How to Clean Silver Jewelry at home
Silver jewelry tends to lose it's shine over time with wear and can even get black. This is called tarnish, a result of chemical reaction between silver and sulphur in the air. Most silver jewelry and accessories today are plated with very thin layer of rhodium to protect the metal and make it brighter and shinier. However, this thin protective coat wears off making it easy for silver items to blacken.
Actually, silver items react not only with sulphur in the air. Perfumes, cosmetics, hair spray, hand cream, oils from skin and even some foods can get the metal to tarnish and lose its lustra and shine. There are some simple and inexpensive ways to remove tarnish, polish and clean silver at home.
Wear: You can avoid tarnish by wearing your jewelry often. The oils in your skin will “clean” the silver and keep it looking shiny.
Avoid exposure: Contact with household chemicals, perspiration, rubber, chlorinated water, or any substances which contain sulfur (e.g., mayonnaise, eggs, mustard, onions, latex, wool), will cause corrosion and tarnish — so it’s a good idea to remove silver jewelry when doing household chores. Direct sunlight also causes silver to tarnish, so be sure to take off your silver jewelry before you go swimming and sunbathing.
Lotions, cosmetics, hair spray and hair products, and perfumes are also “enemies” of silver and will accelerate tarnishing. There’s a reason generations of women have been getting dressed with jewelry last, as a finishing touch!
Storage: As exposure to air tarnishes it, storing silver in airtight plastic bags with anti-tarnish strips is a great preventative measure. Just make sure you don’t store multiple jewelry pieces in the same bag: silver is a soft metal, so the individual pieces can scratch each other. Link or chain bracelets should be kept unclasped or unhooked to prevent scratching as well. If you can’t use plastic bags, try to make sure that the storage area has low humidity. You can also place a piece of chalk, a packet of activated charcoal, or a container of silica gel in the storage area to minimize tarnish.
Simply polishing your silver works well when the tarnishing is not too severe. It’s also the best method for cleaning oxidized silver, as you can stay away from the intentionally tarnished areas.
Silver is soft and can become scratched easily. You can use a special silver cloth to polish your items, but a lint-free flannel, microfiber, or other soft nonabrasive cloth will do as well. Do not use paper towels or tissues to polish your jewelry as they contain fibers that can scratch the silver.
When polishing, use long back-and-forth motions that mirror the grain of the silver. Do not rub in circles, as this will magnify any tiny scratches. Also, change to a different section of your cloth frequently to avoid placing tarnish back on the silver. You can use a Q-tip to get into small, detailed areas.
Be careful with silver-plated items, as excessive polishing can remove the plating (depending on the thickness) and leave pieces worse than when they started.
Here are some recipes for easy DIY silver cleaning at home:
Soap and water: Warm water and a mild, ammonia- and phosphate-free dishwashing soap should be your first line of defense if the polishing cloth fails to remove tarnish. Soap and water should also be used to clean your pieces before using any of the methods listed below.
Baking soda and water: You might have heard that a non-whitening, non-gel toothpaste can be a good substitute for commercial silver cleaners, but nowadays these basic toothpastes are hard to find or distinguish from the toothpastes that will discolor your silver. Instead, make a paste of baking soda and water and use a clean cloth to apply a pea-sized amount to the silver and polish. For etched, stamped or detailed items, thin the paste with more water and use a clean, soft-bristled toothbrush to get the cracks and crevices. Run the silver piece or pieces under running warm water, and dry with a clean cloth.
Olive oil and lemon juice: Mix 1/2 cup lemon juice with 1 tsp. olive oil in a bowl large enough to hold the cleaning solution and a small microfiber cloth. Dip the cloth in the solution and wring it out so that it doesn’t drip, then polish the silver, rinse, and dry.
White vinegar and baking soda: Use this gentle cleaner to remove heavy tarnish that’s preventing you from polishing your silver. Soak the tarnished piece in a solution of 1/2 cup white vinegar and 2 tbsp. baking soda (be prepared for the fizzing!) for two to three hours, then rinse and dry.
Baking soda, salt, aluminum foil, and boiling water: You can take advantage of a simple chemical reaction to clean your silver: all you’ll need is some baking soda, salt, and aluminum foil. Line a glass roasting pan or the kitchen sink with aluminum foil, dull side facing down. Place the silver pieces on top of the aluminum foil. Then pour boiling water over the pieces until they are covered and add 2 tbsp. each of baking soda and salt. Stir the solution to allow the baking soda to dissolve — you don’t want any granules scratching the metal.
The reaction causes the tarnish to transfer to the foil, and in about 5-10 minutes you’ll see the tarnish “magically” disappear from the jewelry. (Be prepared for the smell of rotten eggs, though, as the sulfide tarnish comes off the silver.) Using salad tongs or nitrile gloves (not rubber gloves, which contain sulfur), remove the silver jewelry from the hot water or drain into a colander. Rinse the jewelry with water, then dry and buff with a soft cloth. Voila! Your silver should be sparkling clean and ready to keep you looking fabulous.
Combination: If your pieces have very stubborn tarnish, you can use these treatments in succession to get them looking shiny again.
Aluminium Foil with Laundry detergent
This cleaning trick is appropriate for slightly tarnished silverware or silver jewellery. Line a bowl with aluminium foil and fill with hot water. Add a tablespoon of liquid laundry detergent and stir well. Drop your silver items inside and let them soak for a minute. Take the silver out with kitchen tongs, rinse with lukewarm water and lay on a paper towel to let the items dry.
Aluminium Foil and Baking Soda
This is one of the best recipes. The aluminum-soda bath is very useful when you need to clean more than one thing or bigger items – such as silver cutlery, candlesticks, or tableware. Cover the bottom of a large baking pan with aluminum foil, with the shiny side up. Use ceramic, or glass bakeware never metal one, to avoid unwanted chemical reactions. Fill with water and add baking soda. You need 1,5 tablespoons of soda for every gallon of water. Bring to boil and put the tarnished silver inside for 15 seconds. Take out the silver using kitchen tongs. Leave the silverware on paper towel to cool down. All tarnish is gone. For built up, stubborn tarnish you may have to repeat the procedure. Never use this recipe for jewellery with encrusted gemstones.
Cornflour and Water
If your silver has lost its shine this recipe will help you restore it. Prepare a thick paste of water cornflour and apply it onto the silver item. Let the mixture dry completely and rub it off with a towel to polish the surface and restore the shine of your jewellery and silverware. If you are out of cornflour you can substitute it with cream of tartar.
This is a classic, easy DIY silver cleaning recipe. Use non-gel and non-abrasive toothpaste. Squeeze a small amount of it on a soft cloth or paper handkerchief. Rub onto the jewellery or silverware with circular motions to polish it and clean off the tarnish. Leave it for 5 minutes and then rinse off the toothpaste with water. After this procedure the silver is clean and shiny as new.