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Cleaning Sterling Silver

Clean Your Sterling Silver for Optimum Shine

Making your sterling silver jewelry sparkle and gleam like new can be simple and easy with a few quick tricks and a little knowledge. Sterling silver is a rather soft metal alloy that is easily scratched, so treat your jewelry carefully and use soft, clean, 100 percent cotton cloths to gently polish the silver. Of course, it's best if you get in the habit of routinely polishing your jewelry, but tarnishing is a natural reaction of the sterling silver's exposure to air, and it's easily removed in most cases.

To treat light tarnishing, mix a small amount of baking soda or liquid detergent in warm water and gently rub it on your sterling jewelry. The goal is to mildly clean the tarnish away so you should avoid using anything potentially abrasive like toothpaste or a cloth with residue. Once the jewelry is clean, try a silver spray polish that makes your jewelry sparkle anew.

Commercial Cleansers Address Moderate Tarnish
For moderate tarnish, most local hardware and department stores sell commercial silver cleansers that work nicely. Place a few drops on your clean, soft cloth and rub the cleanser over the tarnished spots for the best results. Again, follow up the cleaning with a little polish for a like-new gleam.

Eliminating Heavy Tarnish
There are a couple of good cleaning options for pieces that are heavily tarnished. Apply sterling silver paste cleaner to the silver portions only and allow the paste to dry. Carefully wipe off the paste, and your silver should shine like new. Ultrasonic cleaners are also adept at cleaning extensively tarnished all-sterling silver pieces. Beware, though, both the paste cleaner and ultrasonic devices can damage gemstones. Never place a piece of jewelry in an ultrasonic cleaner if it has an inset stone and never apply the paste cleaner to the stone itself.

Maintaining the Shine
To keep your sterling silver jewelry from tarnishing quickly once it's shining again, wrapped in a tarnish-prevention cloth or bag and store it in a cool, dry spot. The treated cloth and bags prevent your jewelry from scraping up against other, harder jewelry and slows tarnishing.

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