If you have silver (sterling silver) jewelry, one of the unfortunate things that you have to deal with is the fact that the sterling silver jewelry will tarnish, leaving black marks on the piece. This means that in as much as silver is used in the creation of some of the most spectacular, heirloom-quality pieces of jewelry, you have to figure out a way of dealing with the loss of shine and luster and the development of the black tarnish on the silver pieces.
The good news is that the tarnish isn’t permanent, and you can remove it easily to restore the original silver shine. The black tarnish that forms from the reaction of silver with chemicals from oils from your skin, hair sprays, hand creams, perfumes, and cosmetics is easy to clean off, but you need to clean it using the proper materials to protect the silver.
In this article, we take an in-depth look at some of the best, safest, and most inexpensive remedies for cleaning your silver jewelry.
What is the best home remedy to clean silver Jewelry?
Method 1 – Cleaning silver jewelry with aluminum foil
While the internet is awash with recommendations for cleaning silver pieces at home, it would appear that there is a general consensus regarding the use of aluminum foil and baking soda to clean the jewelry. This home remedy is inexpensive, and it promises the best results.
To end your struggles with tarnished silver, below are the instructions and the ingredients you need.
Materials Needed – Aluminum foil, a glass or aluminum baking dish, ½ cup of white vinegar, 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 cup boiling water, 1 tablespoon sea salt, and a rag for polishing the cleaned jewelry.
How to clean
Boil the water on a stove.
While your water boils, line the glass or aluminum dish with a piece of aluminum foil, then add in the sea salt and the baking soda.
Next, slowly pour in the vinegar plus the boiling water. Adding in the liquids will stir a reaction, which is why you need to be careful when pouring in the water and vinegar. It’s also important to note that while you could clean the silver pieces without vinegar, adding vinegar is an important part of the process because it will speed up the tarnish removal dramatically.
With the important components added into the dish, now place your silver pieces into the dish, making sure that each of the pieces to be cleaned touch the surfaced of the aluminum foil without overlapping. Soak in the pieces for about 30 seconds, but if they are heavily tarnished, consider soaking them for a few more minutes.
Now, remove the jewelry pieces using tongs. If the silver pieces have spots that are still stained, you could clean them using the rag as a buffing tool. The remaining stains should come right off.
Method 2 – Aluminum foil with Laundry Detergent
This is the other simple silver jewelry cleaning option that you could use at home. Like the above method, you need to line your glass or aluminum dish with aluminum foil, then add in a tablespoon of the liquid laundry detergent with hot water, then stir it well.
Drop in the sterling silver jewelry pieces and let them sit for a minute.
Use tongs to take the silver pieces out, rinse them using lukewarm water, then lay them on a dry paper towel and allow them to dry.
Method 3 – Using Baking Soda and Aluminum Foil
This is another one of the top-recommended DIY Methods for cleaning (sterling) silver jewelry. It involves the use of two primary ingredients, aluminum, and baking soda, and the best part is that you will be able to clean the silver jewelry in 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
Here are the things you’ll need – a bowl or a glass dish, aluminum foil, 1 tablespoon baking soda (for every cup of water), 1 cup of boiling water, a dry cleaning cloth or paper towels, kitchen tongs, or spoon.
How to clean
Boil the water in a saucepan or pot. The amount of water you’ll use will vary depending on the number of jewelry pieces you’ll clean, but generally, the boiling water used should reach the top of the bowl.
Take the bowl or dish, then line it using a piece of aluminum foil, with its shiny side up.
Now add the baking soda (1 tablespoon for every cup of water), then carefully pour the boiling water into the dish. Note that there will be bubbling, and be careful not to burn yourself.
Immediately after, place the silver pieces into the hot water/ baking soda/ aluminum foil dish, making sure that the pieces are covered completely by the mixture and touching the aluminum. Contact with the aluminum foil is an important part of the process because it is that bit of the process that kick-starts the chemical reaction.
Leave the pieces of jewelry in the solution for between 2 and 5 minutes, and up to 10 minutes if the tarnishing is quite bad.
Once the time is up, remove your jewelry using a spoon or a pair of kitchen tongs.
Rinse the jewelry under cool running water, then shine them using paper towels or dry cleaning cloth, the store the pieces appropriately.
Method 4 – The Lemon-Salt Bath
If you have sterling silver jewelry that is only slightly tarnished, this might be a good tarnish-removal method for you.
Don’t use this method for heavily tarnished pieces because even with the heavily tarnished pieces, you’d have to do a significant amount of rubbing, and even then, you aren’t guaranteed 100% success.
Ingredients required – lemons, a bowl, 3 tablespoons of salt, plus cleaning cloth.
How to clean
Squeeze lemon juice into the bowl, then add 3 tablespoons of salt. Pour in about a cup of boiling water to the mixture. Lastly, place the slightly tarnished silver piece into the solution in the bowl and allow it to rest for about 5 -10 minutes.
Remove the jewelry from the solution using tongs, place them on the cleaning towel, and rub the jewelry. Keep rubbing until it’s completely clean, then store it safely in the jewelry box.
