Jewelry is both fun and precious, there to make a statement and wear every day; and that variety is just one of the reasons we love it. However, wearing and storing jewelry inevitably leads to stains and tarnishing.
We don’t know about you but we usually find it’s our sterling silver jewelry that needs cleaning the most and we never have one of those silver cleaning cloths handy! Thankfully, we’ve learned some fantastic tips on how to clean sterling silver at home without one.
Making your favorite pieces sparkle again doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Some of the best homemade jewelry cleaners can be whipped up in seconds using things you already have sitting in your kitchen.
Let’s look at how to clean jewelry at home.
Using Household Products to Clean Jewelry
No, this isn’t just your grocery list; we promise you really can use these everyday items to keep your gems and jewels clean and shiny. Everything from aluminum foil to Alka-seltzer and even ketchup (we promise!) can be used to make the best homemade jewelry cleaner.
Check out our guide, then go and raid your shelves for the easiest way to buff up your favorite accessories.
This one isn’t just about the brush. With its baking soda and easy application, one of the best ways is to clean jewelry with toothpaste itself; although the brush does come in handy for those hard to reach areas as we know.
Diamonds and other crystalline gems are perfect for this method. Dampen the jewelry and use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, less on smaller items. Depending on how gently you want to scrub, you can work the toothpaste using the brush, a q-tip or even just your fingers.
Let the toothpaste sit for a few minutes and then wipe off with a clean paper towel or q-tip. Repeat the application process for stubborn stains and then rinse in warm water and pat dry.
Some things to note:
- Avoid toothpaste with tartar control and gels. Go for plain white to ensure optimum cleaning power with no abrasion.
- As softer metals, gold and silver might be scratched by the brush or damaged by the pate itself. Check out some of our other solutions (and our dedicated post) for how to deal with silver and clean gold jewelry at home.
For more tips, there’s even a handy guide on how to clean jewelry with toothpaste.
This kitchen cupboard staple has become a home-cleaning hero, known for its seemingly magical powers. Cleaning jewelry with vinegar is no different, and this versatile, everyday item comes up time and again among the best homemade jewelry cleaners.
Before you go out and clear the supermarket shelves, you can use any old type available. For cleaning jewelry, it has to be white vinegar, and it shouldn’t be used softer stones and pearls.
Put half a cup of white vinegar and two tbsp of baking soda in a non-porous bowl or cup, depending on the size of your piece. Leave it to soak for two to three hours, moving it around every 15 minutes or so to ensure maximum coverage.
Rinse in cold water, using a toothbrush (baby toothbrushes are a good idea for minimizing abrasion) for stains or crevices. Dry thoroughly.
For an extra cleaning boost for high-quality jewelry and sturdy stones using vinegar, add tea tree oil or witch hazel to the solution above and seal in a mason jar overnight. Cover in baking soda and gently scrub and rinse.
Rubbing alcohol is fairly common around the home, but it may come as a surprise that there are bottles in the liquor cabinet that can you can use to clean jewelry with alcohol.
Vodka and gin can actually be used to clean glass costume jewelry or crystalline gemstones such as diamonds and emeralds, as well as precious metals like platinum, titanium, and tungsten.
Depending on the severity of the stains or the size of the piece, dip a napkin or dunk the jewelry in the liquid for anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Remember to rinse and dry well with clean water and dry cloth.
For softer metals, beer is the unlikely bar hero. Dip a clean napkin in light beer or lager, and polish the jewelry. As usual, rinse and wipe clean. This works great to clean gold jewelry at home but avoid using beer on silver and gemstones…and don’t be tempted to drink it afterward!
This is one of the simplest methods out there, and effervescent tablets are a great way to get quick results, particularly for how to clean diamond jewelry.
Just drop the tablet in water as usual, add your jewelry, leave to soak for five minutes and then rinse and dry. Avoid using a flavored tablet as the dye may discolor your piece.
Denture tablets also work on jewelry as well as they do on grandma’s false teeth – just don’t use them on her pearls!
As great as sterling silver is for making jewelry, it does have its downsides. we’re commonly asked questions such as ‘does sterling silver tarnish?’ and ‘does sterling silver rust?’ And unfortunately, the answer to both of these is yes.
