Cleaning Silver Jewelry at Home. 2 Methods Tested.

I have a couple of fast & easy ways to clean any silver, but silver jewelry in particular. One is much easier & faster, but you can take your pick on which method you want to use. I’m not here to dictate. I’m just here to tell you you’re an idiot if you don’t pick the right one.

A woman's hand holds out a silver Tiffany heart necklace and silver bead necklace after being cleaned.

When I left my job as an entertainment reporter at the television station MuchMoreMusic I was given a Tiffany bracelet as a going away present. Up to that point the most extravagant thing I’d hung around my wrist was a rare neon green scrunchy in the 1980s.

And once I draped a very expensive chain of linked dry cured sausages around my neck. 

I’ve collected more silver jewelry since then which has lead to one of the greatest thrills in my life. Cleaning it. Nope. Not because I’m a big loser. Because cleaning your silver jewelry can actually be one of the fastest, instantly satisfying things you can do.  Like having an abscess lanced.

I know. When you clicked on this post about how to clean silver jewelry you figured it would be some horrible drudgery that you’d have to endure. This is not that. I promise. If cleaning my silver jewelry was a lot of work I wouldn’t do it.  Who has time to clean silver?  Butlers.  That’s who.  Not me. Not you.

We are very busy people who have important things (like watching cat videos) to do. 

So how are you going to clean silver? If you own the good stuff you can take it to the place you bought it from and they’ll professionally clean it for you. This is a struggle if you bought the silver ring while on vacation in Mexico for a couple of reasons. You may have bought the piece on the beach from a random stranger whist sipping your 7th Piña Colada.

In which case you will need to fly back to Mexico (probably not a problem) and hope you can find and recognize the random stranger. This will involve drinking another 7 Piña Coladas to ensure you’re looking with the same level of drunkenness. The other problem is, even if you find the barefoot random stranger, chances are they won’t have a free cleaning with purchase policy.

We have therefore established you’re probably going to clean your bracelet, ring, necklace, belly chain yourself.

O.K. let’s go over the basics so you know what we’re dealing with here.

Silver tarnish. 

WHAT IS IT??

Tarnish on silver is a natural chemical reaction between the silver and things in the air that contain sulphur, like hydrogen sulphide.  The mixture of the silver with sulphur creates black silver sulphide (tarnish).

Silver tarnish needs to be removed with either polishing, chemical dipping or electrochemically.


3 ways to clean silver jewelry

You  have 3, just 3 options for cleaning silver. You can polish it, electrochemically clean it or “dip” it.

POLISHING SILVER

You can polish your silver with a silver paste, but these pastes are pretty abrasive, which means while they will clean your jewellery they’ll also form tiny scratches on it. You can test how scratchy your silver polish is by rubbing it onto a piece of unscratched plexiglass.

ELECTROCHEMICAL CLEANING OF SILVER (using aluminum foil)

Electrochemical cleaning is what happens when you put silver into a bowl or sink with aluminum foil and washing soda (sodium carbonate). 

This method works because when the two metals touch in the solution of water and sodium carbonate. The aluminum foil corrodes and then releases hydrogen gas. This gas is what reacts with the silver tarnish to remove it. The sodium carbonate acts as an electrolyte.  I have no idea what that means exactly but it’s a thing. 

Cleaning with aluminum foil and something that has sodium carbonate (like Arm & Hammer’s Super Washing Soda) works, but in my opinion not as well as silver dip. Actually, not only in my opinion. Aluminum foil just plain doesn’t do as good a job as silver dip but if it’s all that you have it absolutely does work.

It can take anywhere from 5 -30 minutes to work.

REMEMBER! Sodium Carbonate is not the same as Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking soda).

DIPPING SILVER JEWELRY

This is the easiest, most sure fire way to *instantly* clean even the most tarnished of silver jewellery.  Yes.  Even that ring you got in Mexico 9 years ago.

It’s gentle as long as you use the dip properly and works in seconds.


METHOD 1

Materials

Aluminum foil or pan

Hot water

Sodium Carbonate (Washing Soda)

Cleaning silver with aluminum foil

Two silver necklaces placed inside a common aluminum pan on a wood table.

