by timrel

January 25, 2022

how to clean silver naturally

Silver is a firm, time-tested favorite when it comes to jewelry. Buying a beautiful piece of silver jewelry is easy - but maintaining it is not.

Like most jewelry, silver needs regular cleaning, otherwise, it will tarnish. Over time, silver oxidizes, and this leads to a dull tarnishing effect. Your silver statement pieces will end up looking dull and off-color.

So, how can you keep your silver looking shiny and clean? Let's find out.

Why Does Silver Need Cleaning?

You may be surprised to learn that silver jewelry isn't pure silver, which is too soft to be used as jewelry. So, regular silver jewelry is made up of around 92% silver and is known as sterling silver.

Even sterling silver is delicate and is prone to scratches on its surface from dirt and grit. This is one reason to clean silver regularly, but the fact is that the remaining 8% of the sterling silver is made up of metals that tarnish when exposed to the air, like copper.

This means that over time, a chemical reaction to the air is inevitable. Tarnish is a form of corrosion, and initially looks yellow, then brown, then an ugly and noticeable black. To avoid tarnished silver, you'll need to clean your silver regularly.

Silver Polish

The most obvious way to clean silver is to use commercial silver polish. Make sure you're using a good silver polish, not a cheap knockoff.

Use a damp cloth to apply the silver polish. Rub the cloth in up and down movements, not circular movements. Use a very light hand to clean silver, as this metal is delicate. Being light-handed is especially important if you're cleaning silver-plated items.

The black tarnish will get on the cloth as you clean, especially if you're cleaning heavily tarnished silver. Turn the cloth regularly to avoid getting the tarnish on the item again. Use a q-tip of something small and delicate to clean crevices or molding in the jewelry.

When you're done, rinse the silver jewelry in warm water and dry it carefully with a soft, dry cloth.

DIY Methods

Commercial silver cleaning products aren't your only option when it comes to cleaning silver jewelry. You can make DIY silver cleaners from products you likely have right there in your kitchen.

The Aluminum Foil Method

aluminum foil

For the aluminum method, you'll need aluminum foil, baking soda, hot water, and salt.

Start by covering a bowl in aluminum foil, shiny side up. Place the jewelry you want to clean in the bowl and fill it with hot water until the silver items are completely covered. Add two tablespoons of baking soda and salt, and stir very well.

Now, leave the bowl for around ten to fifteen minutes. If the process is working, you should see tarnish come off the silver and settle on the aluminum foil.

Remove the silver with tongs (it'll be hot!) and rinse in the warm water. Pat dry with a warm, soft cloth.

This method is an easy way to clean silver without any rubbing or pressing of delicate silver pieces.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

You may already be familiar with using vinegar and baking soda as a household cleaner, so you may not be surprised to learn that you can use it to clean silver, too.

Start with half a cup of white vinegar, and mix in a tablespoon of baking soda. Soak your silver in the mixture for two to three hours. Take the silver items out, and rinse them in warm water, and pat dry with a warm, soft cloth.

Like the aluminum method, using vinegar and baking soda allows for easy, effortless cleaning of silver. However, this method does take a little bit longer.

Lemon Juice and Salt

lemon juice

The acidity in lemon juice makes it another popular household cleaner, and you have the added benefit of a crisp, citrusy smell. If you can't stand the scent of vinegar, using lemon juice and salt can be a better alternative to using vinegar and baking soda to clean your silver items.

Add one tablespoon of lemon juice and salt to one and a half cups of water. Add half a cup of dry milk, and soak your silver in the mixture. You'll need to let it stand overnight. When you take out your jewelry, rinse it in warm water and dry it thoroughly with a soft cloth.

Ammonia and Hot Water

To clean silver with heavy tarnishing, you might need a little more than lemon juice and baking soda.

Add half a cup of ammonia to a bowl of hot water, and soak your silver items for around ten to fifteen minutes. Take your jewelry out and rinse it thoroughly, drying with a soft, clean cloth.

