Here's Exactly How to Clean and Polish Your Tarnished Silver Jewelry

Photo credit: Edward Berthelot - Getty Images
Photo credit: Edward Berthelot - Getty Images

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Don't you hate it when you're rushing to get ready and you reach in your ring dish for your special occasion silver jewelry set from your fave jewelry brand, only to find that it's totally tarnished and off-color? I know I can't be the only one! The simple fact is when silver jewelry is exposed to light, air, and moisture, it turns a darker shade, and there's nothing you can do about it (actually, there is something you can do to prevent your silver jewelry from tarnishing, but more on that later). So your next step is to polish it.

You might know all about how to clean jewelry that's gold or even fake (yup, you can clean that, too!), but what about silver? In case you're new to this whole polishing jewelry thing, it's important to note that different types of jewelry sometimes require different types of cleaners and methods. If you have a silver chain that's looking a little lusterless, shine it up with the following expert advice from Shama Patel, founder of Vancouver-based jewelry brand Serendipity. From the best jewelry cleaners you can shop online to genius home remedies that don't require a fancy jewelry cleaner machine, here are the best tips for how to clean a silver necklace.

Why is my silver necklace turning black?

If your silver pieces seem more delicate and prone to getting dirty than your other jewelry, that's because they are, Patel explains. If it's real silver (you'll know because it'll have a stamp that says “925” or “S925,” which means 92.5% silver), it'll turn black as it reacts with elements in the environment. And, fun fact, real silver jewelry won't attract to a magnet, so you can try that test, too. Why is this important? Because if your jewelry is actual silver, you'll want to try one of the tips below to clean it.

What is the fastest way to clean a silver necklace?

Whenever your silver jewelry starts to look a little dull and you want to restore the shine and color, try this quick and easy DIY cleaning solution. All you need is warm water, mild dish soap, and a soft brush. Patel says to first fill a bowl with the water and mix in a few drops of soap, then place the jewelry in the mixture and allow it to soak for up to five minutes. Use the brush to clean any nooks and crannies, then rinse it off and dry it with a microfiber cloth.

How do you clean a silver chain?

One of the most effective ways to clean your silver jewelry, including chains, happens to be the most fun one, too. Patel explains that to reverse the chemical reaction that caused the jewelry to tarnish, you'll want to do a little kitchen experiment using aluminum foil and baking soda. Watch the video above for a demo, or follow the simple steps here:

  1. Grab a bowl that's big enough to fit the jewelry, then line the inside of the bowl with a sheet of foil with the reflective side facing up.

  2. Place the jewelry inside the foil-lined bowl.

  3. Boil some water, then pour it in the bowl until the jewelry is covered.

  4. Sprinkle some baking soda in the bowl of boiling water (Patel suggests a ratio of 1 tablespoon per cup of water).

  5. Let the jewelry soak in the solution for a few minutes.

  6. If the water is still hot, *carefully* remove the jewelry, rinse it under cool water, and dry it off with a microfiber cloth to reveal your clean, shiny silver.

What's the best silver cleaner?

If you're not the DIY type, you can find plenty of creams, solutions, and cleansers for cheap that'll get the job done, no foil required. You can also buff your jewelry with a polishing cloth. If some of the dark spots on your silver jewelry are intentional, these cloths are super handy for polishing only the parts you want to shine. Need a good rec? Here are some top-rated formulas and products worth ordering.

How do you keep silver from tarnishing?

Remember when I said there was nothing you could do to prevent your silver from turning? Well, I lied! Patel says storing it correctly inside of a microfiber pouch and tucked away in a cool, dark place (i.e. not your hot, steamy bathroom post-shower) can make a huge difference. Not only that, but you also want to keep your jewelry protected by removing it before swimming and putting it on only after you've applied your skincare. That advice should do the trick, but if your silver necklace still gets tarnished, well, now you know exactly how to clean and shine it up again.

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