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How to Keep My Silver Jewelry Clean?

You love your collection of silver jewelry  – from the special gifts you received from family and friends over the years to the pieces you purchased in-store or online to add to your beautiful collection. Whether you’re donning a pair of aquamarine-set earrings, handmade-braided hoops, or an opal ring, you always take the time to choose the right piece when going out or just hanging at home with loved ones. Even for that work Zoom meeting, your jewelry choices make a statement. The care that goes into choosing your pieces should also extend to keeping your silver jewelry clean. You want each piece to always look as it did when you first received or purchased it.

 Why It’s Necessary to Clean Your Silver Jewelry

Let’s take a look at why silver jewelry tarnishes in the first place. Sterling silver is an alloyed metal, typically comprised of 92.5% pure silver and other metals, usually copper, to strengthen the silver. Over some time, silver jewelry oxidizes because of these other metals, developing a black coating on its surface, which is perfectly normal. This tarnish is a result of a chemical reaction that occurs when silver is exposed to oxygen in the air and various substances. Environmental factors like pollution and humidity are major players in tarnished jewelry. Depending on which metals are alloyed, some pieces of silver jewelry can be more reactive than others.

Tarnishing of silver jewelry can also be accelerated when coming into contact with tap water, as it contains chlorine (so remove jewelry when you’re washing dishes, wiping down countertops, showering, etc.); a number of foods like salad dressings; your perfume and hair spray; and even wool clothing. Oils from your skin accumulate on the surface of silver and can predispose it to oxidization, as well. But, fortunately, tarnish does not destroy the underlying metal and can be removed relatively easily.

How to Keep Your Silver Jewelry from Tarnishing

Before we get into how to keep your silver jewelry clean, here are some simple steps you can take to help minimize the amount of tarnishing:

  • Try to avoid wearing your jewelry in chlorinated pools.
  • Store your jewelry in a clean, dry place. This could be a jewelry box with a soft lining or in ziplock bags or anti-tarnish silver zipped storage bags, to help minimize scratches and exposure to other elements. Some people add a piece of chalk, a packet of charcoal, or even silica gel to the bags to help remove moisture.
  • Put jewelry on after perfume to prevent it from sticking to your silver.
  • When wearing your jewelry, minimize exposure to any make-up, hairspray, and lotions, particularly sunscreen and products with chemicals.
  • Avoid wearing your jewelry when sleeping, exercising, or during intense physical activity. Even the PH levels in your sweat can cause a reaction with your jewelry.

Above all, don’t be afraid to wear your silver: Friction slows down tarnishing so the more you wear your jewelry, the more each piece will continue to shine.  It’s the pieces of silver jewelry that sit in boxes or in trays, growing dark from exposure and lack of use, that might need more cleaning.

Keep Silver Jewelry Shiny and New

The Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab recommends the following steps to get rid of tarnish and restore your silver jewelry to its original gleam:

  • Place a small amount of silver polish on a clean cloth.
  • Rub the polish on the piece of jewelry in an up-and-down motion, not circular to avoid highlighting fine scratches.
  • Turn the cloth frequently as you work, so tarnish isn’t deposited back on your item.
  • Rinse with warm water and buff with a clean, dry cloth to a bright shine.

What if you don’t have polish? Try one of these homemade remedies, courtesy of both Good Housekeeping and Better Homes & Gardens, to keep your silver jewelry clean:

  • For silver pieces that are dull, filmy, but not yet discolored, mix a few drops of mild dish soap with warm water. Soak the jewelry in the solution for 5 to 10 minutes, and use a soft-bristle brush, such as a toothbrush, to clean any crevices. To dry, gently rub jewelry with a silver cloth or microfiber towel. (Please note: Don’t use paper towels, as these can scratch the silver.)
  • Mix one half-cup of lemon juice and one teaspoon of olive oil into a solution. Dip a clean cloth in the solution and gently rub the silver until it shines. Rinse and dry.
  • Mix one half-cup of white vinegar and two tablespoons of baking soda together, then let your silver jewelry soak in the mixture for two to three hours before rinsing and polishing.
  • You could also try toothpaste: Take a small amount of diluted toothpaste and a soft-bristle brush to clean the silver jewelry. Just make sure the toothpaste is not a whitening formula, and don’t use this method on anything silver-plated.
  • For heavier tarnish, mix a paste of three-parts baking soda to one-part water. Wet the silver and apply the cleaner with a soft, lint-free cloth (again, not paper towels). Work the paste into the crevices, turning the cloth as it gets gray. Rinse and buff dry.

Any fine, valuable silver jewelry should be professionally cleaned to be safe. In addition, if you have silver rings with other materials in the piece, such as turquoise, pearls, and other gemstones or precious metals, be careful about what cleaner you use. These materials could be damaged by certain cleaning methods. Vinegar, for example, can harm porous stones, and baking soda can scratch soft metals.

Keep all your silver jewelry clean – from your go-to earrings to all the fun and beautiful pieces you love to wear for special occasions. The best way to do so is to keep wearing your jewelry and, from time to time, taking the time to clean it using one of the methods offered here.

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