Here’s How to Clean Silver Jewelry the Right Way (And Keep It Sparkling for Years to Come)

According to a Professional Jeweler and Cleaner

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Silver jewelry is stunning, always trendy and versatile enough to be dressed up or dressed down. But of course, anyone who’s owned a silver piece will tell you that the precious metal is prone to tarnishing over time and need some extra care to maintain its shine. Luckily, keeping your silver pieces looking their best isn't too difficult with the right know-how. Below, we tapped two experts for everything you need to know about how to clean silver jewelry like a pro, plus some tips on how to prevent tarnish. 

Meet The Experts

  • Simone Walsh is a jewelry designer with more than 20 years of experience and the owner of Simone Walsh Designs, based out of regional South Australia. Walsh began designing jewelry in 1993 before she earned her Bachelor of Visual Arts (Jewelry & Metal) from Sydney College of the Arts in 2000. Since then, she’s opened her own shop where she handworks, finishes and assembles jewelry—and partnered with an ethically run artisan workshop to add components to her designs. 
  • Melissa Maker is the founder of Clean My Space, a housekeeping service based in Toronto, Canada. She’s also the host of YouTube’s CleanMySpace channel, with a growing subscriber count of 1.6 million (in 165 countries) and more than 220 million video views. She dispenses useful, time-saving cleaning tips, tricks and recommendations on everything from developing a daily cleaning routine to cleaning name-brand products.

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What Are the Different Types of Silver

  • Fine silver: Silver in its purest form is known as ‘fine’ or ‘pure silver’ at 99.99 percent. However, because pure silver is generally too soft/not malleable enough to turn into jewelry, it’s often alloyed (aka blended together) with copper. This is what creates sterling silver, with 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5 percent copper.
  • Sterling silver: Again, sterling silver is made up of 92.5 percent pure silver and 7.5 percent copper. This is the most common, high-quality form of silver—and the addition of copper makes it hard and malleable enough to turn it into necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings. All sterling silver pieces are marked and stamped with a .925 or an abbreviation of "sterling" to let you know it's real.
  • Silver-plated: Finally, there’s silver-plated jewelry, which is considered a lower-quality silver (and is therefore much less expensive than sterling). The metal that makes up silver-plated jewelry is not actually silver, but another metal that is then covered with a thin silver plate on top. Depending on the type of metal used, like as copper, these pieces can be pretty durable. But, because it is only a coating, silver-plated jewelry can tarnish easily.

How to Clean Silver Jewelry

Note: The below method works for both sterling silver and silver-plated jewelry. 


  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon white salt
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1 sheet of tinfoil, shiny side up
  • 1 soup bowl 
  • 1 polishing cloth (you can also use a microfiber cloth).


  1. Prep the bowl with foil, salt and baking soda: Boil the water. While it’s simmering, take a piece of tin foil and cover the bottom of the bowl with the foil facing shiny side up. Once the foil is laid flat at the bottom of the bowl, add the salt and baking soda. 
  2. Add boiling water, vinegar and silver: Once the foil and dry ingredients are set, add the boiling water to the bowl, immediately followed by the vinegar. “All that’s left to do is add in your silver. Be sure that each piece actually touches the aluminum foil. That is, as it turns out, the most important part of the recipe,” says Maker. 
  3. Wait five minutes: “The chemical reaction does all the work for you. If you wish, you can flip them over (like burgers on a Q) with salad tongs, just to ensure that both sides get exposure to the tinfoil.”
  4. Remove silver and polish: Take the silver out of the bowl after five minutes and remove any excess with your polishing/microfiber cloth. Per the expert, your pieces should look good as new without any extra cleaning steps needed.

How to Polish Silver Jewelry

“A high-quality silver polishing cloth should be an essential part of your silver cleaning routine,” Walsh starts. “Metal polishing cloths have chemicals embedded in them, which will remove tarnish from the silver. They are also less abrasive than silver polish or cream—especially if you have a quality cloth.” However, “if your silver is badly tarnished, then silver polish or silver cream will be your best friend.” According to Walsh, you want to find one that is specifically intended for use on silver. “Polish that’s intended to work with ‘an array of metals’ is likely to be more abrasive.” 

