This article will teach you how to polish silver at home with homemade silver polish and silver polishing cloth. It includes everyday silver polishing tips to prevent tarnishing, as well as heavy silver cleaning guide for tarnished silver.
In my previous article on why sterling silver tarnishes, I have provided a guide on how to keep silver from tarnishing. This post is a comprehensive guide on how to polish silver jewelry to prevent further tarnish and recover tarnished silver.
HOW TO POLISH STERLING SILVER EVERYDAY TO PREVENT TARNISHING – LIGHT CLEANING
To keep their shine, silver should be regularly polished, ideally everyday after you take them off (and you should be taking them off everyday). If everyday is too much, such light cleaning should be at least weekly if you wear the jewelry a lot or monthly if you don’t.
Take this light cleaning as a preventive measure. Polishing silver is pretty simple and fast if you have a chemically treated silver polishing cloths, which you can get pretty cheap from Amazon.
How to polish silver necklace
1. To polish the charm of a necklace or bracelet, use the cloth to wipe the pendant back and forth in a singular direction.
2. When polishing sterling silver necklace chain, remember to rub gently or you might break it.
How to polish silver ring
1. To polish silver ring or cuff bracelet, clean the inside and outside of the piece with a firm hand.
2. Polish silver jewelry with the cloth’s inside first, then lightly buff it with the outside to create a rich luster.
It is important to use chemically treated cloth for sterling silver ONLY. This cloth is not suitable for silver-plated / gold-plated / gold-filled jewelry as it will damage them. For these types of jewelry, just use a regular, soft piece of cloth.
HOW TO POLISH TARNISHED SILVER – HEAVY CLEANING
If the silver has already lost the shine and started to look dirty with black spots, it is already tarnished. A quick, light cleaning as described will be of hardly any use to bring the silver back. In this case, I’d recommend bringing your silver jewelry piece to a jewelry store or repair shop for a professional cleaning.
Polishing heavily tarnished silver is a multi-step process that only the pros will have the equipment and expertise to deal with properly. First, they will use a radical wheels with sandpaper/felt tips to scrape off the outer tarnished layer. Next, a mounted felt wheel will buff the silver and restore the shine. Finally, the jewelers will use an ultrasonic machine to clean off any dust residue.
This sophisticated process is the reason why polishing silver at home can never achieve the same result as cleaning done by a professional jewellers. On top of that, professional silver polishing doesn’t cost much. Therefore, if you are given a choice, the best solution for tarnished silver is to bring them for professional check up and care once in a while.
If your area doesn’t have a convenient place to maintain your jewelry, you can try to perform a heavy silver cleaning at home. It can be done to a certain extent with the right equipment, but you will need to be very careful not to ruin your jewelry.
Next, I will explain how to polish silver jewelry at home as well as rate the most popular homemade silver cleaners used in removing tarnish.
HOW TO CLEAN SILVER JEWELRY AT HOME – MODERATE CLEANING
If you have to clean your silver jewelry at home, it’s best to invest in some specialized tools to get the job done.
Cleaning with commercial silver polished
You could find a number of polish solutions that are specially formulated to clean silver items. It shall be a polish brand that that is not too abrasive to avoid damaging your silver. Here’s an abrasion ratings guide for silver polish:
1. Before polishing, use a damp cloth to wipe down the silver jewelry using a mild detergent solution. Dry it carefully.
2. Wear plastic gloves when handling the polish.
3. The correct way to apply the polish is to dampen a soft cotton cloth with the solution, then use it on the silver. Do not soak the item in the solution because leaving it for too long can damage the item.
4. Rub the solution on the silver surface using a gentle circular motion until the tarnish is removed and you start to see the shine.
5. It is important that the polish is completely removed with a clean, damp cloth when finished.
Cleaning with jewelry cleaner
For a quick touch up of jewelry that have lost its shine but not quite damaged yet, this cleaner works extremely well. All you have to do is put the jewelry into the drip tray, leave it there for up to 30 seconds, run the provided brush over the item, and rinse the jewelry under lukewarm water.
Cleaning with tools
For a quick clean, when corrosion is not too bad, an ultrasonic tank like this one is a great choice:
Not only can you clean your jewelry in this tank but other items like eyeglasses, watches, razors etc. as well. No chemical or hard scrubbing is needed. Just use water and let the microscopic bubble do their thing.
You can also look at purchasing a brush cleaner, which will clean mildly rusting area effectively. Give the bottom of the brush a twist, then glide it back and forth over the item until it shines.
Using all of the above (polish, cleaner, tank and brush) will work almost as good as bringing your jewelry to the repair store. Hence, if you have a lot of silverware to clean, it might be worth investing in these tools.
If you are in a time crunch and just really want a quick fix, or just can’t justify spending on proper silver polish tools and liquids, there are certain homemade silver cleaner solutions that you can draw up quickly and cheaply. However, each of them come with certain pros and cons, and bear in mind that sometimes it might damage your jewelry if not used carefully.
HOW TO CLEAN SILVER JEWELRY AT HOME USING HOMEMADE SILVER CLEANER
Polish silver with baking soda and foil
Note: As a professional jeweller, I do not recommend using this method because it could potentially damage the silver. That is because the baking soda can be very abrasive to certain metal surfaces. Make sure the jewelry do not include materials such as turquoise, pearls, or shells as they will dissolve in baking soda solution.
If the item is especially valuable, consider having it professionally cleaned.
1. Bring 1 litre of water, one tablespoon of baking soda and one piece of aluminum foil to a boil. Drop the silver jewelry in the pot for 10 seconds (longer if the tarnish is bad), then remove using kitchen tongs.
2. If the tarnish persists, make a thick paste with 1/4 cup baking soda and two tablespoons of water. Apply on the silver using a damp sponge, then rinse with water and dry.
Clean silver jewelry at home with vinegar
Another popular homemade silver polish is white vinegar. It will take a fair bit more time than any of the solutions mentioned above:
1. Place your jewelry in a clean jar.
2. Pour white vinegar in the jar until the jewelry is completely immersed.
3. Let it sit for 2-3 hours, depending on how tarnished the silver is. Then, rinse and dry the jewelry.
Other homemade silver polish should generally be avoided because they can actually damage the silver. These include many house products that you might have heard of as silver cleaner such as toothpaste, laundry detergent, chalk, lemon juice etc.
All in all, although homemade silver cleaner is fast and convenient to prepare, it can’t compare to commercial or professional silver cleaner in terms of effectiveness.
Did you enjoy this silver care blog series? What else would you like to learn? Comment below or just send an email to [email protected].