How to Clean Silver Jewelry: The Best Ways to Prevent Tarnish
Alicia Briggs | August 9, 2023
Alicia Briggs | August 9, 2023
Real silver jewelry should last a lifetime, but unlike other types of metals, silver is particularly prone to tarnishing. Knowing how to clean silver jewelry is essential to preserve its beauty.
Thankfully, it’s not hard to clean silver. Read on to learn how to clean different types of silver jewelry at home as well as how to best store and polish your silver.
Types of Silver
Before you clean your silver jewelry, it’s important to know what type of silver it is.
There are three types of silver:
Pure Silver: Pure silver is 99.9% silver, but silver jewelry is rarely pure. Pure silver is too soft to be only used for jewelry.
Sterling Silver: Sterling silver is the most durable type of silver for jewelry. It’s made from pure silver mixed with another alloy, typically copper. All VRAI silver jewelry is sterling silver made from 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper.
Silver-Plated: Silver-plated jewelry is metal (copper, brass, etc.) with a thin layer of silver coating. This lightweight type of silver can easily be damaged when cleaning if not done correctly.
If you’re not sure what type of silver your jewelry is, check for markings. Sterling silver jewelry will usually have markings, typically found on the clasp or back, that say 925 or Sterling. If there are no markings, your jewelry is most likely silver-plated.
If you’re still not sure if your jewelry is silver-plated or sterling silver, you can either consult the retailer or you can do the magnet test. Pure silver isn’t magnetic, so sterling silver jewelry typically won’t stick to a magnet but silver-plated will.
How to Clean Silver Jewelry at Home
The best way to clean silver jewelry at home is by using the Light Wash method. This simple solution only requires common household items and a minimal amount of time.
Materials and Tools You'll Need
Shallow bowl or dish
1 tsp mild dishwashing soap
1 cup warm (not hot) water
In a clean bowl or dish, combine the dishwashing soap of your choice and warm water.
Wait until the dish soap is fully dissolved, then place your jewelry into the bowl. If you’re cleaning multiple pieces of silver jewelry, make sure the bowl is big enough so the jewelry can soak without rubbing against each other.
Let your silver jewelry soak for 15-30 minutes.
Gently remove the silver and then lightly scrub with a soft, microfiber cloth until clean. For certain pieces of silver jewelry, you may want to gently wipe instead of scrub.
Rinse off your silver jewelry with clean, room-temperature water then let dry on a clean, soft cloth.
How to Clean Tarnished Silver Jewelry
While silver is an incredibly popular, quality metal, all real silver will tarnish over time. You can clean tarnished silver jewelry and restore it to its original beauty.
The best way to clean tarnished silver jewelry at home is by using what we call the Medium Wash method, detailed below.
Materials and Tools You'll Need
½ cup white vinegar or witch hazel
3 drops lemon essential oil
In a shallow bowl, mix white vinegar (or witch hazel) with lemon essential oil.
Gently place your jewelry in the bowl. If you’re cleaning multiple pieces of silver jewelry, do so separately or use a bowl that’s big enough so the jewelry doesn’t touch.
Let the silver soak for five minutes. If it still looks dirty, carefully wipe it with a soft cloth.
Rinse the silver with lukewarm water, then let dry on a clean towel.
Stay in touch and enjoy $100 off
Sign up for email or text and receive $100 towards a VRAI purchase over $750.
How to Clean Silver Necklaces
Certain types of silver jewelry require slightly different cleaning methods. For cleaning silver necklaces, the Light Wash method, detailed above, is the most effective. You can let necklaces sit in the solution for a little longer if needed.
If the silver necklace is tarnished, you can also use the Medium Wash method. Silver chains tend to tarnish the fastest since they are exposed to numerous materials such as lotion and perfume. If your necklace has diamonds attached, be careful when wiping the necklace off.
The light wash method and the medium wash method can also be used to clean silver chains. We recommend letting your silver necklaces and chains thoroughly dry after cleaning, before storing them.
How to Clean Sterling Silver Rings
The best way to clean sterling silver rings depends on whether or not the ring has diamonds or gems.
For diamond silver rings, cleaning gently is key. You can use the Light Wash method, detailed above, but be particularly careful when scrubbing afterward. Avoid scrubbing near the diamonds, even if that area is tarnished.
If your diamond ring is badly tarnished, it’s best to take it to a professional for cleaning to avoid damage.
For tarnished silver rings that don’t have any diamonds attached, you can use the Medium Wash method. Then use a soft bristle toothbrush to lightly scrub any areas of the ring that are tarnished or still need to be cleaned after you soak them in the solution.
