It is possible for your old and tarnished silver jewelry to shine like new again. Don't waste money on expensive silver restoration and shining services. Follow some of these surprisingly easy methods to clean your silver.

What Is Oxidation?

When sterling silver is exposed to air, it will oxidize, or tarnish. Silver is comprised of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, and the other metals make sterling silver tarnish. Some of these other metals are usually copper and when it reacts to moisture and sulfur in the air, it causes a process called oxidation. Substances like perfume, hairspray, deodorant, body lotion, and bleach can hasten the rate of oxidation. Some signs of oxidation include discoloration and disappearance of the original shine.

Ways To Clean Oxidized Silver

Lemon Juice And Salt

dish of lemon juice and cut lemons

Treat your old silver to a nice bath with this lemon juice and salt soak. Just mix one tablespoon of lemon juice and one and a half cups water, and half a cup of instant dry milk. Let the silver soak overnight and rinse off any remaining mixture with water.

Lemon Juice And Baking Soda

If your silver has experienced some oxidation, then clean it off with a solution of lemon juice and baking soda. Make a paste by combining four parts lemon juice and one part baking soda. Dip a lint-free cloth in the solution and run it on the silver or jewelry. Afterward, rinse it with water and dry.

Laundry Detergent

Detergent can't just be used to make your clothes clean but your silver as well. For this solution, line a medium-sized bowl with aluminum foil and fill with hot water. Next, mix one tablespoon of powder laundry detergent and soak your silver for about a minute. Rinse with water and pat dry with a clean cloth.

Lemon-Lime Soda

glass and pitcher of lemon-lime soda

Bring back the shine with some lemon-lime soda. Just fill a bowl with soda and let your silver or jewelry soak for about an hour. Then, rinse with water and dry.

Hair Conditioner

Conditioner protects silver in the same way it does your hair. Prevent tarnish by rubbing conditioner on clean silver, and rinsing with warm water. Pat dry with a cloth.

Ammonia

Another way to renew dull silver is with ammonia. Ammonia is a very strong chemical, therefore, exercise caution when handling. To use it to clean silver pour 1/2 cup of ammonia and warm water in a glass bowl. Place the silver in the solution and let it soak for 10 minutes. Rinse off the solution and dry thoroughly.

Vinegar

glass dish of vinegar

Vinegar is a powerful cleaning agent for many things including silver. Restore your lackluster silver by soaking it in 1/2 cups of white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Let it soak for about two to three hours and rinse with cold water.

Window Cleaner

Make your jewelry pristine with window cleaner. All you have to do is spray window cleaner on a cloth or toothbrush and gently scrub your silver. Doing this should bring back its shine and make it look new again.

Hand Sanitizer

Not only can you use it to clean your hands, but it can serve as a silver polish. All you have to do it squirt a few drops on a cloth and rub away the rust and tarnish.

Toothpaste

toothpaste on toothbrush

Toothpaste is a classic cleaning method for almost everything. To use it to clean your lusterless silver, squeeze a small amount on a rag or toothbrush (of course) and lightly rub it on your silver. Next, rinse with warm water and pat dry. This method will leave you with sparkling silver!

Activated Charcoal

Activated has become a trendy way to clean your teeth and give you pearly whites, but it can also make your silver shine bright and prevent tarnish. To do this, take one part activated charcoal and one part water to form a paste. Then dip a cloth or toothbrush in the activated charcoal solution and rub the tarnished silver, rinse with water and dry with a cloth.

Cornstarch

Polish your silver with a simple paste using cornstarch. Just combine one part cornstarch and one part water. Next, dip a cloth in the paste and apply it to the silver, let it sit for 10 minutes or until the paste has dried. Rub it off with a mildly abrasive cloth like a rough towel of cheesecloth. Additionally, if you don't have cornstarch, cream of tartar is an acceptable substitute.

Chalk

broken chalk on concrete

This may seem like an unlikely polishing method, but chalk is a great way to clean your old silver. For this method, just place chalk in a plastic bag and crush it into a fine powder. Then, combine the crushed chalk and water in a medium-sized plastic bowl until it forms a paste. Taking a damp cloth or sponge, dip it into the paste and rub it on your silver in a circular motion. With a damp clean cloth, buff off the paste.

Ketchup

Another taboo polishing method is good ole ketchup. Squirt a bit on a paper towel and rub over the tarnished areas. For stubborn spots, let the ketchup sit for 15 minutes before washing off. For silver with intricate designs like candlesticks and silverware, take a toothbrush and scrub with the ketchup

Aluminum Foil

For this seemingly magic solution for lackluster silver, you will need to bring one liter of water, one tablespoon of baking soda, and one piece of aluminum foil to a boil. After it has come to a rolling boil, take it off the heat and place in your silverware or jewelry and leave in for 10 seconds or longer depending on how much tarnish it has. Remove it using tongs and place on a dry cloth.

Commercial Polish Cleaner

If you aren't a fan of using household products to clean your silver, purchase a polish cleaner. We recommend Weiman Silver Polish and Cleaner.

Additional Tips for Cleaning Silver

  • Never use chemical dips to clean your silver like Tarn-X as it dissolves tarnish and silver! It can strip your silver of its shine, leaving it dull. Also, a white surface will develop over time. Most importantly, chemical dips are a suspected carcinogen. Therefore, avoid chemical dips at all costs.
  • Do not use acetone or bleach to clean silver as it can make silver duller.
  • When cleaning your silver, wear cotton or nitrile gloves as fingerprints contribute to tarnishing.
  • Cleaning silver in the dishwasher is not recommended. The heat and hard detergent can white the silver which may require professional restoration.

Slowing Down Oxidation

Unfortunately, you can not prevent oxidation but it is possible to hold off tarnishing. One way is to clean your silver jewelry every night to remove oils that may have been transferred from your skin. For silverware, clean in warm water and a mild dishwashing liquid, and dry them immediately as moisture can accelerate oxidation. Another trick that some have used for their silverware with steel components by is rubbing on a thin layer of Burt's Bees Lip Balm on your silverware and buff it off with a paper towel. In addition, minimize the contact of silver with substances that cause tarnish, along with the aforementioned substances some others include latex, wool, leather, smoke, printer paper, and exhaust. If possible, store your silver in sealed bags to prevent exposure to the elements. Also, throw in a silica gel bag which will absorb humidity.

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