We all have pieces of jewellery lying around or that we wear everyday but have neglected taking care of it. In order to keep your jewellery in its perfect silver state you must clean it and regularly take care of it. There are special products that you can buy in the store but they can be expensive and sometimes harsh, you may only need this in the toughest of tarnish situations. The best thing about silver is that it can be cleaned up using general household items and products, and we are here to find out which ones work.
After researching this topic we discovered that there were plenty of ideas but not much to prove their efficiency, so we decided to provide true and honest results of all your options.
We have tried and tested 10 different ways in which you can clean your silver using only products that you already have at home. This experiment has been done to help you choose how best to clean your silver jewellery.
First of all you should know…
Tarnish is a thin layer of corrosion that quickly forms over your silver jewellery, resulting in the formation of a dark coating that is undesirable to look at. Tarnish is basically the dulling of silver that typically occurs as a chemical reaction with hydrogen sulfide or sulfur present in the atmosphere. In most cases, some believe that the tarnish is caused by oxidation but it is not true since silver is not reactive to water or oxygen at average temperatures. Nevertheless, the metal in the alloy such as copper does tend to react with oxygen.
This is why silver is generally stored in air-restricted spaces – although since most jewellery boxes and cabinets are not airtight it still allows for the tarnishing process, just at a slower pace. In addition to the air, your silver jewellery may very well react with you skins alkaline levels. The presence of Sulphur and amino acids that can be found in perspiration can cause discolouration to your skin and jewellery. Cleaning the jewellery regularly helps to avoid this type of discolouration.
We are going to try, test and show you the results of 10 different recommended products, so that we can determine the best DIY method to cleaning silver jewellery at home. Each method will be rated out of 10 on its success PLUS we will be showing you the before and after results. Please bear in mind that we have used the toughest of tarnish situations in this test - So some of them may work better on less problematic situations.
Baking Soda and Aluminum Foil
Add boiling water and baking soda to a bowl layered with aluminum foil. Remove after 1-3 minutes, rinse under cool water and rub dry with a soft cloth.
This process causes a chemical reaction that removes tarnish from the silver within second or minutes.
You can see the process happening and the dark, discoloured piece of jewellery changing back to its original state. It is truly amazing and is by far our best DIY method yet.
10 / 10
Our favourite and most popular DIY method for cleaning silver jewellery is the baking soda and aluminum process. If your silver jewellery turns yellow or black you can reverse the effect by using this very simple method with items you already have at home. In the toughest of tarnish situations this low cost and easy method will clean your jewellery within 30 seconds - 3 minutes (depending on the state of your silver).
We captured the process of cleaning our silver with baking soda and aluminium - so here is the video for you to see for yourself the amazing process and results.
These are the things you will need:
Here is a step by step of how to work this amazing technique:
Lemon and Salt Bath
Squeeze a lemon into a bowl with 3 tablespoons of salt and hot water and placed the tarnished bracelet to rest in there for 5 minutes. Remove and rub with soft cloth.
The tarnish was tough to remove using this solution with a regular cloth - It hurt my fingers rubbing. After the experiment with the regular cloth I took a white silver cleaning cloth, which really helped in lifting the tarnish. This would only be efficient if you have a silver cleaning cloth, it is too much effort with a regular cloth and does not bring perfect results.
Take a pea sized amount of toothpaste on a dish and rub into the silver using a dish washing sponge. Rinse in warm water.
The toothpaste removed some of the tarnish but only slightly and not enough to make a fully successful difference. It came off in patches rather than fading the entire piece. Using a toothbrush to try give it some extra friction and get into those more intricate spaces like the links of the bracelet proved a better system in terms of removal, but it scratched the silver so I wouldn’t recommend this method.
Pour some coca cola into a bowl and soak the jewellery in it for 10 minutes - remove and rub with a cloth.
I really expected the coca cola to strip the silver clean but unfortunately the effect was minimal and not worth the time spent.
Spray the window cleaner onto a soft cloth and rub silver.
The silver is shinier but no colour improvement at all. This product is great to use after you have cleaned your jewellery as it gives it a nice shine.
Pour a cup of beer into a bowl and soak the jewellery in there for 5-10 minutes. Remove and rub clean with a cloth.
This method did not provide perfect results but it definitely lifted the shade a touch lighter. I certainly expected more from this considering how many times I have heard it mentioned as a successful silver cleaning method. That being said I could see a difference, just not good enough to wear.
Squeeze a small amount of ketchup onto a toothbrush and rub into the silver.
I could see a slight difference but it was not as successful as I had hoped for. Also it is a bit messy and smells unpleasant, just for that I would recommend against it.
Soak the jewellery in a bowl of vinegar, then dip the cloth and rub the jewellery with the cloth.
After all that has been said of this method it was not even closely effective as expected. You could see a slight difference but not enough that the jewellery was even wearable.
Pour a cup of vodka into a bowl and soak the silver jewerly for 5 minutes. Dip a cloth into the vodka, remove jewellery and rub with cloth.
Not as effective as expected but lifted the tarnish slightly on larger area of silver but not much on the chain.
Pour one small cup of detergent into a bowl of hot water and place the silver jewellery inside. Leave for 5 minutes, remove and rub with a soft cloth.
The laundry detergent reacts with the water creating a foamy substance a little like how the baking soda reacts, but much foamier. We decided to use the Vanish type of detergent, knowing that it is a popular product and hoping that it would be more effective. It does not remove tough tarnish stains but it does lift the darkness and it cleans any dirt or gunk from the jewellery - plus it smells great!
Are you wondering if there is prevention to the cause of tarnishing? Well there are some steps you can take to help avoid the chemical reaction that causes this corrosive layer on your silver jewellery.
To summarize, there are two single fantastic methods to cleaning silver jewellery, which are using baking soda with Aluminum foil and the other being a silver cleaning solution such as ‘Silvo’.
The products you get from the store are fantastic, producing amazing results, but it should only be used in the toughest of tarnish situations. This type of product usually strips a layer of the silver leaving you with a fresh new surface of silver. Luckily for us we can use our #1 method to clean our jewellery, which is just as successful and less expensive.
After doing this research experiment we have come to the conclusion that a white ‘silver cleaning’ cloth is one of the best instruments that you could have in possession for cleaning your silver products. We did not use this in the experiment as we expect that most people do not have them at home, however after some of the methods were tried and tested, we used the silver cleaning cloth to see if it helped remove the tarnish any further. In some cases it really did make a difference. Even after the best method of the baking soda and aluminum, you can use the silver cleaning cloth to just give it an extra shine.
You can purchase a white ‘Silver Cleaning’ cloth from a silver selling store, cobblers or online stores.
Usually tarnish can take a while to build-up on silver. For this experiment we used pure oxide in order to quickly increase the tarnishing process on the jewellery.