Cleaning Silver Jewelry
Cleaning silver jewelry involves removing oxidation and anything else that has adhered to the jewelry. There are some options that are universally useful, regardless of what type of sterling silver jewelry you want to clean. Other methods are not good for certain types of jewelry.
Options For Cleaning Your Silver Jewelry
The Natural Silver Cleaner
This is one of the best methods for cleaning silvery jewelry because it doesn’t require rubbing and is effective for silver pieces that have tiny grooves, is the most natural method available: aluminum foil and water.
Tarnish on sterling silver is a natural oxidation process and aluminum foil attracts the oxidation away from the silver. You can use hot or cold water, include a bit of baking soda (not salt) or not. If you’re cleaning smaller jewelry pieces, put a strip of foil and water – warm tap water usually works well – into a glass jar or bowl.
Let it sit in the water for a few minutes. If necessary, you can change the piece of foil during the process. For heavily tarnished jewelry, add a teaspoon of baking soda, but don’t allow it to rub your jewelry, as it will scratch. For larger pieces, use a large bowl or your kitchen sink. Drain out the water carefully and count your jewelry pieces.
It’s sometimes hard to see small chains against the foil in the bottom of a jar. Dry your jewelry with a soft piece of 100% cotton – a t-shirt or unbleached soft flannel, or a jewelry cloth.
Jewelry Cleaning Machines
There are other universally effective cleaning methods that will not harm your silver jewelry, including jewelry cleaning machines and cleaning cloths. The commercial ionic or ultrasonic machines used for cleaning silver jewelry are effective. They don’t involve chemicals or any type of scrubbing.
These machines are typically used at jewelry stores, and although they are more expensive than some other methods, most are priced reasonably enough if you have a great deal of silver jewelry that you’d like to keep looking sparkling new.
Jewelry Cleaning Cloths
Cleaning cloths, often called rouge cloth, sunshine cloth or butler’s cloth, are excellent for cleaning silver jewelry. They take more effort, but are soft and will not scratch the silver surface.
This is particularly important when cleaning wider silver jewelry pieces, where the surface could easily be marred by scratches, which would be very visible on the wide, somewhat flat surfaces of cuff bracelets or large pendants.
You will need to settle down for a rubbing session, because badly tarnished silver takes quite a while to clean with a polishing cloth. It will be well worth it, though, to protect your silver jewelry from scratches.
Silver Cleaning Solutions
Jewelry that has no gemstones or only very hard stones, like diamonds, can be done using commercial jewelry cleaner. You can soak the jewelry for a short period of time. Don’t use the brush that is included with the cleaner. The bristles are plastic and can scratch your silver.
If you are cleaning silver jewelry that has groves or is carved and you feel you must “scrub,” do so very gently using a very soft baby toothbrush or a small natural bristle cosmetic brush. Use very gentle strokes – even carved jewelry can become damaged by scratching.
If you are cleaning silver jewelry that has soft stones, avoid all chemical cleaners. Rely on the jewelry cleaning cloths or cleaning machines for these pieces.
Don’ts For Cleaning Your Silver Jewelry
- Use toothpaste, porcelain surface cleaning powder or liquid.
- Make a paste of anything and rub it on your jewelry.
- Use alcohol, bleach, ammonia, acetone or any other harsh chemical
These don’ts for cleaning silver jewelry are very important because once pastes and powders get into the small groves of any silver jewelry, they are very hard to get out – especially if they dry. Chemicals of any kind can etch, discolor or damage sterling silver and ruin your jewelry.
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