  1. Line a bowl or sink with aluminum foil (or just use an aluminum pan.)
  2. Fill it with hot water and throw in around 1/4 cup of  Arm and Hammer’s Super Washing soda which is made of 100%  Sodium Carbonate.

An aluminum pan with silver jewelry, hot water and sodium carbonate in it for cleaning tarnished metal.

  1. Add your jewelry and keep an eye on it. It can take anywhere from 5-30 minutes to remove tarnish this way.
  2. Take your silver out of the solution, rinse it under water and polish with a polishing cloth if you have one.

A woman's hand holds out a silver Tiffany heart necklace and silver bead necklace after being cleaned.


My method of choice is silver dip. You can get jewelry dip at malls or jewelry stores. Most probably jewelry stores in malls.  Walmart carries it as well and so do some hardware stores if they have a cleaning products section.

METHOD 2

Cleaning silver by dipping

Dipping Tiffany bracelet into Connoisseur silver dip for cleaning.

Materials

SILVER DIP

The two easiest to find brands of silver dip are Connoisseurs or Hagerty. I’ve used both.

SILVER POLISHING CLOTH

 This Connoisseurs one is just $5 on Amazon but if you have a jewelry store near you I’m sure you could get one from there.

Polishing cloths are embedded with a very mild abrasive that is designed to not scratch the finish of your jewelry.

 

 

Tiffany & co heart bracelet sits in the white basket of silver dip before submerging it in solution for cleaning.

  1. Lift the plastic basket out of the jar of cleaner and put your piece of jewelry in it.
  2. Put your piece of jewellery into the basket.
  3. Submerge the basket in the jar and swirl it around for a few seconds.  Often you only need to dip the piece in then take it right out again. Do NOT leave your jewellery in the dip.  If you leave it in too long it’ll RUIN your silver. So remember!

Lowering a silver bracelet into the red jar of silver dip to remove tarnish.

  1. Pull the basket out of the cleaner.  INSTANTLY clean.

Sparkling clean silver Tiffany bracelet after a couple of seconds in silver dip.

 

  1. Rinse your jewellery under water.  If you leave it in the basket you run less a risk of sending your earring down the drain.  Also, just putting the plug in the sink would help with this.

Rinsing silver dipped jewellery under water after being cleaned.

 

 

  1. If you have one, give it a final polish with the polishing cloth.

Cleaning sterling silver chain with polishing cloth.

 

 

That’s it. In a few seconds your silver will look like new.

BEFORE:

Before picture of silver bracelet with heart charm prior to cleaning in silver dip.

 

AFTER:

After picture of silver bracelet with heart charm post cleaning with silver dip.

 

 

The difference between the before and after is even more dramatic in real life.  Such an instant sense of satisfaction.  And far fewer calories than the instant satisfaction one would get from eating a bag of potato chips.


You can see the difference between the two methods below.

The chain at the top is the silver dip method.

The chain at the bottom is the aluminum foil method.

Two chains laying across the palm of a woman's hand with the top chain showing more shine and sparkle.

 

 

 

TIP: You can also use the silver dip for cleaning other silverware by dipping a rag into the solution and rubbing it on your silver utensils, jugs, trays or whatever else.

Cleaning Silver.

Cleaning Silver.

Active Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 2 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Materials

  • SILVER DIP

Instructions

  1. Lift the plastic basket out of the jar of cleaner and put your piece of jewelry in it.
  2. Put your piece of jewellery into the basket.
  3. Submerge the basket in the jar and swirl it around for a few seconds.  Often you only need to dip the piece in then take it right out again. Do NOT leave your jewellery in the dip.  If you leave it in too long it’ll RUIN your silver. So remember!
  4. Pull the basket out of the cleaner.  INSTANTLY clean.
  5. Rinse your jewellery under water.  If you leave it in the basket you run less a risk of sending your earring down the drain.  Also, just putting the plug in the sink would help with this.
  6. If you have one, give it a final polish with the polishing cloth.

