How to Clean Silver Jewelry

How to clean silver jewelry

Want to learn how to clean silver¬†like a pro? Our guide covers the nitty-gritty of keeping your favorite pieces shiny and new. Whether you’re wondering how to clean sterling silver jewelry, pure silver or silver-plated accessories, you can clean your jewelry at home using these tips.

Silver vs. Sterling Silver vs. Silver-Plated

First, determine your jewelry’s silver composition, as this influences cleaning methods and tarnishing speed:

  • Silver:¬†Pure silver jewelry contains about 99.9% silver, making it the most durable of the three.
  • Sterling silver:¬†Sterling silver is a mixture of silver and copper ‚ÄĒ the primary culprit behind tarnish. However, sterling silver is still more durable than silver-plated.
  • Silver-plated:¬†Silver-plated jewelry contains a thin silver layer over another metal, like copper, bronze or brass. The layer is generally lightweight and a few microns thick.

While all silver tarnishes with time, pure silver jewelry tarnishes more slowly. A small stamp or mark that reads “999” indicates that the jewelry is 99.9% silver.

To tell if a piece of jewelry is sterling silver, check for a little marking that says “925,” “925/1,000,” “Sterling,” “Sterling 9.25” or “S/S.” These markings indicate the jewelry is 92.5% silver and 7.5% another metal. If you don’t see any markings, it’s most likely silver-plated.

Another test is placing a magnet on your jewelry. Pure silver is nonmagnetic, so if your jewelry sticks, it’s most likely silver-plated.

How to Clean Silver Jewelry at Home

What is the best homemade jewelry cleaner for silver? Try these methods of cleaning your silver jewelry with products you might already have.

Dish Soap

A woman scrubs a silver ring with dish soap and a toothbrush

You can clean silver with Dawn dish soap or another mild dish soap. Dish soap can remove dirt and oil without harming silver. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Fill a bowl with warm water and add a few drops of mild dish soap.
  2. Place the silver jewelry in the bowl and let it soak for about five minutes.
  3. Scrub the jewelry gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove tarnish and dirt.
  4. Rinse the jewelry under running water and dry it gently with a soft cloth.

Toothpaste

Toothpaste can clean silver. However, ensure you use plain, non-gel toothpaste with no added whitening ingredients since these are too abrasive. Here are the steps:

  1. Squeeze a small amount of toothpaste onto a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  2. Scrub the jewelry gently, focusing on tarnished areas and using circular motions.
  3. Rinse the jewelry under lukewarm water and dry it with a soft cloth.

Be cautious with this method, as toothpaste can be abrasive and may scratch delicate silver surfaces. Test a small area first and avoid using it on pieces with gemstones.

Baking Soda

Use baking soda to clean silver jewelry with these steps:

  1. Mix one part water or lemon juice with three parts baking soda until it forms a thick paste.
  2. Apply the paste onto the jewelry using a soft sponge or cloth, gently rubbing it onto the surface.
  3. Let the paste sit for a few minutes to allow the baking soda to loosen dirt and tarnish.
  4. Rinse the jewelry under warm water and buff it dry using a soft cloth.

Avoid using baking soda on pieces with gemstones.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

Vinegar and baking soda can be an excellent option to remove tarnish from silver:

  1. Mix 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar, a tablespoon of baking soda and 2 cups of water in a bowl. The mixture will fizz.
  2. Soak the jewelry in the solution for two to three hours, allowing the chemical reaction to break down tarnish.
  3. Remove the jewelry and rinse it under cold water.
  4. Pat it dry with a soft cloth.

Only use this method for plain silver jewelry. Don’t soak pieces with gemstones, enamel or decorations.

Lemon and Olive Oil

You can also clean silver jewelry with lemon and olive oil. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Mix a teaspoon of olive oil with 1/2 cup lemon juice, then dip a clean cloth into the solution.
  2. Rub the silver gently with the cloth until the metal shines.
  3. Rinse and dry the jewelry with a clean cloth.

Aluminum Foil and Baking Soda

This method can be highly effective. Here’s how you can try it out:

  1. Line a bowl with aluminum foil, ensuring the shiny side is up.
  2. Place the jewelry on the foil and ensure your pieces don’t touch each other.
  3. Sprinkle baking soda over the jewelry. You’ll need one tablespoon of baking soda for each cup of water.
  4. Pour boiled water over the jewelry, submerging it.
  5. Let the jewelry sit until the tarnish has transferred from the silver to the foil.
  6. Rinse the jewelry under warm water and buff it dry with a soft cloth.

