How to clean silver jewelry
All silver gets tarnished at some point. The good news is that you can clean it without spending a dime! Here are nine household items that can be used to clean silver. You probably have at least a couple already in your kitchen!
1. Baking Soda
Baking soda (not baking powder) is a great dual-purpose silver cleaner. You can mix a few tablespoons into a container of water for a gentle wash, or you can use just enough water to make a paste that will polish your silver. If you’re using baking soda as a polish, you should apply it to the entire silver piece and massage it gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush or damp washcloth. Rinse and dry with a towel afterwards.
You can use toothpaste to clean silver, and cheaper is actually better! Look for a plain white paste-type, rather than a gel or a whitening formula. Also make sure you don’t use toothpaste that has silica in it, because that can scratch your silver.
Some experts recommend soaking your silver jewelry in a mixture of equal parts milk and vinegar. I’ve found pure vinegar to be more effective, but your experience may be different.
Ammonia is a great silver cleaner, if you can tolerate the smell. Add 1 part ammonia to 2 parts water and soak the silver for 5-10 minutes. When you’re done, just take the silver out and dry it. Ammonia can destroy pearls and other additions, so it’s probably best to use it on jewelry that’s just silver.
Vinegar is a gentle acid, so it will clean your silver without damaging pearls or precious stones. You can actually soak sterling silver in undiluted vinegar (white vinegar seems to be best) for up to three hours. Afterwards, rinse the silver and dry it.
The tomatoes and vinegar in ketchup are both acidic, and the paste-like consistency of ketchup makes it easy to apply to silver pieces. Obviously, you’ll want to rinse your jewelry with plain water after you’ve gotten all the tarnish off! You don’t want your skin to smell like a hamburger, right?
You can use a soft-bristle toothbrush to scrub tarnish off your silver pieces. Be careful not to use it on anything that is silver plated or less than 92.5% (sterling) silver, as it may cause scratches. For high quality silver, however, it can be a great cleaning tool. It’s probably better to use a new, unused toothbrush.
8. Lemon juice
The acid in lemon juice makes it a great silver cleaner. You can soak your silver jewelry for a few hours or a few days, depending on the amount of oxidation. Check on your jewelry every few hours so you can remove it from the lemon juice bath as soon as the tarnishing is gone. Rinse and dry the silver.
9. Aluminum Foil
If all else fails, aluminum foil can handle duty tarnishing. Line a glass baking pan with aluminum foil, shiny side up, and place your silver pieces on top of it. Mix one cup of baking soda into one gallon of boiling water, stir, and then pour over the silver and aluminum. Your silver jewelry should come completely clean within 5 minutes! Rinse with cold water and dry.
Regardless of what method you use, be careful not to hurt yourself or your silver. Also, if you wear gloves when cleaning your silver, be sure they are nitrile. Rubber can corrode silver, so gloves made out of latex are a bad idea in this situation. Always dry your silver after rinsing it, since wet silver tarnishes more easily. Enjoy your shiny “new” silver!