Have you ever pulled out your favorite necklace, only to find it covered in a dull, brown film?
Tarnish is the bane of every jewelry lover’s existence, but fear not!
With the right tools and techniques, you can restore your precious pieces to their former glory. In this post, I’ll explore the different types of jewelry tarnish, the best methods for cleaning tarnished jewelry, and tips for preventing tarnish from forming in the first place. So grab your favorite piece of jewelry and let’s get started!
- Jewelry tarnishes due to a chemical reaction with moisture, acids, and oils.
- To prevent tarnish, store jewelry in a dry place and avoid contact with chemicals.
- Some types of jewelry tarnish easily, while pure gold, platinum, and stainless steel do not.
- Cleaning methods include baking soda, salt, aluminum foil, white vinegar, lemon juice, and anti-tarnish strips.
- Use natural acids like distilled white vinegar or lemon juice to remove tarnish from silver and other metals.
- To prevent tarnish, keep jewelry dry, store it properly, use anti-tarnish strips and slips, and clean it regularly.
Tarnish on Jewelry
Causes of Tarnish on Jewelry
Tarnish is a discoloration that occurs on the surface of metal jewelry when it goes through a chemical change. Moisture in the air, acids and oils on your skin, and even simple oxygen can react with the metals in your jewelry and corrode it over time, causing it to tarnish.
The most common substances that cause the oxidation of jewelry are perfumes, sweat, body oils, deodorants, makeup, and body lotions.
Silver is especially reactive to sulfur, which is found naturally in the air and can also be transferred by direct contact, as it’s produced by our bodies to fight bacteria.
Cleaning Tarnished Jewelry
To remove tarnish from jewelry, you can use a polishing cloth or a mixture of baking soda, salt, and aluminum foil. For regular maintenance, you can gently clean jewelry with warm water and a few drops of dish soap.
Soak your jewelry in the soapy water for a few minutes, rub away any stains with a soft cloth, and then rinse off the soapy water.
To prevent tarnish, it is recommended to store jewelry in a jewelry box that keeps pieces separate and away from direct sunlight and moisture.
If your jewelry is severely tarnished, you can use various methods to remove tarnishing from your jewelry. Here are some methods that you can try:
- Baking Soda and Water: Create a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the tarnished areas of your jewelry. Let it sit for a few minutes and then rinse it off with water.
- Vinegar and Baking Soda: Mix vinegar and baking soda to create a solution. Soak your tarnished jewelry in the solution for 2-3 hours, then rinse it off with water.
- Lemon Juice and Salt: Mix equal parts of lemon juice and salt to create a paste. Apply the paste to your tarnished jewelry and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Rinse it off with water.
Preventing Tarnish on Jewelry
To prevent tarnishing, it is recommended to keep your jewelry dry and avoid contact with moisture, liquids, and chemicals. You can also store your jewelry in an airtight container or use anti-tarnish strips to absorb the pollutants in the surrounding air that cause your jewelry to tarnish over time.
Types of Jewelry Tarnish
Metals That Tarnish
• Brass: An alloy of copper and zinc that will tarnish over time. It can turn from a bright, golden color to a dull, brownish-green color.
• Copper: A highly popular metal in jewelry, copper and its alloys are prone to tarnish when exposed to air and moisture. It takes on a blue-green patina over time, which some people find attractive.
• Sterling silver: A silver alloy comprising 92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% by weight of other metals, typically copper, zinc, and nickel. It tarnishes easily because of the copper content in the alloy which oxidizes when exposed to air and moisture.
• Base metal: Cheap metals like copper are guaranteed to tarnish. They are often used in fashion jewelry and can turn black or green over time.
• Pewter: A soft metal alloy that can tarnish over time. It can turn from a bright, silver color to a dull, grayish-black color.
• Steel: Even stainless steel can tarnish over time. It can turn from a bright, silver color to a dull, grayish color.
Metals That Do Not Tarnish
• Pure gold: Does not tarnish or turn color. It is the most non-reactive of all metals.
• Platinum: Typically used for engagement rings and wedding bands, platinum is stronger and more durable than gold and does not tarnish.
• Stainless steel: Technically, stainless steel can tarnish, but it is highly resistant to tarnishing and corrosion. It is often used in fashion jewelry and watches.
Cleaning Your Jewelry
Not removing tarnish from jewelry can cause permanent damage and discoloration. Dirt, small rocks, and chemicals such as chlorine can also be abrasive and cause permanent damage to jewelry if not cleaned right away.