Sterling silver is a metal alloy, which means it’s made up of a combination of metals, rather than just a single metal like pure silver. Most commonly, sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper or zinc alloy.
Copper and zinc are easily tarnished, so when you combine them with a metal like silver that can also tarnish, things go a little wild and it tends to speed up the rusting process.
But fear not, just because you’re sterling silver jewelry has tarnished, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way!
Something we’ve learnt is that when it comes to how to clean jewelry at home, chemistry is all-important. Here’s a quick way to untarnish your sterling silver jewelry by creating a chemical reaction with aluminium foil.
Line a dish or bowl with a square of tin foil and pour on hot water to about one inch deep. Add a tablespoon of salt or baking soda and stir until dissolved. Submerge your jewelry for around five minutes, if the water’s murky it’s working, then rinse and dry. Repeat if tarnish persists.
That tarnished appearance is created when silver reacts to sulfur-containing substances in the air, creating what’s called silver sulfide. By using aluminum foil, you’re actually creating a specific chemical reaction between this and the aluminum metal, activated by the baking soda and warm water.
If you go for a window cleaner, avoid a bleach-based one and don’t use it on anything opaque or natural stones such as coral and pearls. Ammonia and detergents are usually fine for most metals and crystalline gems but can discolor porous ones.
When nothing else is to hand, dish soap, perhaps with salt and baking soda, is a great homemade jewelry cleaner. You can add the other elements for extra cleaning power or use it alone. Dish soap is good for acrylic and plastic pieces to avoid fading and cracking.
For very delicate stones such as pearls and opals, a softer option could be warm water and a little shampoo. Lay on a cloth and use a makeup brush to clean, rinsing carefully afterward. Never submerge pearls in liquid.
We promised you ketchup, and it’s actually a great solution for brass and copper. Just dunk the jewelry for a few minutes (longer than your fries!) and rinse, perhaps using a toothbrush for crevices if needed.
Ketchup is also one of the more unusual sterling cleaners. It’s great for removing tarnish with very little work.
How to oxidize silver with eggs
Throughout this article, we’ve touched on some of the ways you can remove tarnish from sterling silver jewelry but unfortunately, it’s one of those metals that will require continuous cleaning efforts.
If you don’t fancy having to clean your sterling silver regularly, our simple answer is to oxidize it. Oxidized jewelry is supposed to look antique and tarnished so doesn’t need cleaning. Adding a black patina gives jewelry an edgy look and is a great way to revitalize older pieces in your jewelry collection. If this has piqued your interest and you’re wondering how to oxidize silver, follow our quick guide below. It’s a bit weird but hear us out?
So, this sounds a bit strange but trust us it works. Grab 3-5 eggs and hard-boil them in the shell for around 15 minutes. Once boiled, discard of the white bit of the egg, you don’t need that. Eat it or pop it in your compost bin.
The bit you need is the gray coated yellow core. That’s where the sulfur lies and that’s exactly what you need to oxidize your silver jewelry.
Take the hard-boiled yolk of the eggs and put them into zip lock bag or tupperware. Mash them up and add a couple of teaspoons of water to make a paste. Next, add your sterling silver jewelry. Leave it in the bag with the eggs for a day or two. Remove and you should find your sterling silver has fully oxidized.
To finish, rinse your oxidized silver jewelry with water and buff it gently with a cloth.
We told you it was a bit weird but definitely worth a try! We’re sure you’ll be super impressed with the results and love that you’ll never have to clean your sterling silver jewelry again.
Using homemade jewelry cleaner
We’ve looked at just some of the tips and tricks for how to clean jewelry at home – you don’t necessarily need expensive products and professionals.
With the variety of metals and stones out there, it’s important to check before potentially damaging a piece.
If in doubt, start gently using just a cloth or your hands (if safe to do so) and work up to stronger scrubbing.
Hopefully, you’ve been able to find an easy, affordable, and maybe even natural, homemade jewelry cleaner!
Used any of these household products to clean jewelry or have a home remedy of your own?
We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!