Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry  

Posted by Wear Me Jewels- in , ,

How to clean your Sterling Silver Jewelry with Baking Soda, Salt, and Foil:

These cute peapod earrings are a favorite of mine but after time they can start to lose that shiny silver sparkle to that dreaded enemy of silver - air. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper (which gives it added strength but makes it prone to tarnishing). When exposed to air, sterling silver will tarnish. This occurs more quickly in damp and foggy weather (like Oregon), but is inevitable in any climate.

When cleaning wire wrapped stones and pearls it is often difficult to get between the wires with a silver cleaning cloth so I have found another solution that works great. The one warning that I would give is to be careful of the temperature of the water. Depending on the value and material of the stone/pearl that is wrapped, adjust the temperature down. I would recommend boiling the water, then turning off the heat before adding pearls or soft stones. I have melted one Swarovski pearl by having the heat too high but that has been my only jewelry fatality. So, proceed at your own risk, but in "most" cases you should have excellent results.

Aluminum Foil, Baking Soda, and Salt:
Place a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of a pan, add 2-3 inches of water, 3-4 Tbls. baking soda (or more- you can't really use to much), 1 teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil (disolve the baking soda/salt) and turn heat off. Add silver pieces, making sure the water covers the silver pieces. With a wood or plastic utensil, gently move the pieces around to ensure that all of the silver surfaces come in contact with the aluminum. Remove silver, rinse, dry, and buff with a soft cloth. This method cleans the design and crevices of silver pieces.

Why this works: Sterling silver reacts with moisture to create a layer of tarnish or oxidation on its surface. Baking soda activated by boiling water in the presence of aluminum, will dislodge the tarnish by making it bind with the aluminum, leaving the sterling silver clean and shiny again. The baking soda/aluminum combo pulls sulfur off the silver by a small electrolytic current set up through the "salt bridge". This is why contact with the aluminum is so important. Both Silver and Aluminum loves to accept sulfur, but aluminum does it quicker and will pull atoms of it off the item (reverse electroplating) as long as the electrolytic current remains. The silver is left all alone again. The heat of the water is just a catalyst and makes the reaction occur faster. lThis is the simple, organic way to clean and polish your sterling silver jewelry.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 31, 2008 at Wednesday, December 31, 2008 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Thank you so much for this information. I know this will come in so handy. I have used baking soda and sea salt, but I didn't know about the foil and boiling water. I will have to try this out.


January 11, 2009 at 3:41 PM

Thank you so much...I've been looking for an alternative to dips. Can I assume this will work well on argentium sterling?

rebecca stephenson

March 11, 2009 at 10:35 AM

Post a Comment