Sterling silver jewelry is revered for being long-lasting, durable, and high quality.
So why has yours suddenly started to look dull and tarnished?
Sterling silver contains 92.5% pure silver, meaning the remaining 7.5% is made up of another metal. It’s this additional metal that oxidizes when it’s exposed to air and moisture, causing the tarnished appearance.
But you needn’t worry, because we’ll show you how to clean sterling silver jewelry at home.
Sterling silver is actually super easy to clean. And you don’t even need to go to the shops to buy specialist products. Rather, a few items you’ll find around your home will get the job done in no time.
So whether you’re looking for help cleaning your much-loved sterling silver jewelry or you’ve just bought a new piece you want to preserve and care for, here are our top tips on how to clean sterling silver at home.
From what cleans sterling silver to how you can ward off tarnish in the future, we’ll show you the best way to clean sterling silver so it looks like new again.
Polishing Sterling Silver Jewelry with Household Cleaners
There are some chemical silver cleaning solutions available from shops, and many jewelers offer professional cleaning services, too.
But if you want to know how to clean sterling silver rings, necklaces, and bracelets, you’ll be delighted to know you don’t need to spend any money getting the most effective results.
Rather, with a few ingredients from your kitchen essentials, you’ll have the ideal solution for how to polish sterling silver jewelry pieces.
Here are some of the most popular ones:
1. Aluminum Foil
Place a liter of water, a piece of aluminum foil, and a tablespoon of baking powder in a pan and bring it to a boil.
Drop your jewelry into the pot for 10 seconds. You may want to leave it longer if the item’s particularly tarnished.
Use kitchen tongs to remove the item and voila, a new-looking piece of sterling silver.
2. Baking Soda and Water
Make a paste using baking soda and water, then get a clean cloth and place a small amount of this paste on it.
Use the cloth to polish your silver like you normally would.
If your jewelry is detailed, etched, or stamped, it’s a good idea to make the paste thinner by adding more water. This is less likely to wear away at any of embellishments.
And if you’re struggling to get into the detailed parts, use a toothbrush with soft bristles. Clean the solution off by running your jewelry in warm water before drying with a soft cloth.
3. Baking Soda and White Vinegar
If the aforementioned tip isn’t successful, you may want to try swapping the water out for white vinegar. This is still a gentle way of getting rid of tarnishing but works on patches that are more heavily tarnished.
Simply soak the jewelry in a solution of 2 tablespoons of baking soda and ½ cup of white vinegar. Leave for 2-3 hours – and don’t be alarmed if the solution fizzes when you put your jewelry in it!
Yep, even one of your favorite condiments can help clean up those pieces of sterling silver.
All you need to do is place a small amount on a soft cloth before rubbing it into those tarnished areas.
The acid in the tomatoes reacts with the oxidization on the metal.
If this doesn’t work straight away, just leave the ketchup on your jewelry for around 15 minutes, then rub it again before rinsing it clean.
5. Olive Oil and Lemon Juice
Mix a teaspoon of olive oil with ½ cup of lemon juice and place in a bowl that’s big enough to hold a small cloth and the solution.
Dip your cloth in the solution before wringing it out. Then use this to polish the silver before rinsing the jewelry and drying it with another soft, dry cloth.
6. Soap and Water
Yes, it really can be this simple!
Soap and water is a classic way to clean sterling silver and is no less effective than other methods.
Simply combine your usual dishwashing soap (ideally one that’s phosphate-free) with warm water and wash your jewelry.
Top tip: It’s a good idea to try this one first before other cleaning methods as it is the least harsh of them all (after polishing).
7. Combination of the Above
Because all of these homemade recipes use basic ingredients, you can try several different ones in succession until your jewelry is tarnish-free.
How to Polish Silver Clean
If your jewelry hasn’t tarnished much, you can polish sterling silver at home to get it looking like new again. This is also a great way to polish jewelry that’s got intentionally-oxidized parts (e.g. to create detail and patterns) as you can avoid these areas while cleaning the rest of the piece.
It’s important to note that silver can scratch quite easily so you should use a soft, nonabrasive cloth e.g. a microfiber or lint-free cloth. Never use tissues or paper towels as these can scratch the silver with their fibers.
To polish, go backward and forward across the piece in long strokes, mirroring the grain of the silver. A lot of tips that tell you how to remove tarnish from sterling silver will say to use circular motions, but don’t because this can accentuate tiny scratches.
Frequently change the bit of cloth you’re using as well so you don’t transfer the tarnish back onto your jewelry.
And always be careful if you’re working on silver-plated pieces as too much polishing can start to remove the plating.
How to Prevent Your Sterling Silver Jewelry from Tarnishing
Now you know how to clean sterling silver bracelets and other items, how can you prolong the shine you’ve created?
Just follow these preventative steps:
There are a number of things that’ll quickly tarnish your sterling silver, including chlorine, rubber, perspiration, and household chemicals, as will substances that contain sulfur (i.e. wool, latex, onions, mustard, eggs, and mayonnaise). That’s why it’s always a good idea to remove jewelry while you’re doing your chores (especially rings). And always take jewelry off before you go swimming.
Other day-to-day items, like perfume and cosmetics, can accelerate the tarnishing process, which is why you may want to put your jewelry on last once you’re ready.
The oxidization process which tarnishes silver is caused by exposure to air. So when you’re not wearing your jewelry, try to store it in an air-tight bag (you can even get these with anti-tarnish strips). Always have one item of jewelry per bag so they don’t rub and scratch each other, and unclasp your bracelets.
Did you know, the natural oils your skin produces can help keep your silver jewelry looking clean? This means the more you can wear your jewelry the better as this will help remove any tarnish.
Taking Care of Your Sterling Silver Jewelry at Home
As you can see, when it comes to learning how to clean sterling silver necklaces and other items of jewelry, it really couldn’t be simpler.
From regular (but not too harsh) polishes to quick homemade cleaning solutions, there’s no excuse for dull-looking silver.
Once you know how, you’ll continue to enjoy shiny, sparkling pieces of silver jewelry forever more.
Do you have any other tips on how to clean sterling silver jewelry?
We’d love to hear about these in our comments box below!