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I’m not going to call you an idiot if you choose to use the aluminum foil method. I’m just going to assume you have a fear of magpies and don’t want your silver to be so shiny you risk being attacked by a flock of them.

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Cleaning Silver Jewelry at Home. 2 Methods Tested.

56 Comments

  1. ReetaVeeda says:

    umm, speaking of that random purchase of silver jewellery on a Mexican beach… that was me, and it actually was NOT real silver.. According to Google, Alpaca Silver is manufactured in Mexico and means basically “everything but silver” More technically it is usually a metal alloy of copper, nickel and sometimes zinc or iron (or whatever other junk metals were handy at the time).

  2. Em Dirre says:

    Silver dip exists and no one told me? Savages.

    For years, I’ve been doing the foil and pan dip for my unintentionally black jewelry collection. I am going right to your links, Karen and buy me some beautiful silver dip.

    My personal mantra is that if you want to know how to do something easily, ask a lazy person. SO, I consider myself greatly relieved to now have an EASIER way to get sparkly silver and can answer the question when asked.

    Merci!

    • Lauren from Winnipeg says:

      It really does an excellent job, but be prepared when you open the jar. The solution reeks like rotten eggs. At least the Connnoisseurs does.

  3. Shawna Lawry says:

    Just a word of warning for these methods…they will remove ALL of the oxidation from your silver, which is fine for the items you show, but many designer styles (Think John Hardy, David Yurman, etc) utilize oxidation as part of the style, not to mention vintage pieces and things like sterling silver spoon jewelry (which I make)…these styles will be ruined by dips. Of course there are ways to bring back the patina if you accidentally strip it all from your jewelry, but that’s a bit more work. (The boiled egg in a plastic baggie trick works well. You should demo this method Karen! :)
    So if you’re trying to polish a sterling silver piece that has dark patina in the recesses that you don’t want to remove completely, then try a gentle washing with Barkeeper’s Friend (found at most grocery stores). I like the liquid but the powder works too. Just mix a bit in the palm of your hand with water and rub it all over your jewelry just using your hands. Rinse and repeat as necessary until the silver is clean enough for your taste. It’s as easy as washing your hands. I use this method to clean the sterling silver spoon rings I make from antique spoons so that I don’t lose all of the dark patina in the recesses.

  4. Rosemary B says:

    I use the baking soda and aluminum foil trick – works well and hasn’t damaged anything yet.

    • The Original Word Girl says:

      NOOoooooooo!

      I LOVED this and did it several times over a couple of years. Until. This last time. When it ruined by $1000 Tiffany cuff. The silver now looks unshiny. Matt silver. It’s so sad. Also wrecked a big bunch of lesser (but still lovely) earrings and necklaces that were my mudder’s. And I miss her. And now every time I look at my jewelry, I want to wrap my hands around the ‘tips’ all over the internet praising the foil/ baking soda trick.

      IT RUINED MY LIFE. No, really. ruined it. I drag myself to work and home again, unbedazzled. Zooo Zaaaad.

      • Christine says:

        I also had this method it ruin a piece after many successful times.l swear by Twinkle now. Cheap and much easier to get a shine than Haggertys.lt may be wearing off some silver but it wont affect it in my life time.

      • Shawna Lawry says:

        All sterling silver can be shined to a glossy finish using a silver polishing cloth, so those pieces can be fixed! The matte finish you are seeing is due to microscopic pitting. Just need a little rubbing with the Silver cloth and rinse with dish soap and water to remove the residue. No paste or polish needed since the chemicals are embedded in the polishing cloth. The exception is if you have dipped a silver plated piece. Then you might have actually removed some of the silver plate.

  5. Ei Con says:

    I love me my silver dip ( it’s the only stuff that can tackle my ‘liquid silver’ necklaces) but be careful not to spill it on your countertop. It’ll etch it permanently. (Ask me how I know!) Also it’s really stinky, so rinse especially well before you wear it on a date!

  6. Lisa says:

    I have some sterling silver ornaments that I just found, and while I found your post, I also found another method that I tried last night.

    Glass baking dish, sheet of aluminum foil.Add jewelry. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of baking soda and pour in hot (near boiling water) – OMG. It worked!