The best silver polish you can go with is Weiman silver polish, since it quickly removes tarnish—and brings back a shiny finish to the silver—while creating a protective barrier to prevent buildup. “Follow the instructions for your specific silver polish, but generally, you will need a dry soft cloth to dab the polish on before gently rubbing it against your silver jewelry,” Walsh explains. “After initial rinsing, you might like to follow up with a silver dip once most of the tarnish is removed…silver dip won't polish your jewelry, but it will remove tarnish from crevices that are impossible to reach with a cloth or soft brush.” 

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How to Prevent Tarnish on Silver Jewelry

Tarnish on your silver jewelry is normal. “Even the best silver jewelry tarnishes, so don't assume the problem is related to the quality of your piece—or that it’s not made of real silver,” Walsh warns. “If anything, tarnish indicates that it really is silver!” This is because as silver is exposed to gases in the air—especially sulfur —it discolors and darkens as it reacts with the gas. “This is what forms a layer of tarnish on the surface.” 

Still, according to Walsh, there are a few factors that can speed up the tarnishing process. “If you find your silver is tarnishing quickly inside your storage container, then this might indicate that the container is unsuitable and should be switched to something else.” (More on that below.) She also adds, “Many things in your everyday life can cause your silver to tarnish. These include hand creams, perfumes, certain soaps, makeup, chlorine from swimming pools or cleaning chemicals. Even the PH of your skin, or the air around you (especially if it's humid) can cause tarnish.”

So below, three simple tips you can use to help slow down the tarnish process:

  • Wear your silver when you can: Simply wearing silver jewelry regularly can help to keep tarnish at bay—it rubs against your skin and clothing, which can mechanically remove tarnish and grime. “It won't prevent tarnish, but it can help,” Walsh explains. She also adds: “Just be sure to remove silver when showering, swimming and especially when cleaning with harsh chemicals.” Hot tip: you also might want to take it off before applying makeup or skin care products to prevent buildup. 
  • Store it in a small, dry container: Walsh says to avoid storing pieces in jewelry trees or open-air storage solutions “unless you're happy to clean your jewelry quite often.” This is because open-air storage allows dust and household grime to accumulate, making it tarnish ten times quicker. This is doubly true if you live in a humid place or keep your jewelry in a bathroom. As a result, the best place to store your silver is in a small, dry container that doesn't allow free-flowing air to pass through it. “You might also find that putting some humidity-absorbing sachets into such a container will help to slow down tarnish further.”
  • Establish a seasonal cleaning routine: Naturally, you should pay close attention to signs of tarnish—and spot-clean before you reach the point of no return. Still, Walsh says, “When you're wearing certain pieces every day, it can be easy to overlook how increasingly dull and grimy they’re getting.” That’s why she recommends you do a thorough check of your jewelry at least twice a year—and properly clean all of the pieces that need it. “Doing this in spring and autumn when you're transitioning to different clothing is a great routine to get into.” 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Should You Clean Silver Jewelry?

As mentioned above, you don’t need to clean your silver often. You should regularly clean pieces with soap and water a few times a year (when the seasons change). Just keep in mind that the soap should be mild and fragrance-free—and be sure to thoroughly dry each piece afterward to prevent tarnish. Plus, less is more when it comes to polishing—you should only use a polishing cream two to three times for the entire lifetime of the piece. 

What Other Household Ingredients Can You Use to Clean Silver?

Soap and water are the safest bet when it comes to household cleaning ingredients. Otherwise, a mixture of salt, baking soda and vinegar are generally safe (see how to do this in the steps above)—so long as you’re following the proper care instructions to prevent scratching and fading.

What Ingredients Should You Avoid Using to Clean Silver?

According to Walsh, you should avoid the following:

  • Baking soda paste (too abrasive)
  • Toothpaste (also too abrasive)
  • Lemon juice (too acidic and may damage gemstones))
  • Olive oil mixture (leaves a sticky residue that may be difficult to remove)

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Associate Editor

Sydney Meister is PureWow's Associate Editor, covering everything from dating trends and relationship advice (here's looking at you, 'soonicorns') to interior design, beauty...