How to Clean Sterling Silver that has Turned Black

Many people like sterling silver jewelry because of its durability. However, when they see it turning black, some begin to doubt if their piece is genuine sterling silver. If anything, the blackening of silver proves that it is real, and there’s a logical explanation and a solution to it turning black.

Why Does Sterling Silver Turn Black?

sterling silver that has turned black

Sterling silver turns black when you expose it to sulfur. This sulfur might be in substances like eggs but is also very common in the air as hydrogen sulfide. The blackening of your sterling silver is a chemical reaction resulting from hydrogen sulfide coming in contact with it, and this chemical reaction causes a black layer on the jewelry.

Environmental conditions can determine how quickly your sterling silver will turn black. Contact with cosmetics, perfume, bleach, body lotion, hair spray, deodorant, and so on can accelerate the blackening of sterling silver. Lots of light and humidity can also speed up the process.

Even if you don’t expose your jewelry to the above substances, the natural oils from your skin can cause your silver to react. The oils from your skin result from the substances you take, such as food, alcohol, and medication. Consuming products high in acidity will cause the excretion of highly-acidic body fluids to which your sterling silver will react.

How to Clean Sterling Silver That Turned Black

clean sterling silver that has turned black

It’s not the end of the world when your sterling silver jewelry turns black. There is a simple method through which you can clean your sterling silver piece instead of ditching it for a new one.

Using Aluminum Foil, Baking Powder, And Salt

Thankfully, you can clean blackened sterling silver from the comfort of your home. You only need to have a few inexpensive household items to get your jewelry shining like new:

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

With the items ready, you can clean your piece with the steps below.

Step 1 — Turn your aluminum foil, so the sunny side faces up and lay it at the bottom of an empty bowl, ensuring it covers every part. 


Step 2 — Turn some warm water into the bowl, slowly adding baking powder and salt. Carefully stir the solution to dilute all the powdery contents properly.


Step 3 — Immerse the sterling silver jewelry in the solution, ensuring that no part is floating and that it all makes contact with the foil.


Step 4 — You’ll see the tarnish come off in seconds. In about 5 minutes, your jewelry should look new; however, if it isn’t properly clean, you can use the baking as a sort of abrasive. Put some baking powder on any unclean spots and rub it with your finger until you completely clean the stain.


Step 5 — Rinse your jewelry in clean, running water once it’s clean; pat dry and store it safely.

How to Prevent Your Sterling Silver From Turning Black

There’s a common saying that prevention is better than cure, which is true with sterling silver. While it’s cheap and easy to clean your blackened sterling silver jewelry, it’s even better if you prevent it from turning black in the first place. 

Aside from the time and effort you’ll put into cleaning it, constantly removing the black layer on sterling silver causes it to wear out. Soon, your piece will begin to break and be permanently damaged. Below are some steps that you can take to prevent your sterling silver from turning black.

  1. When you use your sterling silver jewelry regularly, you give it less chance to become black. Not using your jewelry often will allow tarnish to form and settle. When you wear it often, your skin acts as a cleaner for your jewelry.
  2. Regular cleaning of your jewelry will remove chemicals that might stick to it from daily use.
  3. Sterling silver blackens faster in hot and humid conditions; store your jewelry away from these conditions.
  4. Wrap sterling silver with only materials that do not contain sulfur. Materials like plastic bags, newspapers, and cardboard boxes contain some chemicals that can make your jewelry turn black. Rubber bands also contain sulfur; therefore, you shouldn’t use them to hold your jewelry together.
  5. Anti-tarnish bags neutralize the chemicals that cause silver to tarnish. Store your sterling silver jewelry in anti-tarnish bags to preserve them.
  6. Use products that absorb moisture in your jewelry box. The best option is an anti-tarnish strip, but you can also use chalk.

Read More: How to Test Silver With Vinegar

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