Have you ever wondered why your favorite silver jewelry tarnishes over time? The good news is that tarnish is a fairly harmless interaction between silver and things we come in contact with, even the air.
Here’s more good news: using a few common ingredients, you can get tarnish off your silver jewelry safely at home.
3 DIY Ways to Remove Silver Tarnish
When it comes to removing tarnish, there are two main approaches: you can rub it away with soapy water or a gentle abrasive paste that won’t scratch your jewelry, or you can reverse the chemical reaction that created tarnish in the first place.
Always seek professional assistance with antique, nostalgic, or irreplaceable items.
Soap and water method
Light tarnish on silver jewelry is easily removed with a mild soap and water solution. Gently run it with a soft cloth along the grain of the silver, rinse well, then towel dry immediately. Plant-based Castile soap is perfect for this. Avoid any with heavy degreasers or oxygen bleach.
Baking soda paste
Both baking soda or a non-gel toothpaste can gently remove tarnish from silver without scratching. If you use a toothpaste, choose one without whiteners or mouthwash.
To use baking soda, combine 3 parts of it to 1 part water. Apply with a soft, damp cloth along the grain of the silver. Use a toothbrush in crevices. Rinse well then immediately towel dry.
Aluminum foil method
The aluminum foil method reverses the tarnishing process. But since it relies on boiling water, don’t use it if your jewelry has glued-on embellishments since the heat can dissolve the glue.
Line the bottom of your sink with a layer of aluminum foil and add your silver jewelry, keeping the pieces from touching. Dissolve 1/2 cup of baking soda in 1/2 gallon of boiling water and pour it over the jewelry. Wait 5 minutes, fish out the pieces, then rinse and dry them.
Why Does Silver Tarnish?
Before you can protect your jewelry from tarnishing, it helps to know that it’s an almost inevitable reaction between silver and compounds in our sweat, cleaning products, water, even the air. You can figure out the cause from the color of the tarnish:
• Black: When silver comes into contact with sulfur, found in certain cleaning products or released in our sweat after we eat sulfur-rich foods like eggs and cruciferous vegetables, it forms silver sulfide. This reaction creates black tarnish.
• White: When silver comes into contact with chloride in pool water, certain cleaning or laundry products, or from sweat after eating chloride-rich foods, it forms silver chloride tarnish. This tarnish starts as a white residue then darkens to a gray-blue.
• Dark greenish black: When the silver plating on copper jewelry wears thin, the copper will interact with oxygen to create a dark tarnish.
Tips to Keep Silver Clean
To prevent tarnish from developing, avoid exposing it to harsh chemicals, chlorinated water and sunlight.
- Jewelry should be the last thing you put on and the first thing you take off to protect it from exposure to cosmetics and hair products.
- Remove jewelry before doing housework, laundry, cooking, bathing, or swimming.
- Keep silver away from wool, felt and rubber which all contain sulfur.
- Wipe off jewelry before putting it away.
- Store jewelry in anti-tarnish bags or containers away from other metals, and add silica packets or a piece of chalk to absorb moisture.
So, don’t be afraid to wear enjoy your silver jewelry. Getting rid of tarnish doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, just a few household ingredients and some simple steps to prevent its return.