How to Clean Silver Jewelry - dummies

By Gill Chilton

Clean silver jewelry last because it’s likely to be the dirtiest. Whilst chains come clean in soapy water, you may prefer to use a silver cloth to shine thick bangles or brooches.

Tarnish – a black coating – happens to all silver that’s exposed to the air. It’s actually far worse today because the atmosphere of our modern world now contains lots of sulphur. Low levels of pollution before the Industrial Revolution meant silver rarely needed polishing.

Luckily, tarnish need not damage the metal, because it comes off easily. Add half a cup of soda crystals to half a litre (1 pint) of water, drop in your silver jewellery, and after ten minutes all the tarnish should be gone without the need to rub. A silver cloth makes a quick alternative, if you’ve just the odd piece to do, though it’s not very good for intricate designs.

A liquid silver cleaner (applied to a cloth, not to the jewellery) gets into crevices. Toothpaste is also an effective silver cleaner, and to keep it simple, you can use an old toothbrush to apply it. Afterwards, rinse well and dry.

Plated silver needs extra attention. If the coating is wearing away, you’re effectively washing a base metal (typically nickel) that will rust if any wetness remains. To guard against this (and also to protect sensitive skin) paint suspect areas with a coat of clear varnish.

To slow down tarnishing, wrap silver items in tissue paper before they go into the jewellery box or – best of all – put items into individual sealable plastic bags. Although this doesn’t look very nice, and perhaps you feel it’s inappropriate to store valued and precious items in cheap plastic bags, your silver will appreciate being in an airtight home and thank you by not needing to be cleaned when you take it out.