Clean Tarnished Silver Jewelry

Elena Zharina.

If you’ve worn silver jewelry, you know how tarnished it can get in a very short time. We all know about silver polish, but few people are aware that polishing actually scrubs some silver off the surface of your treasured necklace or ring.

It can be especially detrimental for silver-plated pieces, where the layer of silver may not be very thick. Another problem with using silver polish to clean jewelry is that it can be hard clean all the nooks and crannies in your jewelry.

We have good news for you: We are about to share an easy method for returning the glow to your silver jewelry without causing any damage to it. Even better, you can use this silver cleaning method right after you finish reading this article!

Tarnished silver ring, before and after cleaning

The Ingredients You’ll Need

  • water
  • salt
  • an aluminum plate (you can substitute aluminum foil)
  • water softener powder (you can substitute baking soda).


1. Take an aluminum plate (or a regular plate covered with a piece of foil).

2. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of water softener powder (or baking soda).

3. Then pour some hot (but not boiling) water onto the plate.

4. Stir to dissolve the powders.

5. Now you can dunk your silver in the solution.

How long do you need to keep your silver in the solution? The results may be immediate, or they may take a few minutes. However, if an item is very tarnished, this cleaning method will not make your jewelry perfectly clean and looking like new. Additional polishing will still be needed.


We do NOT recommend this cleaning method for jewelry that has precious or semi-precious stones. Though after a little research we discovered that a lot of people (including silversmiths) have used this method for cleaning gemstone jewelry with no ill effect, we don’t think it’s worth the risk of damaging your stones.

Also, be aware that this method is NOT good for antiqued (oxidized) silver, as cleaning will remove the antiqued finish on the silver along with the tarnish.

For vintage or valuable jewelry, check with a professional jeweler first.

This method is also NOT recommended for costume jewelry, or any jewelry of which you don’t know what kind of metal it contains.

And as with any do-it-yourself procedure, there are no guarantees of the results you will get.

If possible, first do a test run on a small scrap or hidden area of your item. Then you can see how the technique will (or won’t) work on the sample, without ruining your actual piece. Another benefit of doing the test run on a hidden area first – you’ll probably discover some things about the technique that will help you get better results when you do the technique on your item.

How It Works

If you are interested in chemistry, here is what is going on when your silver jewelry is taking this little “bath”:

Silver sulfide is the stuff that makes your silver look grayish over time. This process is called oxidation. When immersed in the baking soda/salt solution, the aluminum reacts with the silver sulfide, pulling the sulphur atoms out and “plating” them onto the aluminum as aluminum sulfide. The silver that remains from the reaction is redeposited onto the silver.

Elena Zharina

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