Sterling silver contains 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper. But that combination doesn’t keep it from developing tarnish.
If you have any silver jewelry, you should know how to clean tarnished sterling silver. Then, you can keep your pieces in good condition, and you can look stylish.
Keep reading to learn about how to clean sterling silver jewelry.
Polish the Silver
The first step in how to clean tarnished sterling silver is to polish it. You can use a soft cloth, like microfiber or lint-free flannel. Any other soft material can also work to polish your tarnished sterling silver jewelry.
As you polish, move your cloth with the sterling silver grain. Avoid using circular motions on any pendants or larger surface areas.
You can also get into the habit of polishing your jewelry even after you get rid of the tarnish. That way, you can prevent or minimize tarnish in the future. You can polish the jewelry each day or after you wear particular pieces.
Be Careful With Silver Plating
Before you clean sterling silver jewelry, make sure it is solid silver. You may have some silver-plated pieces, which can look and feel very similar. But if you overdo it with polishing plating, the plating could rub off.
Avoid polishing silver-plated jewelry too often. Only polish it when you notice fingerprints or the start of tarnish. Then, you can keep the jewelry in good condition.
But you don’t have to worry about that problem with sterling silver pieces. If you aren’t sure of the metal composition, you can take your jewelry to a professional cleaner or appraiser.
Use a Sterling Silver Cleaner
While polishing can help, it may not get rid of all signs of tarnish. To clean sterling silver even more, you can use a homemade cleaner.
You can get some cleaners at the store, but they can have harmful chemicals. Leave those products to the professionals, and make your own.
Homemade cleaners aren’t too hard to make. And you can use ingredients you probably already have to clean sterling silver rings and other jewelry pieces.
Baking Soda and Water
You can combine water and baking soda to make a paste. Experiment with different ratios to create a paste-like consistency without it being too thick. Pieces with more detail should have a thinner consistency than more simple pieces.
Once you have the consistency you want, add a small amount to a clean cloth. Clean the sterling silver with the cloth and mixture. If the piece has small details, you can use a clean toothbrush to get the baking soda and water into the cracks.
Finally, use warm water to rinse off the jewelry. Take a different clean cloth and use that to pat the jewelry dry.
Baking Soda and White Vinegar
You can use baking soda and white vinegar if you have more tarnish. Another benefit of this solution is that it is pretty hands-off once you make it.
You’ll need one-half cup of white vinegar for every two tablespoons of baking soda. Mix the two in a small bowl and prepare for the mixture to fizz. Place the jewelry in the bowl and let it sit for two or three hours.
After that time, rinse the jewelry with water and set the pieces out to dry. Once they dry, you can wear them as normal.
Soap and Water
If you’re looking for something easy and don’t have baking soda, you can use soap and water. You can use your standard dish soap, but make sure it doesn’t contain ammonia or phosphates.
Soap and water are a good first step if you don’t have much tarnish and polishing doesn’t work well enough. However, it isn’t as powerful as some other homemade cleaners.
Still, you can mix soap and water and use it to clean sterling silver. Make sure the tarnished silver jewelry doesn’t have gemstones before you let it soak, but you can use soap to wash it.
Olive Oil and Lemon Juice
Another option for how to clean tarnished sterling silver is to use olive oil and lemon juice. You take one teaspoon of olive oil and one-half cup of lemon juice and put them in a bowl.
Add a microfiber cloth to the bowl so that the solution gets all over it. Take the cloth out and wring it out. Next, you can use the cloth to polish your tarnished sterling silver.
Finally, rinse the jewelry and let it dry before you use it. This trick is a good option if nothing else seems to help.
Use Them All
Sometimes, it may take multiple cleanings to get rid of all the tarnish on your jewelry. If you find that one method doesn’t work, try a different one next time.
While using soap and water multiple times is safe, it may not get you the results you want. After you use soap and water, you can use baking soda and water. Then, you can switch to baking soda and vinegar, for example.
You should let your jewelry dry completely between cleaning methods. But trying different things can help you find what works. And since jewelry can tarnish more or less each time, you may need to use a different option the next time it appears.
Take It to a Pro
If you try multiple homemade solutions to clean tarnished sterling silver, you can take it to a professional. Professionals have special tools and materials to help get rid of the tarnish.
A professional can also save you time, which is useful if you have a lot of tarnished jewelry. You won’t have to spend time cleaning each piece, and you don’t have to worry about ruining the silver.
It’s especially smart to take your older, more valuable pieces to a professional. If you have a necklace or ring that you don’t want to mess with, you can take it to someone.
While there’s no guarantee a professional won’t hurt your jewelry, the risk is lower. They do this all the time, so they can work with you to clean sterling silver safely.
Prevent Future Tarnish
Once you clean your tarnished sterling silver, you should do your best to avoid future tarnish. It’s not always possible, so you may have tarnish again. But you can take a few steps to reduce the chances of it showing up.
Whether you have one piece of sterling silver or a large collection, here’s how you can keep your pieces in good condition and limit tarnish.
You should use an airtight container or bag to store your sterling silver. Air exposure can cause the sterling silver to tarnish, so you should avoid air contact when possible.
If you have multiple jewelry pieces, store them separately. Use different containers or bags and unclasp any necklaces or bracelets. This will keep the silver from scratching either the same piece or a different one.
To further protect the silver, you can add something to prevent tarnish. Chalk, silica gel, and activated charcoal all help prevent tarnish from building up.
But you can also get anti-tarnish strips. They are small strips that can neutralize any gasses that make their way into where you store your jewelry. They’re an excellent option if you can’t use an airtight seal for storage.
Keep Away From Sulfur and Other Compounds
If you can’t use an airtight bag or container, you should store your silver away from things that contain sulfur. Foods like eggs and mayonnaise contain sulfur, which can speed up the tarnish.
Other things with sulfur include chlorinated water, latex, and wool. Certain household chemicals can also include sulfur. Make sure you read labels before storing these items.
You should also keep your jewelry out of direct sunlight because that can lead to tarnishing. Beauty products, like cosmetics and lotions, can also cause tarnish.
If you use makeup or lotions, make sure they dry before you put on jewelry. That way, you can keep the products from getting on the silver and causing tarnish to develop.
Wear Your Jewelry
As long as you clean your body and let lotions dry, you can wear your jewelry to help with tarnish. The oils in your skin can help clean the sterling silver and avoid issues.
However, you should be careful if this is your main tarnish-prevention method. Some people have acidic sweat, which can cause multiple problems.
If your sweat is too acidic, it can negatively affect the silver in your jewelry. So while wearing it can help, make sure you take a shower and wash off before wearing your jewelry and avoid intense physical activity.
That way, your skin oils can clean the jewelry and help prevent tarnish rather than cause it.
How to Clean Tarnished Sterling Silver
Knowing how to clean tarnished sterling silver is essential if you have sterling silver jewelry. If you can clean it yourself, you won’t have to take the pieces to a professional any time tarnish appears.
But sometimes, a professional can get rid of more intense signs of tarnish. And once you do get rid of it, you can take the proper steps to prevent it from happening again.
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