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How to Clean Tarnished Jewelry?

September 19th, 2022

Over time, metal jewelry made of copper or silver will tarnish. These metals’ chemical makeup makes them prone to oxidation from the oxygen and sulfur in the atmosphere. Even regular maintenance cannot prevent some tarnish from building up.

Pure gold jewelry and platinum never tarnish, but jewelry marketed as gold or platinum will often contain metals, such as copper or nickel, to make them more workable or increase their durability. These base metals will tarnish.

While some people enjoy the patina that gives their jewelry an antique appearance, restoring your silver and copper jewelry to its original shine is easy. A few simple at-home methods can remove tarnish from copper or silver jewelry pieces, so your precious metals can look as good as new.

How to Clean Tarnished Silver

Silver is a soft metal, rating just 2.5 on the Mohs hardness scale. So, it is vital to remove the tarnish gently without damaging the silver underneath. Keeping it in a jewelry box would also help to keep it in good condition. Here are three at-home methods you can try that will gently restore your sterling silver to its original quality.

 

  • 1. Baking Soda Method

Ideal for heavily tarnished sterling silver jewelry, mix three parts baking soda and one part water to make a paste.

Dab a soft, lint-free microfiber cloth in the paste and gently rub the tarnish in small circular motions. Use a new, clean part of the cloth on each area. 

Rinse with room temperature water, dry thoroughly, and buff with a polishing cloth infused with a protectant to restore its shine. 

Person polishes jewelry
  • 2. The Dish Soap Method

For light tarnish, put a few drops of mild dish cleaning liquid (like Dawn) in warm tap water. Dip a clean cloth in the soapy water and wipe away any tarnish. Rinse any remaining soap or tarnish with cool water, and buff dry with a soft cloth.

 

  • 3. The Toothpaste Method

Toothpaste has excellent stain-fighting properties. Put a pea-sized dab of any standard toothpaste on a soft-bristled toothbrush. Gently scrub the paste on tarnished areas, and work it into crevices. Thoroughly rinse with warm water and dry with a soft cloth.

Person cleans jewelry with a toothbrush

How to Clean Copper Jewelry

Copper has been used to make jewelry for millennia and is treasured for its beautiful luster. Unfortunately, it tarnishes quickly, as copper reacts readily with atmospheric oxygen. If your copper has begun to tarnish, try one of these three methods to restore its original color.

  • 1. Baking Soda and Lemon Juice

Mix a tablespoon of baking soda with the juice of one lemon. Let your jewelry soak overnight in the mixture, rinse with tap water, and buff dry with a microfiber cloth. 

  • 2. Distilled White Vinegar

Vinegar is an excellent natural cleaner. Submerge your jewelry in 2 cups of vinegar in a saucepan. Heat the vinegar to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes. Let the jewelry rest in the vinegar overnight, then clean off tarnish with a soft-bristle toothbrush. Rinse with room temperature water and buff with a soft cloth. 

  • 3. Tomato Ketchup

Ketchup is an excellent mild cleaner. The acid from the tomatoes can remove the tarnish without damaging the copper underneath. Cover your jewelry in ketchup and rub the tarnished areas with your fingers. If areas are challenging to clean, use a hard cloth or toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and dry with a soft, lint-free cloth.

Keep Your Wedding Jewelry Safe with BriteCo™

In addition to keeping your jewelry tarnish-free, you should protect it from damage, theft, and breakage. Fine jewelry worn at events like weddings is particularly liable to scratches, knicks, or loss

BriteCo™ offers wedding insurance to give you peace of mind on your Big Day. Protect rented jewelry from wedding cancellation or postponement fees for as little as $359.83, or protect all guests’ jewelry against theft for as little as $125.95. 

Contact BriteCo today to learn more about their easy, affordable wedding insurance and make sure your special day is protected.

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About the Author

Rachel Akmakjian is Director of Jeweler Relations for BriteCo. She has more than eight years’ experience in jewelry marketing, retail, diamond wholesale, and managing her own company that specializes in creating custom jewelry pieces. Rachel is currently a student at the Gemological Institute of America, on track to receive her Graduate Gemology certificate by the end of this year. Her education and experiences have given her an in-depth understanding of the demands and expectations facing jewelers and customers in today’s evolving retail marketplace.
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