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Cleaning Silver and Jewelry

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Household Management > Cleaning Silver and Jewelry



Cleaning silver necklaces

June 2005

I have 3 silver ''snake-chain'' necklaces that are looking darker and dirtier as time progresses. I've tried metal polishing cloths and keep them in ziploc bags to slow down oxidation. Not much success. The cloth loosens the dirt and rubs it into ''snake chain'' openings. A Tibetan store owner recommended Tarn-X and I put it back on the shelf when I saw the big print that it is known to cause cancer. A friend of mine used it anyway and had no success with her necklaces of the same kind. Do you know of a non-toxic and successful way to clean silver jewelry and bring it back to shine? There's got to be a way...


Silver polish and a toothbrush, or flannel cloth should get your necklaces shiney bright. Silver polish is kind of pastey/goopy. Coat the necklaces really thoroughly, leave it for 5 minutes or so, scrub it lightly with the toothbruch and rinse in warm water. You may need to do some spot scrubbing after that. It's pretty easy. anon
Take a large pot (not non-stick), and line the inside with aluminum foil. Put in 8 cups of water, 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup salt, and 1/4 cup liquid dish soap, and stir it a little. Place your sterling silver jewelry into the solution. Bring the to a simmer for a few minutes. Then turn off the burner and let it sit for another couple of minutes. Then using a colander or strainer, pour out the solution. Rinse with cold water. Count your items as you place them on a towel to dry. Make sure you’ve account for all your jewelry before you throw away the aluminum. It will be dirty because the oxides on your jewelry were transferred to it. Your sterling silver jewelry should now look like new! Heidi
This is easy and fast, and all natural! Get a tin pie plate and line the bottom with aluminum foil. Sprinkle some baking soda on the tin foil, and lay your necklace on it. Boil a little water and pour it over the tin foil. Voila! Your necklace will be shiny in seconds. at least I learned something in chemistry!
I think you can soak it in a water/baking soda solution. Or, use baking soda and a tiny bit of water (to make a paste) and a drop of dish detergent, and use that paste on a toothbrush to clean your chains. Jen
A great and easy way to clean all silver, including silver place settings, is to put the silver in an aluminum dish (like one of those roasting pans you get at the grocery store) and liberally sprinkle it with baking soda and then pour boiling water over it all. When it cools, remove and wipe dry. It gets off all the tarnish and makes it very shiny. Easy and easy on the environment, too!
I'm sure that a jeweler would be horrified by this, but I've always used white toothpaste to polish my sterling silver stuff. Definitely non-toxic, and I've never seen any long term ill-effects.
I have always used toothpaste to clean silver jewelry-cheap, non-toxic, rinses off with water... patty
Wanted to add a comment to those recommendations to clean silver with a toothbrush and toothpaste: Don't! Toothbrush bristles -- nylon or natural -- can scratch soft metals such as sterling. To get out stubborn grime in crevices, let them soak in a warm cleaning solution, such as the baking soda/boiling water idea shared by others.

Also, for those who think toohpaste is ''non-toxic'': Have you read the warning labels on any tube of commercial toohpaste (Exception perhaps for Tom's of Maine or some other natural brands)? They tell you to call the Poison Control center immediately if you swallow ''more than is used for brushing.'' Gotta be some wierd chemicals in there! Jewelry lover


Cleaning silver and pearl jewelry

March 2003

I have lots of silver and pearl jewelry that is badly tarnished, and don't know how to clean it... pearls can't handle silver polish without getting badly damaged. I've tried polishing cloths and they take FOREVER to get results, and even then the outcome is only so-so, because I can't get the inside of the silver chains, etc. Any ideas? Or has anyone had experience with a jewelry store that will do this for a reasonable charge? Thanks! Ellen


For a chemical free cleaning of silver, try potatoe water. Once the water has cooled, let the silver soak for about half an hour in the potatoe water. (You could take the potatoes out before doing this). Rubbing the silver in the starchy water cleans the silve, try a tooth brush for the crevises. Baking soda or a non-gel toothpaste also works. Use as little water as possible. I don't know if the peroxides react, so I'd go with the plain ones w/o the extra chemicals in them for brightening, etc.. Also, certain plasticizers will cause silver to tarnish faster. I.E. don't store in plastic bags; acid-free paper or cloth is better. Rubber products can also cause silver to tarnish quicker.

Susan JunFish


I am a goldsmith and disagree with some advice given to you about polishing your silver and silver/pearl jewelry. The two things you tried before are the most appropriate way of cleaning silver jewelry and silver jewelry with pearls. The best way you mentioned, although a bit time consuming, is with a rouge cloth (also called polishing cloth or silver cloth). Your jewelry will stay brighter for a longer period of time(oxidize more slowly) than when using a ''dip''. (If you do use a dip make sure that it specifically states that it is 'safe for pearls') When you use the cloth, you are right, you can't reach the deep crevices. Most people who know jewelry would say that this accentuates all of the dimensions and fine detail of a chain or other piece of jewelry. Silver oxidizes, that is it's natural state, use that to add to the beauty rather than expect some bright, forever/falsely shiny piece. DO NOT use baking soda or any type of tooth paste on any jewelry. Not only does it cause very fine surface scratches it is nearly impossible to remove without professional help from all but flat surfaces and will not do justice to your stones either. As for the potato water, I have no experience with that.

Park yourself in front of a show that you enjoy with your silver cloth or polish away on a blanket in the park. It doesn't take that long. Then enjoy the different contrasts of bright metal next to darker metal ~ it is beautiful! Good Luck

Goldsmithing Mama


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this page was last updated: Jul 19, 2005


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