How to Clean Sterling Silver Jewelry

Posted by Laura Fleischauer on

One of the most common questions we get is “how do I clean my silver?” First, let’s understand why your silver loses its luster. The dull dark color (tarnish) that starts to appear on your silver is a completely natural process caused by the outermost layers of the metal being exposed to oxygen and/or other chemicals. Unlike a rusty piece of metal that is actually destroyed and corroded, tarnished metal can be restored completely with a proper cleaning. The tarnish is only on the surface and does not damage the metal.

Now that we know what we’re dealing with, here’s how we can get rid of it. There are several methods for achieving a bright, shiny silver surface.

1: Silver polishing cloth.
These cloths usually feature two layers, one layer cleans off the tarnish and the other layer polishes the silver to a high shine. These are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. These are great for pieces that feature decorative patinas because you can selectively clean and polish only the areas you want to shine.

2. Liquid silver polish.
silver polish
This type of cleaner can be purchased from a store or online. Please follow the directions on the bottle.

3. DIY Silver Bath:
This method is extremely effective and easy, not to mention inexpensive. I used this to clean half of the bell in the photo above--the difference is dramatic!
a. Fill an aluminum pan with hot water. (You can also put a piece of foil in a regular pan.)
b. Stir in 1 Tablespoon of baking soda and 1 Tablespoon of salt.
c. Gently drop your silver in the pan with tongs. Make sure the silver is making contact with the foil.
d. Let the item soak for 1-5 minutes to remove tarnish.
*NOTE: If you have a piece that is deliberately oxidized, the bath will remove that finish as well.

4. DIY Toothpaste Polish:
toothpaste silver cleaner
Another household item that can be used to remove tarnish is toothpaste. Simply smear the toothpaste on your silver with a soft cotton cloth, rub it in like you are cleaning it and then rinse with water.

Which method is best for you depends on your piece of jewelry, so carefully consider your options. Of course, you can always take your jewelry into a jeweler for professional cleaning, but these at home solutions usually work just as well. Always show extra care when cleaning any plated jewelry as it tends to be more delicate.

Do you have any tips for cleaning your jewelry? Share your wisdom in the comments!

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