    Tarnish is actually silver sulfate, and the baking soda and aluminum turn that into aluminum sulfite and the tarnish is gone! Science!!

    And the water turns yellowish and smells like sulfur! Now I’m off to clean everything I can find!

  7. Liz says:

    So I’ve been wanting to buy this stuff ever since I saw this post but I haven’t made it anywhere near a jewelry store. Today I happened to see it at WalMart of all places so I snapped it up and, by golly, it is the BEST! All this time I’ve been trying various “rub on, wipe off and still have to polish the heck out of it” silver cleaners (I make jewelry from silverware) but this is SOOOOOO much better! Thank you for this post!

  8. gigi says:

    Karen,

    Am a newbie to your site, ran into it through “Tipnut” (the Build your own firebox tutorial), stayed for the humor.
    Though tough to categorize,I joined your glee club and am sending your wit and wisdom to my friends. Would send you forth to my enemies also, but,hey,I don’t like them well enough. Not that their lives couldn’t use some brightening, but not on my watch.
    I am catching up on old bon mots and had to respond to the silver cleaning article.
    Haunt many estate sales and love me some old stuff. Just so happened an oldster behind a counter
    passed on some folk witticism that really works. Her friends save their ashes (I’m assuming cigarette) for her, she dips into her little baggie with a damp washrag; scrubs the tarnish away with a little ash paste and elbow grease. It doesn’t damage the piece or remove any of the precious silver layer that polishes do.
    I have tried it with old cutlery and the pieces gleamed. It was kind of addictive.

    • Karen says:

      Hey gigi – I’ve heard the ashes thing before but always assumed you needed a dead body for that. I’ve never tried it, but seeing as I’m staring at a big fireplace full of ashes … maybe I’ll give it a go. Thanks for the incentive. ~ karen!

  9. J says:

    I was told that if you purchase Tiffany and you keep your silver in their pretty blue little bag, it never will tarnish. Being a good girl, I’ve done this and it actually has never tarnished. It does get scratches from weari but if you are willing, Tiffany (for a cost maybe $1O and a week or so) will clean your piece of silver for you. I’ve done it and it’s amazing and so worth it.

    • Karen says:

      J – When I’m around Tiffany, I have them clean my pieces for me. They do it right there and then! ~ karen

  10. Maggie says:

    awesome, thanks for the no longer than 10 secs tip. I’ve had my silver jewellery in a ziploc bag in my handbag for the last week so I can use the silver cleaner at my Mum’s and I probably would have left it soak in there for a good 10 mins!

    • Karen says:

      Maggie – Well it depends, there’s silver polish which you rub on .. and then there’s this magical silver dip. It’s only the “dip” that come with a little basket type thikng that you can only leave the jewellery in for a few seconds. Good luck! ~ karen

  11. Tricia Rose says:

    My neighbour said I could clean silver with wood ash so I rootled some out of the fire, and what d’you know! It works. I like it on my teapot because it keeps some tarnish in the lines, doesn’t look too shiny-shiny.

    I keep the Mason’s jar of ash under the sink, where it looks like ashes of someone who was waaaay out of favour… (do you think people-ash would work s well?)

  12. Melanie says:

    You have to be really careful with the jar of silver cleaning stuff you recommended – it’s a very harsh chemical. Technically, it’s not good for the silver. I’d only use it once in a very great while. Once your silver jewelry is polished, the secret to keeping it tarnish free is to wear it frequently or keep it in a sealed, plastic baggy.

  13. Mezzamay says:

    Interesting post!
    I can add to this – I work for a silver jewellery manufacturer, and we use the silver dip and the blue cloths too – but not together. We use the dip for severely tarnished items and dry it with paper towels. The blue cloth is used to give things a quick clean up but I have also used it successfully on very dirty items too. You could run into problems using two different chemicals at once – it could damage the silver and also cause a chemical reaction that may irritate your skin.
    Also, you should not use the silver dip too often as it will damage the silver and it will subsequently tarnish more quickly in the future as we have learnt to our cost!
    I wouldn’t recommend toothpaste – it’s quite abrasive and most toothpastes these days have a lot of other chemicals in them too that may damage the silver.

