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How To Keep Silver Jewelry Looking New All The Time

It's super easy!
How to clean silver jewelry
PHOTO: Getty Images

Knowing how to clean silver jewelry firmly fits into the category of style hacks that will serve you well for many years to come. Once you've learned the process, you can use the skill again and again, meaning that tarnished silver jewelry will be a thing of the past.

But before we get into how to clean your favorite items using materials such as silver polish, laundry detergent, baking soda, and ketchup (yes, really) let's first take a quick look at what exactly tarnish even is and what causes it, plus, how to prevent it from happening.

Why does silver jewelry tarnish?

Tarnish is a form of corrosion that can happen to silver, appearing as discoloration in the form of a yellow, brown, or even gray/black coating on the surface of your jewelry.

Pure silver is naturally resistant to tarnishing but, since it's considered too soft to use for most jewelry, the majority of your necklaces, rings, and bracelets are likely a form of sterling silver (which is 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5 percent composite material, such as copper).

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Tarnishing is essentially a chemical reaction between sterling silver and chemicals like sulfur, chlorine, and various acids. You might think you don't come into contact with these chemicals very often at all, but you'd be surprised. The PH levels of your skin (which, fun fact, contains acids) can cause jewelry to tarnish, as can things like swimming or even showering and washing your hands, depending on the water and products used. Perfume, moisturizers, and soaps are also common causes of tarnishing—who knew?

So, now that we've established that tarnishing is very common with silver jewelry, you'll be glad to know that it's also totally fixable.

How to clean silver jewelry

There are multiple ways to clean and remove tarnish from your silver jewelry. The right method depends on two things: how tarnished the item is and, of course, what you have available.

  • Silver polish. In an ideal world, we'll all have a bottle of silver polish sitting under the kitchen sink, ready for this exact purpose. It goes without saying that silver polish is incredibly effective at removing tarnish (it's literally made for the job). To use, apply a small amount of the polish to a soft polishing cloth (be careful not to use a rough cloth, as this might scratch the metal). Then, rub the jewelry with the cloth in circular motions to remove the tarnish. Once the tarnish is removed, rinse with warm water, dry and buff with a soft cloth to shine.
  • Detergent and aluminum foil. Line a bowl with aluminum foil, fill it with hot water, and add a small amount of laundry detergent before mixing carefully. Then, add your silver items and let them soak for a few minutes. Remove items with tongs, rinse with warm water, dry and use a soft cloth to buff.
  • Baking soda. Mix two parts baking soda with one part water to form a paste. Then, very gently, apply the paste to the areas of jewelry in need of cleaning. Then, rinse with warm water, and dry with a soft polishing cloth.
  • Ketchup. Yep, you read that right. Ketchup is surprisingly effective at removing tarnishing. Add a few drops onto a paper towel and apply to the surface of the jewelry. If the tarnishing is stubborn, let the ketchup sit on the area for 10 to 15 minutes before rubbing with a polishing cloth. Then rinse with warm water, dry and buff to polish.
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