If jewelry is not cleaned regularly, it can lose its natural beauty and luster.
Therefore, it is important to know what type of jewelry you have and how to clean it properly to avoid damaging it.
Here are some tips for cleaning your jewelry:
• Use a soft, non-abrasive cloth to clean your jewelry. Avoid using paper towels or tissues as they can scratch the surface of your jewelry.
• Use a mild soap and warm water to clean your jewelry. Avoid using harsh chemicals or cleaners as they can damage your jewelry.
• Dry your jewelry thoroughly after cleaning to prevent water spots and tarnishing.
• Store your jewelry in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and moisture. Use a jewelry box or a soft pouch to protect your jewelry from scratches and damage.
Cleaning Tarnished Jewelry
Jewelry is a valuable possession that requires proper maintenance to retain its shine and beauty. Over time, jewelry can become tarnished due to exposure to air, moisture, and chemicals. Tarnish is a layer of corrosion that forms on the surface of jewelry and dulls its appearance.
Fortunately, there are several methods for removing tarnish from jewelry, including:
1. Baking soda, salt, and aluminum foil
Mix one tablespoon salt and one tablespoon of baking soda with one cup warm water. Pour into a dish and add a piece of aluminum foil. The mixture will create a chemical reaction with the foil and bubble as it cleans the jewelry.
Rinse with cool water and buff dry with a clean cloth.
2. White vinegar and water
Combine equal parts white vinegar and water in a bowl. Mix in tarnished jewelry and use a toothbrush to scrub the crevices of the jewelry item.
3. Baking soda and lemon juice
Mix a tablespoon of baking soda with the juice of one lemon. Let your jewelry soak overnight in the mixture, rinse with tap water, and buff dry with a microfiber cloth.
4. Distilled white vinegar
Submerge your jewelry in 2 cups of vinegar in a saucepan. Heat the vinegar to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes. Let the jewelry rest in the vinegar for another 10-15 minutes. Rinse with cool water and buff dry with a clean cloth.
5. Aluminum foil and baking soda
Place a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of a pan. Place the jewelry in the pan and sprinkle baking soda over it. Pour boiling water to cover the jewelry. The tarnish will transfer from the jewelry to the aluminum foil.
Rinse with cool water and buff dry with a clean cloth.
Other Cleaning Solutions
Apart from the above methods, there are several cleaning solutions that can be used to remove tarnish from jewelry. Here are some methods:
- Baking soda, salt, and aluminum foil: Mix one tablespoon salt and one tablespoon of baking soda and mix with one cup warm water. Pour into the dish. The mixture will create a chemical reaction with the foil and bubble as it cleans the jewelry. Rinse with cool water and buff dry with a clean cloth.
- White vinegar and water: Combine one part white vinegar with two parts water in a bowl. Soak the jewelry in the solution for 15-20 minutes, then rinse with cool water and dry with a clean cloth.
- Lemon juice and baking soda: In a small bowl, combine one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar or lemon juice with two tablespoons of baking soda. The mixture will fizz as it cleans the jewelry. Rinse with cool water and buff dry with a clean cloth.
- Water and dish soap: Mix together a solution of water and dish soap. Dip a cloth in the solution and wipe the sudsy water over the jewelry. Rinse with cool water and dry with a clean cloth.
- Lukewarm water and non-abrasive dish soap: Create a cleaning solution of lukewarm water and non-abrasive dish soap. Dip a soft cloth in the solution and rub the jewelry to remove the tarnish. Rinse with cool water and pat dry with a microfiber cloth.
Tools and Tips for Cleaning Jewelry
Jewelry is meant to be worn and enjoyed, but over time, it can become tarnished and dull. Fortunately, with the right tools and tips, you can restore your jewelry’s shine and keep it looking beautiful.
Here are some tools and products that can be used to clean tarnished jewelry:
- Distilled white vinegar or lemon juice: These natural acids can be used to remove tarnish from silver and other metals. Soak your jewelry in a mixture of one part vinegar or lemon juice to three parts water for a few hours, then rinse and dry thoroughly.
- Dish soap: A gentle dish soap can be used to clean most types of jewelry. Mix a few drops of soap with warm water and use a soft toothbrush to gently scrub your jewelry. Rinse and dry thoroughly.