Method 5 – Baking Soda and Water
If you are dealing with heavily tarnished pieces of sterling silver jewelry, you can easily clean the jewelry by mixing together three parts baking soda with one part water – you need to mix these two ingredients until you have a consistent paste.
You need – water, baking soda.
How to clean jewelry
Wet the silver jewelry pieces, then apply the cleaner using a soft, clean, lint-free cloth. Don’t use paper towels. You’ll need to work the past thoroughly into the jewelry’s crevices.
Let the paste sit for about 5 or 10 minutes, then start rubbing the piece using the soft cloth – you’ll know that the paste is working when you see a grey stain on the cloth.
Once satisfied, rinse off the pieces, then buff-dry them.
Method 6 – Warm Water and Dish Soap
If the silver jewelry in question isn’t heavily tarnished but only dull, a little filmy, and not discolored, this method offers the simplest way for you to clean the jewelry, restoring that nice silver shine and luster.
What you’ll need – mild dish soap, bowl, soft lint-free cloth, and warm water.
How to Clean
Warm some water, then pour about a cup of the water into a bowl. Add in a few drops of your preferred mild dish soap, then drip the soft cloth in. You’ll use the soft cloth to rub your jewelry. When done, rinse off your pieces under cool water, then buff dry them with a clean, lint-free cloth.
Method 7 – Baking Soda and White Distilled Vinegar
This is the other simple way of cleaning your sterling silver jewelry. Besides getting rid of the black tarnish, it also helps in restoring the luster and the shine of the jewelry pieces. Note, however, that this method isn’t recommended for antique pieces of jewelry.
What you’ll need – distilled white vinegar, 4 tablespoons baking soda, and a bowl.
How to clean
Place the silver jewelry pieces in a bowl (choose the size of the bowl depending on the number of jewelry pieces you intend to clean), then cover up your jewelry pieces with distilled white vinegar.
Next up, add the baking soda into the bowl, say about 4 tablespoons of the baking soda for every cup of distilled white vinegar.
Once submerged, let the silver jewelry sit in the solution for about an hour. Once the time is up, remove the pieces of jewelry, then rinse them off using clean running water. Next, dry it well using a soft cotton cloth.
Method 8 – Lemon Juice and Olive Oil
You could also clean your silver jewelry using a mixture of lemon juice with olive oil.
What you need – Fresh lemon juice and olive oil.
How to clean
Mix ½ a cup of lemon juice with one teaspoon of olive oil, then mix the two into a solution.
Dip a clean, soft cloth into the solution, then run it on the silver piece until the tarnish disappears ad the silver piece shines. When done, rinse it nicely, then dry it off.
Method 9 – Clean the jewelry with toothpaste
Though it won’t work with highly tarnished jewelry, the toothpaste option works great if you are looking for a simple cleaning method at home.
What You Need – Toothpaste
How to clean the jewelry
Take a small amount of diluted toothpaste along with a soft-bristled brush, then gently rub the silver piece, paying a little more attention to the crevices. However, you shouldn’t use the tooth whitening formula, especially not on the silver-plated pieces of jewelry.
How to clean Silver-plated jewelry
Silver-plated jewelry will also tarnish. But unlike the solid sterling silver jewelry, the plated jewelry and antique sterling silver jewelry is rather delicate, which means that you need to be extra careful when cleaning such kinds of silver jewelry. Also, for antique jewelry, consider getting that jewelry cleaned by an antique dealer, a professional restoration company, or a jeweler.
Note that the plating with silver means that you should avoid vigorous cleaning or even submerging the jewelry in a cleaning solution. If you think of all these, along with the forces of wear and tear and the resulting flaking, it makes sense to clean the silver-plated jewelry carefully.
You also need to be careful with cleaning the jewelry if it’s embellished or set on gemstones. In such cases, you’d have to clean the jewelry using mild soap or even some baby shampoo mixed with water. You should then use the soapy solution to wipe down the jewelry.
You could use cotton swabs and also a soft-bristled brush to clean the nooks and crannies. If you have to use the light brush, you may want to use your light hand to avoid scratching the surface unintentionally.
Tips for preventing tarnishing
While natural tarnishing of silver jewelry is unavoidable, it’s preventable. Rather, you could slow down how fast the silver piece loses its luster.
Here are some of the things you could do to prevent tarnishing of the sterling silver jewelry:
- Store your silver jewelry in a clean, soft, anti-tarnish bag in a cool and dry area.
- Place a piece of chalk into the anti-tarnish bag to remove moisture from the air.
- Always wear your jewelry after cosmetics, perfumes, or any other products with chemicals.
- Wear your silver jewelry, but be careful to avoid things that would cause tarnishing or scratching.
- Remove your jewelry before showering or swimming.
If you have sterling silver jewelry, the best way for you to keep the jewelry’s luster is by cleaning it well and storing it appropriately in a moisture-free area.
You should also follow the tips above to prevent or slow down the tarnishing. Keep in mind that although the silver pieces tarnish, cleaning them appropriately will keep the pieces around for decades.
Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.