This is a hot topic when it comes to silver – how do you clean it?
Silver tarnishes. It may tarnish faster or slower based on how often it’s worn, where it’s stored and the wearer’s individual body chemistry, but silver is going to tarnish. If you’re curious, tarnish is just a chemical reaction. New silver arrives super shiny and bright, and will begin to dull as it is worn – many people even prefer the slightly darker look of worn silver. But tarnish will eventually strike and when it does, you’ll know it. Tarnish can range in colors from a yellowy color to a flat, dull black.
Yes it’s annoying, but luckily it’s pretty easy to get your silver tarnish free and shiny again. In this post I will share my experiences with three different methods of silver cleaning so you can choose your favorite, and keep your silver in tip top shape.
For the images in this post I used pieces from my own personal jewelry stash that were in need of a little care, however these methods will work on sterling or fine silver, including Seashore Design Studio pieces.
Baking soda + aluminum foil + hot water
This is a “natural” method that I’ve found to work, though not as well as some others. It will definitely remove some tarnish, but in my experience it leaves the pieces dull, and still requiring a cleaning agent to regain their shine. That being said, I had a piece that tarnished solid black, and with an application of the baking soda mixture followed by a vigorous scrubbing in silver polish and a turn in the tumbler, I got it nearly as good as new, so there is some value to this.
You’ll need – boiling water, a heat resistant bowl (I used a ceramic cereal bowl), 1 tsp of baking soda and a piece of aluminum foil.
- Boil a small amount of water in a tea kettle or small saucepan.
- Fold or bunch up the aluminum foil and place it in the bowl, followed by the baking soda. Place the jewelry in the center.
- Pour enough boiling water to cover the pieces. The mixture will fizz up and smell a little sulfurous.
- Let sit for a few minutes, then remove the jewelry and discard the water and aluminum foil; rub the jewelry with your fingers to loosen any additional build up and rinse.
The first photo above shows a tarnished earring in the solution, the second compares the pair (you can see on the left the tarnish has begun to move) and the third compares the pair after the right has been quickly rubbed with silver cleaner (you can see a more pronounced difference).
There are a number of silver polishes and cleaners available, however my preference is for Hagerty’s Silver Foam. It’s a silver cleaning and polishing agent in one, with no abrasives. An 8 ounce jar (which is plenty) is $6.99 on Amazon, which is where I found it. The cleaner is a thick, creamy brown which has some chemical odor, but not nearly as much as many other jewelry cleaners I’ve used over the years. It foams up as it is used, releasing bubbles that clean as you go. The instructions say to use a sponge or soft cloth, I sometimes rub it on with my fingers because I’m a rebel.
There are instructions on the container, and it’s very simple to use. I find that the Hagerty’s Silver Foam gives the best overall finish and shine to badly tarnished items.
Silver cleaning cloth
A silver cleaning cloth is extraordinarily easy to use, it just takes a little work. They can be purchased in many stores, or ordered online. They are usually light in color, and you’ll notice dark spots from the tarnish as you use them. Simply rub the cloth on the tarnished piece until it is clean and shiny again! This can take some time and effort depending on the size of the piece and the severity of the tarnish.
I don’t recommend silver cleaning cloths for chains, as it will be impossible to get into the small spaces and it puts a lot of pressure on the chain. It’s perfectly safe for centerpieces, larger pieces, and even the clasps on chains.
Above, you can see some dark tarnish around the ring, and it looking much cleaner and shinier on the right after being cleaned with the silver cleaning cloth.
Soap + water
That’s right, plain old dish soap and water can help keep your silver nice and clean. I’ll put some dish soap on my fingers then rub it onto the silver and rinse under running water, then dry well. I don’t find this method highly effective for removing heavy tarnish, but it will remove everyday gunk and keep things a little brighter.