- Baking soda: Baking soda is a mild abrasive that can be used to remove tarnish from silver and other metals. Mix a small amount of baking soda with water to form a paste, then use a soft cloth or toothbrush to gently rub your jewelry. Rinse and dry thoroughly.
- Jewelry cleaning kit: A jewelry cleaning kit typically includes a solution and a brush that can be used to clean most types of jewelry. Follow the instructions on the kit carefully.
- Ultrasonic cleaner: An ultrasonic cleaner uses high-frequency sound waves to clean jewelry. It is important to note that some jewelry requires special cleaning care and should not be placed into ultrasonic cleaners or be exposed to the heat of a steam cleaner. If you are unsure about how to clean your jewelry, it is best to leave the cleaning up to a professional jeweler who can assess the piece.
- Polishing cloths: A polishing cloth can be used to remove tarnish from silver and other metals. Simply rub the cloth over your jewelry to restore its shine.
- Weiman silver polish: Weiman silver polish is a popular product that can be used to clean and polish silver jewelry. Follow the instructions on the package carefully.
- Steam cleaners: Steam cleaners use heat and pressure to clean jewelry. It is important to note that some jewelry requires special cleaning care and should not be exposed to the heat of a steam cleaner. If you are unsure about how to clean your jewelry, it is best to leave the cleaning up to a professional jeweler who can assess the piece.
- Sonic cleaners: Sonic cleaners use high-frequency sound waves to clean jewelry. It is important to note that some jewelry requires special cleaning care and should not be placed into sonic cleaners. If you are unsure about how to clean your jewelry, it is best to leave the cleaning up to a professional jeweler who can assess the piece.
Cleaning Guidelines for Your Jewelry
The frequency of cleaning jewelry to prevent tarnish buildup depends on the type of metal used, how the jewelry is stored, and how often it is worn. Here are some general guidelines:
- Frequently worn jewelry should be cleaned at least monthly or more often if the finish begins to look dull.
- Clean all types of metal jewelry immediately if it is exposed to excessive dirt, grease, or harsh chemicals like chlorine bleach.
- For silver and other metals, it is recommended to polish the pieces from time to time to avoid tarnishing.
- Gold jewelry doesn’t tarnish as quickly or easily as silver, but if it is worn often, it may need cleaning once a month.
- Too much cleaning can ruin finishes or weaken settings, while too little cleaning won’t maintain the jewelry’s appearance over time.
- Ultrasonic cleaners can be a smart addition to an at-home jewelry care regime, but it is important to note that ultrasonic vibrations will clean silver, but will not remove tarnish on their own.
- The frequency of ultrasonic cleaners ranges from 15 kilohertz (kHz) to 400 kilohertz (kHz), and 40 kilohertz (kHz) is a good frequency for most jewelry cleaning needs.
Polishing Jewelry: The Key to Tarnish Removal
When it comes to cleaning your jewelry, polishing is an essential step that should not be overlooked. Not only does it remove tarnish, but it also restores the shine and luster of your precious pieces.
Polishing involves using a special cloth or polishing compound to gently rub away any dirt, grime, or oxidation that has built up on the surface of your jewelry.
But why is polishing so important for tarnish removal? Well, tarnish is caused by a chemical reaction between the metal in your jewelry and the air around it.
Over time, this reaction can create a layer of dark, dull discoloration on the surface of your jewelry.
Polishing helps to remove this layer and reveal the bright, shiny metal underneath.
So, if you want to keep your jewelry looking its best, make sure to include polishing as part of your regular cleaning routine.
Your pieces will thank you for it!
For more information:
Polishing Jewelry: Importance, Methods & Mistakes
Preventing Tarnish on Jewelry
Jewelry is an investment, and it’s important to take care of it to keep it looking its best. One of the biggest problems with jewelry is tarnishing. Tarnishing is a natural process that occurs when the metal reacts with sulfur, a chemical found in the air, wool, and foods such as onions and eggs.
Here are some tips for preventing tarnish on jewelry:
Keep it dry
- The fastest way to tarnish your jewelry is by contact with moisture and liquids. This includes putting on lotions, washing your hands, a spritz of perfume, and sweating with your jewels on. Even the oils on your skin can wear down the plating and metals over time. To prevent this, make sure to remove your jewelry before engaging in any activities that may cause it to get wet.