    • Karen says:

      Mezzamay – Agreed. The post was intended to be for really tarnished jewellery items. When I just need a “quick clean” I rub with the polishing cloth. Thanks! ~ karen

  14. Trysha says:

    Thanks Karen! I guess it’s off to the jewellery store to get some of the cleaner. I have a couple of other pieces that could use a good cleaning too.

    I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • Karen says:

      Trysha – You’re very welcome. You can try the toothpaste trick if you like, but in my experience I’d choose the dip. It’s fast, easy (obviously from the video), cheap with no mess. In a pinch you can use toothpaste, but I’d keep the dip on hand. Good luck! ~ karen

  15. Jenn says:

    I just buff with the blue cloth – I like the highs and lows of shine silver can exhibit.

    And I’m a bit goth, yes.

  16. Jenn says:

    Gutter ad – you could minimize the interference with the text by adding a box of white under the text area in your template.

    Sounds like the money is really tempting… making the text readable would be one thing that will let us continue to enjoy the site while you enjoyed a bit of pin money.

    I got a Firefox alert that it is blocking 2 pop-up windows, as well. I don’t know if that is part of the gutter ad or not.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks jenn! I have no idea how to do that in my template, but I’m sure my web designer does. Which means it will cost me money to run my ad that makes me money. This is turning into an ordeal! Thanks again for your help. ~ karen

    • Karen says:

      By the way … If *YOU* know how to do this, feel free to email me the instructions. I can get into my templates, etc. I just don’t know what the code would be and which template to put it in. The page template, or single post template would be my guess! ~ karen

  17. Amy in StL says:

    I usually use silver polish, but I have a jewelry box I inherited with silver cloth in all the drawers so my small stuff doesn’t get tarnished. My householdey stuff though is really, really tarnished.

    Hey, I wonder if that guy who I gave the cash to on the offramp this morning who insisted, “I really just want a job.” would be interested in cleaning silver? Probably not a good idea to bring the family silver and a can of silver cleaner with me tomorrow morning, huh….

  18. marilyn says:

    actually toothpaste works amazingly well even on really tarnished stuff. i received a silver engraved bracelet when we were cleaning out my mother-in-laws house that was so tarnished! she obviously never wore it and i took the toothpaste to it and then my polishing cloth..beautiful result its all i use and i only wear silver. i use sensodyne it seems to work the best lol sensitive and all just sayin..

  19. Ellynn says:

    I’m right in the middle of the states, in Missouri, and I don’t see the new splashy ad. I know you’re Facebook page says it only runs occasionally, but now I’m kind of sad that I can’t get a screen shot of it! I like the format of your page; the ads are never intrusive and they’re interesting. Hope someone gets you a screenshot soon!

  20. Mike says:

    That bananna looks manky.

  21. Katie says:

    You can also get those blue clothes at musical instrument stores–I still have mine from my years of flute playing…and, to my parents’ chagrin, certainly use the cloth more than my flute. :) You can even get a two part rag for the REALLY dirty jobs.

  22. Jen says:

    I love the video! The dramatic music defiunitely added to the suspense. I would add a caution to using the dip, though. Some jewelry has had oxidation added, purposefully, to add dimension and accent the highs and lows of a piece. If this is the case, I would tell you to skip the dip, and only use the polishing cloth. Also, storing your silver in ziplock bags with a tiny piece of anti tarnish paper (you can usually buy this in a store like Bed Bath and Beyond, 3M makes one)., or just in the ziplock bag, will help slow down the tarnishing process, and eliminate the need for a maid to help clean all your shinies. Love, Love Love your site Karen, keep it coming!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Jen! ~ karen

    • Christine says:

      I also had this method it ruin a piece after many successful times.l swear by Twinkle now. Cheap and much easier to get a shine than Haggertys.lt may be wearing off some silver but it wont affect it in my life time.
      Keeping chalk with your silver seems to slow the tarnishing down too.

