How to Clean Tarnished Jewelry: A Natural Recipe That Works!

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II recently came across some old jewelry with a lot of tarnish, and an old recipe for how to clean tarnished jewelry came to me from way back!

I came across some old jewelry that my Mom had left at my place when she moved. While some of it was way outdated, some of them were interesting and unique. But most of them were badly tarnished. I tried cleaning them with soap and water, but only a bit of tarnish came off. Then an old recipe, from when I was much younger, came to me!

What is Tarnish?

Having to clean tarnished jewelry is very common. Tarnish is nothing more than oxidization. When certain materials come in contact with air, especially if humidity is involved. In the case of copper, oxidization turns green. In aluminum, it turns gray. Silver will also turn gray or black. Bronze will turn green like copper. Aluminum and copper are often used in jewelry because they are cheap, lightweight, and easy to coat. You may see something that looks silver, but be copper underneath. Another advantage is that both metals rarely have any allergens. The main disadvantage is the tarnish. But I’ll show you how you can take care of that pretty easily.

Read more about which metals tarnish.

How to Clean Tarnished Jewelry

There are tarnish-removing cloths that you can use on jewelry and other items like silverware. They may work well for large flat objects, but in the case of silverware with intricate designs or jewelry with the same or on chains, you’ll only be able to get to the surface, leaving tarnish between links or deep in crevices. That’s where this recipe can really help. The best part is that it’s not noxious in any way and you probably already have everything you need.

Equipment/Ingredients

  • Aluminum foil or an aluminum pie pan
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 cup water, hot, but not boiling
  • 2 clean towels, 1 fluffy if you can

Instructions

In the bottom of a sink or a container, place the aluminum foil or pie tin. Next, to begin the process to clean tarnished jewelry, add baking soda and salt. If using a sink, make sure the stopper is in place and slowly pour the hot water over the powdered ingredients. Stir the mixture around a little to be sure the baking soda and salt are dissolved. It shouldn’t take long since the water is hot.

Place your jewelry or other items on the foil or pie plate. Now, you’ll need to wait. Some small items can be done in as little as 15 minutes, but some may take a few hours. If you are working with something large, like a vase, you can double or triple the amounts of baking soda, salt, and water. The foil or pie plate can stay the same.

When you see that most of the tarnished jewelry is mostly clean, pull the piece out of the water and rinse it off. Then lay it on the first towel to drip dry. Once it dries most of the way, take the fluffy cloth (terry cloth works great) and buff the item dry. Be sure to work in deep crevices, and in between links on chains. If you see a lot of tarnish between the links on the chain, return it to the solution to soak for a bit longer. Eventually, all the tarnish will come off.

When you have cleaned all of your items, simply drain the sink and toss the aluminum into the recycling. Pie plates and foil both recycle well. Keep your jewelry in a clean, dry place.

Avoid Having to Clean Tarnished Jewelry

There are a few things you can do to prevent jewelry from becoming tarnished in the first place.

  1. Keep your items dry. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. I don’t use air conditioning in my home, so the humidity creeps in. And in older homes, basements, and closets that have a lot of humidity.
  2. You won’t have to clean tarnished jewelry if you store your items in an enclosed container. Small jars, zip-top bags, and shoe boxes that seal are all ways to keep the air out of your things.
  3. Use an anti-tarnish cloth. They contain tiny particles of silver that catch tarnish before they can latch onto your things.
  4. Wear something else. If jewelry is worn constantly, tarnish can develop. Try a different necklace or ring.
  5. Clean them often. By cleaning your things often, tarnish won’t have a chance to build up.

Homemade Jewelry Cleaner

Note: You may also want to check our recipe for homemade jewelry cleaner.

Now you know how to clean tarnished jewelry, and silverware, naturally!

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About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor, and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon!

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Comments

  1. Debra Maslowski says

    Hi Pam, I wouldn’t use this type of cleaner with turquoise, either the stone or inlaid with resin. It could damage it. I would try a soft silver cloth on the metal areas instead.

  2. Pam says

    Sooooo…. I have silver jewelry with inlaid turquoise. Would that be ok or possibly cause damage to turquoise? Really want to try this. Thanks

  3. Angela says

    I actually don’t completely clean the tarnish on silver jewelry any more….as you pointed out, when you clean silver in the classic way, tarnish can remain in the folds and crevaces. I find that it enhances my silver jewelry, gives it a pleasant antique look, but that is my personal prefernce….

  4. Angela says

    Yes Monica, the salt and baking soda have a chemical reaction with the aluminium (oh, just in case you think that this is a spelling error: it is the original English name for what became aluminum in the US) and that’s what cleans the silver….

  5. Monica says

    Thanks for this! Is there a reason that foil is recommended as opposed to a bowl or other small container?