How To Clean Your Silver at Home

Est. Reading: 3 minutes
November 23, 2023
silver jewellery laying ontop of a polishing cloth with dirt marks
Table of Contents

Forever versatile in its charm, silver jewellery is a stunning, timeless classic. From rings to bracelets, necklaces to earrings, silver can match almost any preferred style ranging from casual to elegant.

Unfortunately, when compared to other precious metals however, silver jewellery can also be quite fragile. Over time, as it’s exposed to the air, silver jewellery can begin to change colour through a process known as oxidisation, or tarnishing.

Silver – How to Keep it Tarnish-Free

Though it’s generally impossible to completely avoid the natural occurrence of tarnish, there are a few things you can try to slow its onset:

  • When not wearing silver jewellery, avoid exposure to excess moisture or air – keep silver jewellery stored in a dry place or wrapped in a cloth or sealed plastic bag to avoid prolonged contact with humidity in the air.
  • Avoid exposure to cosmetics, perfumes, or household chemicals – these products can contain substances, such as sulphur, that accelerate tarnishing.
  • Wear it more often – believe it or not, by actually wearing silver jewellery, you can delay the tarnishing process! Natural oils in your skin often act as a cleansing agent, keeping excess dirt and grime from accumulating on the metal’s surface.

What if it’s already too late though? Well, thankfully tarnished silver can be easily cleaned at home. Before you break out the cleaning supplies though, it’s important to first understand some basics of the metal itself…

Understanding the Properties of Silver

It’s extremely rare that silver jewellery is 100% ‘pure’ — pure silver is much too delicate and soft for jewellery manufacture.

Instead, the vast majority of silver jewellery is comprised of two types of silver mixtures, or ‘alloys’:

  • Sterling silver: silver mixed with copper, zinc, or nickel. The most common sterling silver is stamped ‘925’, and is composed of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% of another metal.
  • Silver-plated jewellery: silver-plated pieces are composed of a thin layer of silver covering another base metal such as copper or nickel.

Although similar in appearance, these two distinct types of silver jewellery will tarnish at slightly different rates. When in doubt, always consult a professional jeweller!

How to Clean Silver Jewellery

Although there are commercially available silver polishing creams on the market, most lightly-tarnished silver jewellery can actually be cleaned at home using normal household products.

For silver jewellery just beginning to develop tarnish (easily identified by light yellowish discolouration), simply wash it using warm water and gentle, phosphate-free dish soap to bring it back to a more natural shine.

For silver jewellery that’s slightly more tarnished however (purple to black in colour) – as long as there are no precious stones which can be easily damaged – an olive oil and lemon juice mixture can be a great homemade remedy.

The Method:

  1. Mix ½ cup lemon juice with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large bowl.
  2. Dip a small microfibre cloth in the solution and gently polish the sterling silver until the tarnish is removed.
  3. Rinse, dry, and polish with a clean hand towel or soft cloth.

N.B. Although silver-plated jewellery and pieces containing gemstones can be cleaned using this method, it’s usually best to err on the side of caution to avoid damage.

Need help?

At Martin Gear Jewellers, we’ve been manufacturing, selling, and cleaning jewellery for decades, right from our Dublin City centre shop. Simply drop into our store on 5 Mary St, Dublin 1, or alternatively, just give us a call now on (01) 872 8726 and we’d be happy to help.

For more information on our other jewellery cleaning services, click here.

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