Stain Removal

How to Get Rid of Jewelry Tarnish

If you have jewelry made with silver, copper and other semi-reactive materials. Tarnish itself is similar to rust, because both of them are caused by oxidation. Tarnish not only dulls your jewelry, but it also eats it up, although at a slower rate than rust. Since tarnish is typically caused by the chemicals in the air, it’s quite difficult for the ordinary jewelry-owner to prevent it from happening. Should you find yourself dealing with tarnish, there are some remedies that you can try to make your jewelry look like new again.

There are a couple of ways to remove tarnish from jewelry. Some of the methods only call for regular household items, while others call for commercial products specifically made to remove tarnish. Some claim that commercial products are actually bad for you and may cause your jewelry to thin, but the choice to use them or not is entirely up to you. If you don’t want to use commercial products, here are some alternatives you can use.

Baking Soda

This method can be used for jewelry, but if you have a basin big enough to accommodate silverware, you can use this method too.

  1. If you’re removing tarnish from jewelry, line a shallow dish with a piece of aluminum foil. If you’re removing tarnish from silverware, use a basin.
  2. Put the silver items on top of the aluminum foil, making sure that it makes contact with it.
  3. Boil a quart of water in a saucepan. Take it off the heat as soon as it starts boiling. Put it in the sink.
  4. Start slowly adding 1/4 cup’s worth of baking soda in the water. Do this slowly or else you’ll end up with fizzy water. Add a teaspoon at a time, at least.
  5. Once the baking soda‘s all in, pour the mixture in the dish or basin until the silver items are completely immersed in the water. Keep it immersed until you observe that the tarnish has completely been removed. This is a quicker process for silver items that are only lightly processed. A longer soak may be needed for heavily tarnished jewelry. (For other uses of baking soda, read the 75 extraordinary uses for baking soda)

If you want to remove tarnish on isolated areas, you can do a simpler version of the process described above. Simply use a cotton pad with a little baking soda on it or a paste made with water and baking soda, and use it to buff the tarnish off the jewelry.

Vinegar

Vinegar may sound like a smelly way to solve your tarnish problems, but the smell won’t stick around after you’ve rinsed it off. Here’s how you can use vinegar to get rid of jewelry tarnish.

  1. Mix 1/4 cup of vinegar with a teaspoon of salt in a small, shallow dish.
  2. Immerse the jewelry pieces in the the mixture. If you don’t have enough, make more of the mixture using the recommended ratio.
  3. Let the jewelry sit immersed until the tarnish is completely removed. This can be as short as a few minutes or as long as several hours, depending on how tarnished your items are.
  4. Once the tarnish is removed, thoroughly rinse your items under running water. If you don’t rinse your items enough, you might end up with a slightly greenish tinge on them, especially with copper jewelry.
  5. Let your jewelry air-dry completely.

Lemon juice can also be used in the same manner for both copper and silver. Again, be sure you rinse the item thoroughly after cleaning!

Lemon Juice

If you’re not fond of lemons but find yourself dealing with an unwanted amount of lemons in your home, you can use it to clean your tarnished jewelry. Simply juice the lemons until you have enough to immerse your jewelry. Leave your jewelry immersed until the tarnish is completely removed, rinse well and air-dry.

Prevention

The best way to deal with tarnish is prevention. Here are some ways that you can prevent tarnishing in your jewelry.

  1. Store some chalk with your jewelry, replacing it every other month.
  2. Put your jewelry in tightly-sealed plastic bags.
  3. Wrap your silver jewelry in silver tarnish cloth, which is available in most fabric stores.
  4. You can also store no-tarnish strips with your jewelry, but don’t forget to replace them every two months.
  5. After wearing your jewelry, wipe them using a soft, clean cloth before storing them back again.

A Reminder

Precious stones can have an adverse reaction to whatever substance you’re using to get rid of your jewelry’s tarnish. Always test out if the substance doesn’t affect the jewelry by testing it on a small, inconspicuous part first before immersing it.

With just a few reminders and some basic household items, you’ll be able to keep your jewelry looking like new. For more information regarding this article, read how to clean silver and how to clean gold.

About the author

Nicole Harding

4 Comments

  • A friend has jewelry that was in her Safety Deposit box. Evidently someone stored human death remains in a box near hers and her jewelry has very strong odors. Can you suggest odor removal products? Thank you. Joyce

  • I know white vinegar cleans just about anything so i was going to try that but apparently ran out so i used a lemon instead. it didn’t work great so i added some baking soda to an old toothbrush and wow did my jewels sparkle within seconds of touching the brush! i had also tried soap and water prior to trying these and thought it was hopeless, so really, give that ol’ baking soda in the back of your fridge a purpose! i’m SO happy i tried this, thank you for the tips!

  • I’ve just submerged my cheap jewelry from claire’s in vinegar and salt…is it supposed to smell this horrid? I hope this works…I’d like to wear these earrings tomorrow. About how long does it take rid the jewelry of tarnish in the vinegar?

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