Sterling silver is comprised of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metal as specifically defined by international standards. The other metal is generally copper, but can also be zinc, germanium, or platinum.
Sterling silver is a favorite in jewelry making for its versatility, durability, and affordability. The common copper component has one pesky side effect though: tarnish. Never fear, we’re here to tell you how to easily get rid of it without the use of chemicals or costs of professional cleaning.
With our DIY guide on how to clean sterling silver, you can skip the trip to the jeweler without sacrificing the results.
Table of Contents
What is Tarnish?
Tarnish is a thin layer of corrosion. It is caused by a chemical reaction through exposure to oxygen and/or sulfur dioxide. Although it does not damage silver (unlike rust), it leaves your jewelry with a dark, dull, and unattractive appearance.
One of the best preventative defenses for silver jewelry is to wear it often. The oils in our skin help to constantly ‘clean’ the silver and keep it shiny. At the same time, it is important to be conscious of exposure to sulfur during wear. Things like eggs, mayo, even latex and wool, can result in tarnished silver.
When not in use, store sterling silver in airtight plastic bags. A simple piece of chalk in the bag helps to further prevent tarnish.
How to Clean Sterling Silver at Home
There are countless DIY methods for cleaning sterling silver with common household products. Not all of them offer superior results though. We are here to tell you about how to clean sterling silver the right way, in just 3 easy steps.
1. Materials and Preparation
All you’ll need for this effective method of cleaning sterling silver are a few simple ingredients: baking soda, salt, aluminum foil, pot (any size), water, soft cloth.
To get started, line the pot/pan with aluminum foil (dull side facing down). Be sure to cover the entire surface. While you are doing this, bring some water to a boil.
2. Mix and Soak
Once the water has come to a rolling boil, pour it into the aluminum-lined pot. Add in 1/4 cup baking soda and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Give it a stir – at this point, bubbles should form.
Now, add the silver items to the mixture. Allow them to sit for 5-10 minutes and watch the tarnish disappear before your eyes.
3. Dry and Polish
Remove the sterling silver jewelry from the water or drain using a colander. Take note – do not do this wearing rubber gloves as they contain sulfur.
Rinse with clean, running water. Afterward, dry and polish with a soft cloth. That’s it! Your sterling silver jewelry will look good as new.
It’s Time to Shine
Now that you know how to clean sterling silver, pull your neglected old favorites out of the jewelry box and bring them back to life. All it takes is a few minutes and some inexpensive, non-toxic products you likely have around the house already.
We hope you found this guide helpful. Stay tuned to our blog for more practical posts like this!