While an aluminum foil wash may remove tarnish, it can also loosen the glue and damage the embellishments on your jewelry. It may also remove so much patina that intricate patterns fade. This method isn’t recommended for expensive silver jewelry.

How to Clean Silver Rings, Chains and Earrings

Cleaning different silver jewelry requires attention to their specific characteristics:

  • Rings:¬†Gently scrubbing rings with mild dish soap and a soft toothbrush removes dirt and oils without damaging the silver.
  • Chains:¬†Chains may accumulate dirt and oils in the links, requiring thorough cleaning to maintain their shine. Try soaking your chains in warm water and mild detergent, then gently scrub the links with a soft brush.
  • Earrings:¬†Earrings with intricate designs or gemstones need gentle handling to avoid dislodging or scratching delicate components. Clean them with caution and avoid harsh chemicals and abrasive methods. Applying mild dish soap and water with a soft cloth or brush may clean the silver without harming the embellishments.

How to Polish Silver Jewelry

To polish silver jewelry using a polishing cloth and cream, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure your jewelry is clean and free from dirt or debris, then gently rub it with a polishing cloth to remove any surface tarnish or dullness.
  2. Apply a small amount of silver polishing cream to remove stubborn tarnish or improve shine.
  3. Buff the jewelry with the cream in small circular motions with the polishing cloth, focusing on areas with tarnish.
  4. Rinse the jewelry under warm water to remove any remaining cream.
  5. Dry the jewelry with a soft cloth to prevent water spots.

How to Store Silver Jewelry

Now that your silver jewelry is clean and polished, you must properly store it to prevent tarnishing. Follow these tips:

  • Use a jewelry container:¬†To minimize air and moisture exposure, keep your silver jewelry in a dry, airtight container. Choose a container with a soft lining to prevent scratches and abrasions.
  • Try separate storage:¬†If possible, store each jewelry piece separately to avoid scratches and tangling.
  • Use anti-tarnish products:¬†Add anti-tarnish strips or pouches to storage containers. These products help absorb moisture and slow down tarnishing.
  • Check¬†jewelry¬†periodically:¬†Check your stored jewelry for tarnish or discoloration. Clean them as needed.
  • Wrap jewelry for long-term storage:¬†If you’re storing silver jewelry long-term, wrap each piece in anti-tarnish cloth or tissue paper before placing it in the storage container.

Frequently Asked Questions

Browse these FAQs if you have other questions about cleaning silver jewelry:

How Often Should You Clean Silver Jewelry?

Clean silver jewelry when you notice a dull or dark appearance. If you wear it often, try cleaning it every other month.

What Should You Not Clean Silver With?

Avoid harsh chemicals like bleach, hydrogen peroxide, ammonia and chlorine. These chemicals can damage the jewelry and cause discoloration or corrosion. Additionally, avoid abrasive materials like steel wool or rough brushes, as they can scratch the silver’s surface.

Does Peroxide Clean Silver?

While hydrogen peroxide can help remove tarnish from silver, it’s not recommended for regular cleaning. Hydrogen peroxide may damage the metal and leave residue behind.

Does Coke Clean Silver?

Coke may be an option due to its acidic properties. However, there are more effective methods, as the drink’s sugar and additives may leave a sticky residue.

If you choose this method, place the silver pieces in a bowl and pour the cola over them. Let them soak for one to three hours, depending on their condition. Remove the pieces and rinse them in clean water. This technique is best for smaller silver pieces.

Shine on With The Vault Jewelry and Loan

A woman holds a necklace with a pendant on a cloth bust

Now that you’ve learned some nifty tricks to keep your favorite pieces sparkling, why not give them a new home or find some stunning additions to your collection? The Vault Jewelry and Loan specializes in luxury items,¬†including silver jewelry¬†and coins. Whether you’re looking to sell or buy, our professional team is here to offer top-notch service and fair deals.

Visit one of our seven locations in Virginia or check out our online listings today. If you have any questions, please contact us online or call 703-379-1006.

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