Store it properly
- Make sure to keep costume jewelry separate from semi-fine and fine jewelry to prevent tarnish. Store your jewelry in a dry place, away from moisture and direct sunlight. You can also use anti-tarnish bags or pouches to store your jewelry.
Use anti-tarnish strips
- Get some 3M anti-tarnish strips. These super absorbent pieces of paper will basically suck all of the culprits in the surrounding air that will cause your jewelry to tarnish over time. Stick one in your jewelry drawer, jewelry box, or storage.
Clean it regularly
- Wipe your jewelry with a soft cloth each day after wearing it to remove any oils or dirt that may have accumulated on it. Use a polishing cloth or a soft toothbrush dipped in a mixture of mild dishwashing liquid and water to clean your jewelry. Dry your jewelry really well after cleaning so there’s no water left over on the metal.
Use anti-tarnish slips
- To further prevent tarnishing, you can add anti-tarnish slips into your ziplock bags or other containers. These slips are small and can be placed in your jewelry box or storage container to help prevent tarnishing.
Special Precautions for Cleaning Jewelry
Yes, there are special precautions to take when cleaning certain types of jewelry. Here are some tips:
Avoid using chlorine or abrasive cleaners
- Avoid using chlorine or products that contain it, as well as abrasive cleaners, toothpaste, or toothpowder, which can scratch the metals (gold, platinum, (along with others)).
Check components and finished jewelry for loose gemstones
- Before using a liquid jewelry cleaning dip, steam cleaner, or ultrasonic cleaner, check components and finished jewelry for loose gemstones.
Don’t wear pearls over areas with freshly applied lotion or perfume
- Don’t wear pearls over areas with freshly applied lotion or perfume (especially those with citrus scents), as the citric acid in these scents can eat away at pearls.
Remove jewelry before engaging in certain activities
- Before swimming, strenuous activities, applying sunscreen or bug spray, or going into a hot tub or swimming pool, remove your jewelry to avoid damage from salt water, chlorine, lotion, and dirt.
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and mild soap to clean jewelry
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and mild soap to clean jewelry, and rinse with clean water and dry with a soft cloth.
Soak gold jewelry in lukewarm water with a few drops of dish soap
- For gold jewelry, soak it in a solution composed of lukewarm water with a few drops of dish soap, and use a dampened soft toothbrush to clean it.
Be careful when cleaning gemstones
- Be careful when cleaning gemstones, as some cleaners may hurt them. Ammonia-based cleaners clean diamonds and gold well but may hurt other gemstones.
Concluding thoughts and considerations
As we come to the end of this article on tarnish removal, I can’t help but wonder – why do we put so much value on shiny, untarnished jewelry? Is it because we believe that the worth of the piece is directly proportional to its shine? Or is it because we’ve been conditioned to believe that anything less than perfect is unacceptable?
Perhaps it’s time to challenge these beliefs and embrace the imperfections that come with age and wear.
After all, isn’t it the unique character and history of a piece that makes it truly valuable? Instead of constantly striving for perfection, let’s learn to appreciate the beauty in the flaws.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we should neglect our jewelry and let it become completely tarnished.
But maybe we can approach cleaning and maintenance with a different mindset – not as a way to restore the piece to its original state, but as a way to preserve its story and character.
So the next time you’re cleaning your tarnished jewelry, take a moment to appreciate the imperfections and the memories they hold.
And who knows, maybe you’ll find that the tarnish adds a certain charm and uniqueness to the piece that you never noticed before.
Looking for a new Ultrasonic jewelry cleaner?
Choosing a gadget can be very difficult if you know nothing about the technology.
Some will pay for features they do not need while others may not consider what they really want.
So I created this quick, newbie guide to help you focus on what is really important to you:
The Best Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaners (For You!)
Best Practices For Using Ultrasonic Cleaners For Jewelry
Tip: Turn on the caption button if you need it. Choose ‘automatic translation’ in the settings button if you are not familiar with the english language. You may need to click on the language of the video first before your favorite language becomes available for translation.
Links and references
- 1. Blue Buddha Boutique’s 10 tips for cleaning metal jewelry
- 2. Canadian Conservation Institute’s note on removing tarnish from silver
- 3. ResearchGate research paper comparing methods for removing sulphur tarnishing from silver
- 4. Weiman Jewelry Cleaner product
- 5. The New York Times article on cleaning and polishing silver
My article on the topic:
Necklace Cleaning 101: Tips for Safe & Effective Care
Personal reminder: (Article status: rough)