  23. blake says:

    So I got a glass salad bowl from Tiffany when we got married…I immediately loved and will love the couple that gave us that bowl because they chose to give it from Tiffany…When I saw that blue box I freaked out…what’s with that? I am not a materialistic kind of gal but I admit I totally freaked out that I have something from Tiffany!

    ps I kept the box of course

  24. Christal Lewis says:

    Karen,

    Your boyfriend sounds like a keeper.

  25. Patti says:

    I love this, Karen! That jewelery cleaner is THE BEST, and I can’t say enough about it! It works on gold, too, shines it up like new!

    And it’s true. It really does work on that ring from Mexico. I use it on mine all the time! hah!

  26. Robbin says:

    LOL! Love the music too!

  27. Andrea says:

    Karen,

    Avoid the mall. Use toothpaste and an old toothbrush to clean silver jewelry. Rinse, dry with a paper towel, finish with a polishing cloth, good as new! Cheaper and no mall induced headaches.
    Heart your blog!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Andrea! I’m going to continue on with my silver dip. It’s fast and easy and not messy and a jar of the dip lasts FOREVER. Plus, this post was on how to deal with “extremely” tarnished jewellery (because a reader asked for it) Toothpaste works on slightly tarnished jewellery, but not on stuff that’s been left in a drawer to die for 8 years. The dip will. I’ll just make sure to buy it at the local jewellery store … not the mall! ~ karen

  28. amy walters, aDESIGNdock says:

    That really came out beautifully Karen. This post reminds me of my Grams and Gramps. They priced and sorted jewellery for the local goodwill store. When I’d go over for visits, they were often cleaning up old lovelies ;)

  29. Marti says:

    Ok, what do you have for removing tarnish on a silverplate teapot? 2 cup size. WIth matching creamer and sugar. Whatcha got? HUH? HUH? HUH? And I mean these suckers are almost black. I tried Tarn-X and now I got spots. Advise, please?

  30. Amy Schmucker says:

    Today everything is purple and party themed. Can’t read the words against the purple background. Its really pretty, But not can read..Please help.

    Amy

    • Karen says:

      Sorry Amy – It’s a new ad i was trying out, but I can’t see it because it only runs in the States and I’m in Canada! Apparently it’s not working out, LOL. – Karen

  31. Penny Santa-Barbara says:

    After you’ve polished your jewelry toss it in a zip lock bag and it won’t tarnish.

  32. Andrea says:

    Great tutorial, Karen.

    I have to ask, though. Did someone hi-jack your blog? When I look at it this morning, it has this purply, grape colored background and paint cans and confetti everywhere. Just doesn’t look like you! What happened???

    • Karen says:

      Andrea – LOL. Uh Oh. I had a new ad put up yesterday. It is a “gutter” ad which means it runs in the side gutters of the site but only occasionally. Pays BIG money. Because the ad only runs in the States, I can’t see it to review it here in Canada! If you happen to be able to get a screen grab of it, do so and show me so I know whether it’s hideous enough to quit using! ~ karen

  33. Becky says:

    I’ve been told that toothpaste works too. I couldn’t say that I’d use it on tiffany, but it works well on my silver hoops.

  34. Micol says:

    Ok, now I need a little piece of blu cloth like yours. Great post! Please read wath i do instead.
    I clean my silver jewelry with a home electrolytic process. It’s super easy. You only need a bowl with a piece of aluminium paper inside (i use an aluminium food container) some salt and warm water. It works in seconds! With this process the dirt is transfered from the silver to the aluminium, so their contact is very important. The internet is full of further explanations. I would love you try this and give me your opinion.

    • Karen says:

      Micol! I have tried this method, but with larger pieces of silver! I do it in my sink. It doesn’t work as well or as fast as the silver dip, (honestly that stuff is like magic) but it’s good for silver serving pieces and such. It’s allllllmost as good, but not quite as the dip. Like I say, great for larger pieces though. Haven’t done that method in a while! ~ karen

  35. Greg says:

    doing the math, that must mean you’ve been gone from MMM for more than seven years??? Say it ain’t so… that means I must be… dear God.

    You were a great MMM host, I was a big fan. What years was that incidently? All the best. Your blog is great, highlights the sense of humor I liked so much.

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