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Silver-plated jewelry is attractive and lustrous, but over time it tends to lose its luster and become tarnished. This happens when the silver reacts with moisture and air leading it to oxidize. To restore the piece to its original shine, the jewelry needs to be properly cleaned and taken care of.
Silver-plate refers to a thin layer of silver that has been coated onto a base metal to make it appear like solid silver. Unlike silver, cleaning silver-plated jewelry requires more care as the plating has potential to get damaged, exposing the metal underneath.
Here are some ways you can get rid of the tarnish and restore the silver-plated pieces back to their former glory, without damaging the silver-plate.
Light Cleaning – Soap and Water
If your silver-plated items are showing some signs of tarnish and require a light clean, using plain old soap and water can restore its shine.
- Use a mild liquid soap and warm water to create a foamy solution in a container. Submerge the jewelry in the water for several minutes.
- Using a soft cloth, rub the items, taking care to cover all surfaces. If the jewelry has lots of grooves or elaborate engravings, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to get the dirt out of those areas.
- Once clean, rinse the items in warm water.
- Wipe with a lint-free cloth thoroughly and make sure the jewelry is properly dried before you store them away.
Light Cleaning – Jewelry Polishing Cloth
Choose a good quality jewelry cleaning cloth that will clean dirt and tarnish as well as give the pieces a shine when polished. Buff your jewelry in between deeper cleans to maintain its luster. You can also give your silver-plated jewelry a quick polish after wearing them to remove any body oils, chemicals or pollutants that may be present. These can accelerate tarnishing. However, remember to be very gentle with the plating and wipe the piece softly, without scrubbing it.
Deep Cleaning – Aluminum Foil and Baking Soda
This method is perfect if the silver-plated jewelry is heavily tarnished. It is almost guaranteed to remove tarnish and restore the luster of the silver. What’s more, this method is gentle on the silver plating because it doesn’t require any contact with the plating. Rather, it allows the chemical process that caused the tarnish to simply reverse itself.
- Use an aluminum pan or alternately line a glass bowl with aluminum foil for this method. Make sure the shiny side of the aluminum foil faces upwards.
- Add equal parts of baking soda and salt (roughly around 1 tablespoon each) to the bowl.
- Add sufficient hot water into the bowl to dissolve the powders.
- Submerge your silver-plated jewelry in the solution and leave it for several minutes. If required, add more water so that the jewelry is properly submerged.
- You will notice black and yellow flakes floating away from the jewelry. This is the sulfur, which is what causes the oxidization in the silver, getting attracted to the foil and breaking away from the surfaces of the jewelry.
- When you feel the tarnish has mostly come off the silver, take the pieces out and rub with a lint-free cloth or a paper towel.
- Rinse the silver-plated items in warm running water and dry thoroughly with a lint-free cloth.
Here’s a video that demonstrates how to do this:
Commercial Silver-Plate Jewelry Cleaner
You can opt to buy a commercial cleaner that works on silver-plated jewelry, but these won’t necessarily be more effective than the methods mentioned above. Choose a cleaner that is labelled for use on silver-plated jewelry such as this one. This will ensure that you don’t inadvertently damage your jewelry.
How to Store Silver-Plated Jewelry
Before storing away silver-plated jewelry, make sure that it has been dried thoroughly. Because exposure to air and moisture is what causes silver to tarnish, always store silver in a cool, dry area.
Place the jewelry in an airtight bag, such as a plastic Ziploc bag, as this will reduce interaction with air, slowing down the rate of tarnish. Wrap your silver-plate jewelry in anti-tarnish paper before you seal it away as an extra step of caution.
Avoid wearing silver-plated jewelry when exposed to chemicals such as chlorine, bleach or household detergents. These are harsh chemicals that can damage the jewelry. Always remove the jewelry when swimming in heavily chlorinated pools or doing household chores. Even body oils can cause silver to tarnish, so wipe your silver-plated jewelry and keep it clean.
Scrubbing silver plating with an abrasive cloth or cleaner may remove the tarnish but it may also damage the plating, causing it to flake off. Always choose a mild cleaner and soft cloths, as silver plating is quite delicate.
Toothpaste has good cleaning properties but it is not recommended for use on silver plating, as it can contain silica which is highly likely to scratch silver plating. If you must, choose a smooth gel toothpaste.
While silver plated jewelry requires regular cleaning to keep it sparkling, it is very easy to restore your pieces and make them look as good as new. You can always have your jewelry re-plated once the plating wears thin or flakes off. You can try your hand at doing it yourself with a DIY silver-plating kit or take it to a professional for best results.