The same cleaning instructions apply for how to clean silver earrings and silver bracelets.
How to Care for Silver Jewelry
Aside from regularly cleaning your silver jewelry (at least twice a year), you can prevent tarnishing and maintain silver’s beauty by properly caring for it.
Here are a few ways to effectively care for silver jewelry:
Wear it often:
Wearing your silver regularly will help prevent tarnish. Your skin's natural oils will help preserve silver.
Avoid harsh chemicals or friction:
Remove your silver jewelry before doing any activities that will cause the silver to come into contact with chemical products, chlorine, sweat, or water. This includes swimming, cleaning, household tasks, washing your hands/body, or working out.
Know when to remove and put on silver:
Remove your jewelry before sleeping or engaging in the activities above, to prevent scratches and friction. When putting on silver jewelry, do so last. This will help avoid contact with perfume, hair products, or makeup, which can all damage silver.
Store silver properly:
Silver should be stored in a room temperature, dark, air-tight place to prevent tarnishing.
How to Keep Silver From Tarnishing
Pure silver is the only type of silver that doesn’t tarnish, but jewelry isn’t made from pure silver. All silver jewelry will tarnish over time due to exposure to the elements (air, chemicals, moisture, etc). Properly caring for and cleaning your silver jewelry will prevent and remove tarnishing.
The best way to keep silver jewelry from tarnishing is by storing it properly. Keep your silver in an air-tight, dark container, such as a jewelry box. Moisture and humidity cause silver to tarnish, so store silver somewhere that’s room temperature.
If you don’t have a secure container or box, consider purchasing an anti-tarnishing bag. You can also use anti-tarnishing strips. This may be particularly helpful if you have numerous pieces of silver jewelry that aren’t worn often.
Make sure that your silver jewelry is stored in a way that it doesn’t touch any other jewelry, including other pieces of silver jewelry. This will prevent scratching.
Regularly wearing your silver jewelry can prevent tarnish. But if your silver comes into contact with lotion, or chemicals while you wear it, this can cause tarnish. Clean silver jewelry after exposure, and regularly clean and polish your jewelry to prevent tarnish.
Cleaning Silver FAQ
Use the following information to answer any remaining questions you may have about how to clean silver jewelry.
What Is the Best Way to Clean Silver?
Overall, it’s best to clean your silver with a gentle solution and non-abrasive, soft cloth. The best way to clean your silver jewelry will depend on if it needs a light cleaning or if it’s tarnished, as well as what kind of jewelry it is.
Refer to the instructions detailed above for how to clean each type of silver jewelry.
What Is the Best Home Remedy to Clean Silver?
The Light Wash method, detailed above, is the best way to clean silver jewelry at home. Not only is it easy, but it also doesn’t use any abrasive ingredients that could potentially damage your silver.
Does Baking Soda Harm Silver?
Avoid using baking soda to clean silver jewelry. Baking soda is typically too abrasive for silver and it can cause damage or scratches to the metal.
What Is a Natural Way to Clean Silver?
If you’re looking for a natural and effective way to clean your silver, use a natural dishwashing soap for the Light Wash method.
How Do You Remove Tarnish From Silver?
Tarnished silver jewelry can usually be cleaned. The Medium Wash method should be effective enough to restore your silver jewelry to its original beauty.
If the tarnish isn’t removed after using the Medium Wash method, take your silver to a professional for proper cleaning.
Does Toothpaste Clean Silver?
Avoid using toothpaste on silver jewelry, even if it’s tarnished silver. Toothpaste is too abrasive for silver and may cause further damage.
Does Vinegar Tarnish Silver?
No, white vinegar will not tarnish silver. White vinegar, when used in the Medium Wash method or diluted with water, is great for cleaning tarnished silver.
What Should Not Be Used to Clean Silver?
Any abrasive ingredient should not be used to clean silver, such as toothpaste and baking soda. In general, we only recommend using the ingredients included in the “how to clean silver” sections above. Avoid using anything else.
How Do You Best Polish Silver?
Regularly polishing silver is another effective way to prevent tarnishing. The best way to polish silver is by using a silver polishing cloth. You can polish most pieces of silver jewelry except for delicate pieces like silver earrings or some silver rings. These could be damaged by polishing on your own.
How Often Should You Clean Silver?
Silver jewelry should be cleaned at least twice a year, but it will depend on how often you wear your silver jewelry. Polish your silver regularly and clean it as needed or after exposure to lotions or chemicals, like chlorine.