Effective Ways to Clean Sterling Silver

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To restore the sparkle of your sterling silver, you need to remove tarnish and polish it. Sterling silver tarnishes when exposed to sulfurs and chlorides in the air, resulting in a yellowish cast. Neglecting to clean the tarnish will cause it to turn brown and eventually turn dark and iridescent purple/black. To avoid this, clean your silver frequently with light cleaning. If you use your silver often and clean it carefully, you won’t have to remove tarnish frequently. Note that silver is a soft metal, so handle it with care [source: BishopMuseum].

Here are some ways to clean sterling silver:

  1. Wash your silver with non-lemon-scented dish soap to remove gritty or greasy dust and dirt. Dry and buff the silver with a soft, clean cloth.
  2. Remove light tarnish with a non-abrasive, unscented aloe-free hand sanitizer like Purell or Windex with vinegar. Moisten a large cotton ball and gently rub the tarnish. Dry with a cotton dish towel.
  3. Use a special “polishing cloth” to remove light tarnish.
  4. Remove darker tarnish with a commercial silver cleaner. Avoid copper or brass products as they may scratch the silver [source: BishopMuseum].
  5. Use electrochemical (galvanic) reduction to remove tarnish. Submerge an aluminum plate in warm baking soda solution and let silver touch the plate. This method may cause scratches and silver cleaned this way may tarnish quickly.
  6. Remove tarnish inside a teapot or coffeepot with a five-minute denture cleaning tablet. Fill the pot with warm water, add the tablet, and submerge the tarnished silver. Rinse with warm water [source: Herman].

Prevent tarnish by avoiding contact with salt, lemon, egg, mustard, mayonnaise, and rubber. Store sterling silver in acid-free tissue or a sealed polyethylene plastic bag to prevent tarnish [source: estes-simmons].


1. What is the best way to clean sterling silver?

The best way to clean sterling silver is to use a soft cloth and a silver cleaning solution. First, rinse the silver in warm water to remove any dirt or debris. Then, apply the silver cleaning solution to the cloth and gently rub the silver until it shines. Finally, rinse the silver in warm water and dry with a soft cloth. Avoid using abrasive materials, such as steel wool or brushes, as they can scratch the silver and cause damage.

2. Can I use baking soda to clean sterling silver?

Yes, baking soda is a great natural cleaner for sterling silver. Mix a small amount of baking soda with water to create a paste and apply it to the silver using a soft cloth. Rub the silver gently, making sure to cover all areas. Rinse the silver in warm water and dry with a soft cloth. This method is ideal for removing tarnish and bringing back the shine to your silver.

3. Is it safe to put sterling silver in the dishwasher?

No, it is not recommended to put sterling silver in the dishwasher. The high temperature and harsh chemicals can cause damage to the silver and leave it looking dull. It is best to wash sterling silver by hand using a mild dish soap and warm water. Dry the silver immediately with a soft cloth to prevent water spots.

4. How often should I clean my sterling silver?

The frequency of cleaning sterling silver depends on how often it is used and how quickly it tarnishes. In general, it is a good idea to clean sterling silver at least once every few months to maintain its shine and prevent tarnish buildup. If you notice that your silver is looking dull or discolored, it is time to clean it.

5. Can I wear sterling silver in the shower or while swimming?

No, it is not recommended to wear sterling silver in the shower or while swimming. Chlorine and other chemicals in the water can cause damage to the silver and cause it to tarnish or discolor. It is best to remove sterling silver jewelry before getting in the water and to store it in a dry place when not in use.

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