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5 simple tricks to clean silver at home

Published by Lars Mäki in category Articles on 19.07.2023
Gold price (XAU-SEK)
26152,90 SEK/oz
  
+ 85,20 SEK
Silver price (XAG-SEK)
312,50 SEK/oz
  
+ 2,58 SEK

Silver is a special metal that does not rust or get dirty easily. It is excellent for use in electrical wiring as it conducts heat and electricity very well. It also helps to kill bacteria and is safe to use in medicine and everyday products. To keep silver shiny, it is important to clean it properly.

Sometimes sterling silver jewellery can discolour and darken over time due to wear and tear or the environment it is in! Therefore, we’ve put together some tips on how to avoid discolouration of silver bracelets, rings and similar items.

You will also learn everything you need to know about cleaning silver jewellery and how to remove the dark surface caused by everyday use.

Smutsigt silver

Why does sterling silver jewellery discolour in the first place?

Silver is a precious metal that does not oxidise quickly. But it has a weak point: sulphur. Silver reacts with sulphur to form a thin dark layer – which is exactly what happens when silver jewellery becomes discoloured. Sulphur is found in small amounts in the air, but sometimes also in skin sweat. In addition, 925 sterling silver contains a small amount (0.5%) of copper as an alloy, which makes the silver more robust and scratch-resistant – but can also react with air and make the jewellery look darker.

Pure silver is too soft to work as jewellery or cutlery. Only by mixing silver with copper does the resulting alloy become significantly harder. But a crucial disadvantage is that copper is susceptible to attack. When hydrogen sulphide attacks the metal, the silver sulphide formed gradually discolours the surface.

To avoid discolouration, you should avoid wearing your 925 sterling silver jewellery when exercising or doing sweaty work. To make your silver jewellery last longer, it is wise to take it off at night, not to wear it when showering or cleaning (to avoid contact with chemicals) and to store it as airtight as possible or in a sealed box.

However, it should not be left unworn for too long: this is because if silver jewellery is worn frequently, the silver sulphide is literally eroded away – but if the jewellery sits for a long time, more silver sulphide can form undisturbed over time, and your jewellery will discolour.

Click here to learn more about our (pure) investment silver!

Home remedies for cleaning silver jewellery

To remove the dark surface caused by the discolouration of silver jewellery, you can often use small home remedies. For example, baking soda and toothpaste contain very fine abrasive particles so you can use them and a small (tooth) brush to remove the silver sulphide layer from your jewellery.

Rengör silver med tandkräm

Cleaning silver jewellery with aluminium and a salt solution

Another very effective way to remove silver sulphide is the aluminium salt method:

Rengöring av silver med alumninium

Cleaning silver with aluminium, baking soda (or bicarbonate) and boiling water can be an effective method of removing discolouration and dirt from silver. This is definitely the most common way to clean silver as it is quick, cheap and very effective. Follow these steps to clean your silver in the best way possible:

  1. Prepare a cleaning solution: Fill a bowl or container with enough hot water to cover the silver items you want to clean. Place an aluminium foil in the water so that it covers the bottom and sides of the container. It’s fine if you use the same aluminium foil you use for cooking. The aluminium foil plays an important role in the chemical reaction that removes the black film from silver surfaces.
  2. Add baking soda or bicarbonate: Add one to two teaspoons of baking soda or bicarbonate to the water. Mix well until the powder is dissolved in the water.
  3. Put the silver in the solution: Place the silver in the solution so that they are in direct contact with the aluminium foil. Make sure they are completely covered by the water.
  4. Wait and let it react: Leave the silver in the solution for about 5 minutes. During this time, the aluminium foil will react with the sulphur oxides present on the silver surface. This reaction helps to remove discolouration through a process called ion exchange.
  5. Rinse the silver items: Remove the silver items from the cleaning solution and rinse them thoroughly under running water. Make sure to remove all residue and dirt from the surface of the silver.
  6. Wipe and polish: Use a soft cloth or a silver polishing cloth to gently wipe the silver items and give them a fine polish. Be careful not to scratch the surface of the silver during drying and polishing.

It is important to note that this cleaning method works well for most silver items, but there may be exceptions. Some silver items, especially those with gemstones, pearls or other delicate materials, may be more susceptible to chemical reactions and should not be cleaned using this method.

If you are unsure of the cleaning method or have valuable or antique silver items, it is highly recommended that you consult a professional silversmith or jewellery expert for advice and recommendations on appropriate cleaning methods for your specific items.

Tavex cleaner for gold and silver

You can also find aids for cleaning silver jewellery on our website or in other specialised shops: you will find so-called silver baths, silver cleaning cloths (also available in our shop) and ultrasonic cleaners with which you can get your silver jewellery clean again. However, discoloured surfaces are better removed with a chemical silver bath, as this can specifically attack and remove the silver sulphide (be careful here with blackened silver jewellery, see below).

Rengöringsmedel för silvermynt

However, care should be taken with delicate gemstones (such as tiger eye or coral) or pearls – a silver bath or cleaner can quickly attack the surface and dull it. Ultrasonic cleaning for several minutes can have a similar damaging effect.

Using ultrasound to clean silver jewellery

A more effective cleaning method is ultrasound: an ultrasonic device is also available and is filled with water where the silver jewellery is placed. The sound waves reach even hard-to-reach areas and discolouration disappears. Ultrasonic baths can remove sebum and surface impurities to restore the shine to your jewellery.

Rengöring av smycken med ultraljud

Want to know more about how jewellery can be cleaned with ultrasound? Click here!

Take your jewellery to a professional

One way to make your jewellery look as new as possible is to simply remove the discoloured surface by having the silver jewellery polished by a professional (in a goldsmith or jewellery shop) or by giving it a new matte finish. For shiny silver necklaces, rings or silver bracelets, polishing has the advantage that even small scratches, which tend to occur through daily wear and tear, can be removed at the same time. This way, your 925 sterling silver jewellery will look like new again!

When it comes to matte silver jewellery, you can sometimes do it yourself. The best way is to use a piece of matt fleece from the DIY store or a rough kitchen sponge. The steadier your hand and the more precise your movements when polishing your silver, the better the result.

Sandpapper

For silver jewellery with a matte finish, it’s a little easier: here you can also use coarse sandpaper (grain size 40 or 80) and remove the tarnished layer with circular movements and let it shine again as an icy matte finish. Especially if you then polish your ring with our silver polishing cloth.

Cleaning your silver jewellery with baking soda or lemon juice

Rena silver med bakpulver

Bakpulver och citronsaft är ytterligare två effektiva sätt att rengöra silver.

Bakpulvret löses upp i en liten skål med vatten och silversmycket placeras i det. Med en mjuk tandborste kan även mörka fläckar i skåror och porer avlägsnas. Slutligen kan du lägga dina silversmycken i en annan skål, strö lite salt över dem och sedan droppa citronsaft över dem. För rengöring kan återigen en mjuk tandborste användas. Genom att skölja och polera får silver sin glans tillbaka.

Här hittar du några fler råd om hur man kan rengöra silver, om allt ovan inte har funkat: klicka här!

Gold price (XAU-SEK)
26152,90 SEK/oz
  
+ 85,20 SEK
Silver price (XAG-SEK)
312,50 SEK/oz
  
+ 2,58 SEK

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