensure they are completely immersed.

Step 5 — If the jewelry is only slightly tarnished, you only need to leave it in the solution for about 30 seconds before it becomes good as new. For jewelry with heavier tarnish, you might need to wait up to 3 minutes to see them completely clean.

Step 6 — Once the jewelry is completely untarnished, rinse it in clean water, pat dry it, and store it.

Things To Take Note Of When You Maintain Silver

  1. Do not use abrasive cleaners to clean silver jewelry, as they can scratch it.
  2. Do not use harsh cleaning methods on silver-plated items, as it can corrode the finish.
  3. Do not clean your jewelry close to a sink, as it can easily get lost down the drain.
  4. Only use toothbrushes with bristles that can easily reach into the tight corners of your jewelry. Do not use those extra-hard smokers’ toothbrushes, as they can even scratch your silver.

What Causes Silver To Tarnish?

One of silver’s chemical properties is its strong reactivity to sulfur-containing compounds in the air. Silver can become discolored, darkened, and covered in a tarnish coating when it comes into contact with sulfur gases in the atmosphere. This tarnish turns the silver dark, spotted, and dull.

Moisture and humid surroundings can hasten the tarnishing of silver. Also, acids and even oxygen can hasten the tarnishing of silver or damage its shine; this results in a red oxide on the surface of the silver. You can minimize these risks with the use of silver cleaning techniques.

How Often Should I Clean Tarnished Silver?

Pure silver is a soft metal and an element. Even sterling silver, 92.5 percent pure silver, has a harder metal (usually copper) mixed with it to make it tougher. Despite being an alloyed metal, sterling silver, is still rather delicate.

Because silver is so soft, you don’t need to polish it very frequently because a small amount of the metal is removed each time you do. It should only be done occasionally, ideally once or twice a year. Instead, you should focus on storing silver with methods that both lessen the amount of tarnishing and protect it from damage.

Also, silver objects may intentionally tarnish to create a sense of depth in the cracks and fissures; this design is called the patina. The pattern may look a little “flat” and less attractive if you frequently clean these things.

If you notice signs of tarnishing on a silver piece that you don’t wear often, it’s best to leave it like that. Only clean off the tarnish when you’re ready to wear the item.

How to Prevent Silver From Tarnishing

Protecting your silver from tarnishing is a good alternative to polishing it often. You get to save yourself the stress of trying to get your jewelry to sparkle again, and you don’t have to wear out the silver. Some steps to take to protect your silver from tarnish are explained below.

  1. Using your silver jewelry often is the easiest solution to keeping your silver tarnish-free. The less you use silver, the more likely it is to get tarnished.
  2. Store your silver away from low humidity, and high heat as these two factors increase the likelihood that your silver will tarnish. 
  3. Do not wrap silver with materials that can cause it to tarnish, such as newspaper, plastic bags, and cardboard boxes. These materials all have some chemicals that can cause your silver to tarnish. Also, you shouldn’t hold your silver jewelry together with rubber bands as they contain sulfur.
  4. Keep silver in anti-tarnish cloth when you’re not using it, as this type of material neutralizes the chemicals that cause silver to tarnish.
  5. Wash your silver jewelry often to clean off any chemicals stuck to the jewelry from daily use.
  6. If you have a jewelry box, put some white chalk in there. This helps to absorb whatever moisture might be in the air and prevent tarnishing.

Read More Silver vs Gold Jewelry

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