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How to clean silver tarnish

Like most metals, silver tends to tarnish over time. The process of oxidation and contact with air is the culprit for this natural phenomenon.

To slow the process of tarnishing, we should prevent handling a piece of jewelry with excessive oily or sweaty hands. Wipe your piece with a clean, dry and soft piece of fabric. I simply cut away a piece from a clean old cotton t-shirt if I am away from my workshop.

For long-term storage, we should put the jewelry inside an airtight plastic bag to keep the moisture in the air out. Plastic film or treated paper will work as well. Do not use rubber bands on the jewelry, as rubber will attack your jewelry quickly.

However, sooner or later, a piece of silver or silver plated jewelry will tarnish over time. Some like the patinas that develop over age, but if you wish to bring back the high shine, you will need to clean the tarnishing.

Easiest way to do that is to use any main brand household cleaning compound like Tarn-X. Follow the directions from the manufacturers carefully as these chemicals can be powerful. Take care not to disturb the rhinestone settings as the stones might fall out if handled roughly. If your piece have plastic or other resin ornaments, proceed with care and avoid getting into contact with harsh chemicals.

However, reaching small crevices with cleaning paste can be difficult. If you need to clean a heavily tarnished piece down to every nook and corner, my best experience is to use a method involving aluminum foil, salt and water. Proceed with care at your own risk as you may cause more harm to the jewelry if not handled properly.

The method involves placing a piece of aluminum foil at the bottom of a pan that can hold a few inches of water and large enough to fully submerse your jewelry. Add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking soda to the water. Bring the solution to a boil and then fully submerse your jewelry piece into the solution. Do not use high heat, but keep the solution just below boiling for 3 minutes. Then you can take out the jewelry, thoroughly rinse it in cold water, and dry it completely with a soft cotton cloth. The trick is not to over heat any plastic parts on your jewelry with high heat from the stove. Otherwise the plastic parts will become soft and go out of shape. Once again, avoid rough handling that will loosen the stones.