Sterling silver is treasured for its brilliant, reflective shine. It brings a classical elegance to practically every look and occasion. However, because of metallic properties, it has a tendency to tarnish more easily than its pure silver counterpart. Nevertheless, all it takes to maintain lustrous sterling silver jewelry is a bit of care and proper cleaning.
Whether it’s an engagement ring, a precious pendant on a sterling silver chain or anything in between, follow along. We’ll teach you how to clean sterling silver necklaces, earrings, and more so you can tackle the tarnish and enjoy the twinkle for years to come.
3 Simple Ways to Clean Sterling Silver at Home
Your sterling silver jewelry is the belle of the ball—until tarnish walks into the party unannounced, leaving your most cherished pieces with a dull, black color that dims even the brightest beauty.
Luckily there are a few relatively quick and easy methods you can use at home to clean your sterling silver pieces during any stage of tarnish. So, how do you clean sterling silver?
We recommend choosing one of the following three options:
- Using a polishing cloth
- Cleaning with soap and water
- Using silver polishing cream
Below, we’ll walk you through each step so you can start cleaning like a pro.
#1 Use a Polishing Cloth
One simple way to clean discolored sterling silver jewelry is with a soft cloth, such as a polishing cloth or a microfiber cloth. To remove tarnish from your sterling silver jewelry with a polishing cloth, follow these four easy steps:
- Step 1 – Ensure you’re working in a well-lit, clutter-free area. That way, you’ll be able to see your progress and you won’t have to worry about losing your jewelry should it slip out of your hands. You’ll especially want to avoid working over an uncovered drain.
- Step 2 – Working in long motions, gently rub the sterling silver piece to remove the tarnish. Depending on how sullied your piece is, this can take up a bit of time. Be patient with this process. If you’re not seeing the results you had hoped for, you may want to try a polishing cream. (We’ll dive more into the details of that method below.)
- Step 3 – If there are areas of the silver that you can’t seem to reach with the polishing cloth, you can use a cotton swab to get at them more easily and with greater precision.
- Step 4 – Take special care when working around gemstones since even soft clothes can be abrasive. Try to avoid the gemstone altogether—or ensure that the polishing cloth you’re using is safe for the specific gemstones in your piece.
#2 Soak in Soap and Water
While soap and water won’t rid your sterling silver jewelry of tarnish entirely—especially if your piece is dark with tarnish—it will give your jewelry a quick, preventative polish in between deep cleans. To unleash the shine hiding behind any dirt or debris with soap and water, follow along:
- Step 1 – Set up a cleaning station in a well-lit, clutter-free area. Again, you’ll want to avoid working over a sink or near any type of drain since slippery pieces of jewelry can easily be dropped and lost.
- Step 2 – Gather together a bowl or basin of warm water, gentle soap such as mild dishwashing soap or baby shampoo, a toothbrush or other soft-bristled brush and a soft cloth such as a microfiber towel.
- Step 3 – Add a few drops of soap to the water.
- Step 4 – If your sterling silver jewelry doesn’t contain gemstones (or contains gemstones that are safe to immerse in water), soak the jewelry in the soapy water for 5-10 minutes. Clean the surface of the jewelry, as well as the smaller, tighter areas with the toothbrush. Rinse the jewelry in warm water and then dry with the microfiber towel. We don’t recommend using a paper towel for drying as it can scratch the metal.
- Step 5 – If your sterling silver jewelry contains gemstones that aren’t safe to immerse in water, grab another clean cloth, dip it in the soapy water and rub it over the jewelry until wet and sudsy. Clean with the toothbrush. Rinse out your wet cloth until it’s free of soap. Then, run it over the sterling silver to remove any excess soap and dirt. Finish by drying it with a microfiber towel.
#3 Try a Silver Polishing Cream
If you have a larger piece of jewelry—or if the tarnish was too much to tackle with soap and water alone—you can use a silver polishing cream. Keep in mind that this method can be abrasive and is best avoided with chains, delicate pieces and jewelry with gemstones.
To clean your sterling silver jewelry with polishing cream, take this step-by-step approach:
- Step 1 – Set up your polishing station as described above. Ensure that there is plenty of bright light and no danger of gaping drainage holes.
- Step 2 – Gather together the silver polishing cream, a basin of water and two soft cloths—one dry, one damp.
- Step 3 – Rinse each piece of jewelry under warm water.
- Step 4 – With the damp cloth, apply a thin coat of silver polish to the jewelry.