Using ammonia can work very well on heavy-duty tarnish, that may not have responded to gentler cleaning methods.

Soft Drinks/Beer


Surprisingly, you can use soft drinks (Cola, sprite, 7-Up, etc) and even beer to clean silver that is lightly tarnished.

All you need to do is pour a glass of your chosen beverage and allow your silver items to sit in it for around ten to fifteen minutes. Take out your silver, rinse well, and dry with a clean, soft cloth.

Soaking your silver in soft drinks or beer might not work on heavy or even medium tarnishing, but it can deal with light tarnishing and will have a brightening effect on your jewelry. Using soft drinks or beer can be a good regular maintenance procedure, as it's easy to drop your jewelry into a glass of something and let it sit for a few minutes. If you want to polish silver, this is a good option to consider.

Laundry Detergents

Last but certainly not least, you can use the household staple that cleans your clothes to clean silver items, too. A few drops of laundry detergent can effectively clean tarnished silver.

Start by mixing a tablespoon of any laundry detergent in a bowl of warm water. As you mix, you'll see bubbles form and froth. Add your silver items, and allow them to sit in the homemade silver cleaner for around fifteen minutes.

Remove your silver, and rinse thoroughly. Always dry your jewelry well with a clean, soft cloth.

how to clean silver naturally pin

What Not To Use On Silver


You might come across silver cleaning "hacks", and wonder whether they work. For example, some people use toothpaste to clean it polish silver items.

Let's be clear - toothpaste is not a good product to clean silver. Silver is a soft metal and is very delicate. Toothpaste is abrasive, and may damage your jewelry. Any silver cleaning hack that recommends an abrasive product or method should be avoided. If in doubt, don't try it.

Extremely heavy silver tarnish, possibly tarnish that hasn't been tackled for years, may not shift under DIY methods. You may need to use a commercial cleaning product, or else take your jewelry to professional silver cleaners.

If your silver items are very old or valuable, or contain gemstones that may react badly to a cleaning method, your best course of action is to go to a professional silver cleaner. Making a mistake when cleaning expensive or antique silver can be disastrous, and permanently damage the piece.

Caring for Silver Jewelry

Because silver is so delicate, it needs to be protected from the air to prevent corrosion. To avoid exposing silver to the air too much, you should store silver in airtight boxes, bags, or cupboards. Never leave your silver out where it can be exposed to light or humidity. Keep sterling silver separate from other types of jewelry.

Wearing sterling silver with wool or latex can damage it, as can spraying perfume or cologne directly onto your silver (instead of just putting on your perfume and cologne before you put on your jewelry).

You should also regularly clean your silver. You can try a variety of the methods listed above, or just find one that works and stick to it. The key to cleaning silver is to be gentle, as it can be easily scratched or damaged. Tarnish can be removed, with a little care and patience, but scratches are permanent. You should only use a microfiber cloth to clean silver.

The Bottom Line

Sterling silver is a hugely popular jewelry metal, and chances are, you have some of it in your jewelry box. If you've bought a beautiful statement piece, or you own a priceless heirloom, you will need to put some effort into maintaining your sterling silver. Whether you choose to do regular, light maintenance or heavy occasional cleans is up to you.

DIY methods can be just as effective as commercial silver cleaners, and you can try a few different methods to find out what works best for you and your silver.

Sterling silver is popular for a reason - it's bright, beautiful, and versatile. In fact, many people prefer silver to gold. While some tarnish is inevitable - as it's virtually impossible to prevent your silver from coming in contact with the air - it's not the end of the world. If you know how to maintain your silver and remove tarnish, you can wear your jewelry as much as you like without worrying about ruining it.

About the author


I am passionate about health and wellbeing and have writing for over 10 years on the subject. I have a BSc Hons Degree and undertake vigorous research to help people improve their lives and live more a healthy and happy life.

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