How to Remove Silver Tarnish
Anyone who owns silver jewelry will eventually have to deal with the issue of tarnishing. Tarnishing is the grey or black discoloration that gradually creeps over your silver pieces. The good news is that tarnishing isn’t harmful to your silver, and that you can cheaply and easily remove it at home.
You can even prevent tarnishing from happening in the first place, or at least greatly hinder it. Preventing and removing tarnishing is part of basic silver care, but it’s a lot less overwhelming than it sounds.
In order to remove tarnishing from your silver pieces, you must decide whether you want to use a home remedy or buy a commercially prepared product. The commercial products are generally affordable and convenient– you might even find individually-wrapped tarnish-removing wipes! Home solutions are even cheaper, but they’re not always quite as convenient. Some popular home products used to clean silver include vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice (to name just a few!). Whatever product you use, you should be careful to only scrub as much as you have to and to make sure the cleaning solution will not harm any stones, gems, or additions on your silver. For example, many silver polishes can corrode pearls and jade. Use caution, and consult your local jeweler when in doubt!
In general, you will coat or soak your jewelry in the polishing solution for the prescribed amount of time. If necessary, you can use a special brush or a soft-bristle toothbrush to clean the tarnish off. Again, be careful to only scrub as much as you need to. You should also make sure that your jewelry is solid sterling silver before you begin cleaning, as silver-plated jewelry might not hold up under polishing. You can ensure that your jewelry is solid sterling silver by looking for a stamp that says “.925” or similar. A jewelry expert should be able to help you if you can’t locate a stamp.
You can also prevent tarnishing with a few easy steps. Never store silver near wood, rubber, or newspaper when you can avoid it, as these items lead to faster tarnishing. Since most jewelry boxes are made of wood, consider purchasing an “anti-tarnish” jewelry box or wrap your silver in another material before storing it. Placing a piece of chalk with silver absorbs the moisture and chemicals in the air that can lead to tarnishing. It is possible to prevent tarnishing by coating silver jewelry with lacquer, clear nail polish, or micro-crystalline wax, but this can harm silver jewelry if done incorrectly.
Most of the time, silver jewelry doesn’t need any such coating. However, if your silver item is going to be exposed to air or moisture very often, it might be necessary. Consult an expert if possible, so that your lacquer job will not reduce the value of your jewelry.
Tarnishing is not the end of the world! As you can see, there are plenty of solutions for both preventing and removing tarnish. Find the right ones for your jewelry, and you’ll never have to stress over that pesky discoloration again.