- Step 5 – Following the cleaning directions outlined on the container of your polish, rub the cream into the jewelry. Work a section at a time. When all the tarnish has been removed from a small area, move on until the whole piece has been cleaned.
- Step 6 – Rinse the jewelry with warm water again and dry with a soft cloth.
How to Clean Sterling Silver Rings
Scrubbing with a clean toothbrush can go a long way in helping to remove rust or discoloration from a sterling silver ring. If your ring contains a gemstone or delicate setting, you’ll want to take special care not to scratch or scuff the surface of the stone.
You may even want to have your ring inspected before you clean it at home. With an engagement ring, family heirloom or other invaluable pieces, consider opting for a professional cleaning instead.
Cleaning Methods to Avoid
While there are many well-known at-home hacks for cleaning sterling silver jewelry, some are better to avoid—especially when it comes to more delicate pieces or jewelry with precious gemstones.
Before you dive into one of these popular DIY polishing techniques, consult with a jeweler to see if it’s an appropriate method for your individual piece:
- Toothpaste – While toothpaste can remove tarnish, it’s often too abrasive for softer silver and can scratch through silver plating.
- Aluminum foil and baking soda – This popular silver cleaning method usually involves immersing the silver in water, which can sometimes cause fine jewelry to oxidize and could damage certain gemstones.
- Sonic cleaners – Sonic cleaners, which jewelry sellers often use, can clean silver jewelry but aren’t typically safe for natural gemstones, sensitive stones or diamonds with inclusions. Staying away from harsh chemicals altogether is a safe way of protecting your jewelry.
Again, if you’re ever unsure whether a cleaning method is safe or appropriate for your jewelry, consult a professional. It’s better to be cautious than to damage an expensive or beloved piece. You can always create a quick silver cleaner with water and soap between deep cleaning sessions to relieve the tarnished silver if your jewelry needs it.
How to Prevent Tarnish on Sterling Silver Jewelry
As your jewelry is exposed to chemicals over time, it’s not uncommon for dullness and blemishes to creep in.Luckily, there are a few ways you can sidestep this kind of deterioration and prolong the shine of your sterling silver:
- Avoid unnecessarily exposing your sterling silver jewelry to chemicals. – Be sure to take off your rings when washing dishes. Apply your daily make-up products, hair products and fragrances before putting on your sterling silver necklace, and do your best to avoid wearing your jewelry when swimming or vigorously exercising.
- Wear your sterling silver jewelry often. – Believe it or not, one of the easiest ways to keep your jewelry brighter longer is by simply wearing it. That’s because the friction that occurs from wearing your pieces keeps them from tarnishing for longer.
- Store your sterling silver properly. – We recommend keeping your sterling silver pieces in a jewelry box or pouch. This will help to keep it dry, dust-free and safe from tangling. Another option is to store your sterling silver jewelry in anti-tarnish bags or alongside silica gel packets to prevent moisture build-up.
- Get your jewelry professionally cleaned. – Once or twice a year, consider having your sterling silver jewelry professionally cleaned. This is especially recommended for more delicate pieces, pieces with certain gemstones and any piece that you hold particularly dear.
Practicing these methods not only prevents tarnished silver jewelry but also requires less cleaning. Sterling silver pros and cons can be manageable, but one thing is for sure: it is prone to tarnish.
Find Sterling Silver Jewelry to Cherish with Diamond Nexus
Your favorite sterling silver piece isn’t as appealing when it starts tarnishing. But don’t worry! With a little care and attention, proper cleaning and polishing, your sterling silver jewelry can offer a lifetime of shining moments.
While you may be questioning the difference between sterling silver vs silver, sterling silver is a beautiful, timeless choice of jewelry. Whether you’re looking for a graceful pair of hoop earrings, a statement ring or an eye-catching, or sterling silver bracelet explore the treasure trove at Diamond Nexus.
We’re delighted to offer an affordable selection of fine sterling silver jewelry—plus, Nexus Diamond™ alternative engagement rings, wedding bands, loose stones and more. For a lab-created sparkle that’s built to last, shop Diamond Nexus today.
Jewelry Notes. How to Clean and Care for Your Silver Jewelry. https://www.jewelrynotes.com/silver-cleaning-and-care-guide-tips/
Jewelry Shopping Guide. The Top 9 Types of Silver Used in Jewelry. https://www.jewelryshoppingguide.com/different-types-of-silver-jewelry/
Love to know. How to Clean Sterling Silver Necklaces. https://jewelry.lovetoknow.com/how-clean-sterling-silver-necklaces