Understanding why your silver tarnishes and how to clean and polish your silver.

Understanding why your silver tarnishes and how to clean and polish your silver.

Why does silver become dull over time and how can we make it sparkle again?

First, we should understand why our silver pieces turn a dull dark color, which is what is referred to as tarnish.

  • Tarnish is a result of the silver in our material reacting to the sulfur that is found in the air around us.
  • As we leave our silver jewelry out in the open, the movement of air (in particular sulfur) is what causes this change of color and appearance.
  • The silver reacts with the sulfur particles to form silver sulfide, which is black in color.
  • The longer the silver piece has been left out unprotected, the more surface reacts with sulfur and becomes silver sulfide, which is the dull grey black color we often see on our silver items when they've been exposed to pollutants in the air around us.

How to clean your silver/silver-plated items?

  • You will need:
    1. The tarnished silver item you want to clean.
    2. Baking soda (any brand is fine, but for this demonstration I used Arm & Hammer).
    3. Kitchen/baking foil
    4.  A bowl or any container that is big enough to place the silver in and  immerse it in the solution. 
    5. Boiling hot water.


  • Steps:
1. Cut a piece of kitchen/baking foil large enough to line the inside of your bowl.

    2.Line the inside of your bowl with the kitchen/baking foil with the shiny smooth side facing outwards.

      3.Place your tarnished silver jewelry into the bowl (lined with kitchen/baking foil).

        4.Place one teaspoon of baking soda in the bowl. The ratio I like to use to clean my jewelry is one teaspoon of baking soda to one cup of boiling hot tap water. It will begin to bubble and froth once you pour the hot water into the bowl. This is normal and means the reaction is taking place.


        5. Once you notice your silver start to become brighter and give off a more reflective sheen, make sure the water is not searing hot before taking your silver out. Your kitchen/baking foil might start to change color and the solution might start to smell a bit off. This is okay, it means the sulfur is detaching from the silver and reacting with the aluminum.

          6. Rinse the silver under some water to get rid of any baking soda residue and make sure to wipe your silver dry with any cotton cloth you may have lying around.

            7. Once this is done the silver should look as good as new. To prevent the silver from tarnishing quickly you can place it inside a small zip lock bag, jewelry box and/or glass cabinet with some chalk to absorb any additional moisture. This is so the silver doesn't react to the pollutants in the air as quickly as it would if you left it out.

              NB* If the piece of silver has been left out for a while and has almost completely tarnished, it will take more than a few tries to clean it. You can try adding more baking soda and pouring out the water once it's cold and replacing it with boiling hot water. This is because the reaction of removing the silver sulfide takes place faster if the solution is warm.

              This is my preferred way of removing tarnish from my jewelry pieces at home. It also protects the item as you're not removing the top layer of the silver.



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