Care and Maintenance
When silver is exposed to sulfur-containing gases in the air, it discolours and then darkens as it reacts with the gas to form a surface layer of tarnish. High humidity levels, air pollution and contact with chemicals found in deodorant, hairspray, lotions, perfume, and bleach can also cause tarnishing.
Silver Cleaning Mistakes to Avoid
Understand that silver is a soft metal. It is affected by high heat and strong pressure. A few things to keep in mind when caring for silver include:
- Use a soft clean cloth when polishing.
- Use a soft bristle brush only on decorated areas, not on the smooth sections, as this could cause scratching.
- Never put sterling silver in the dishwasher. This is too harsh of an environment for this soft metal.
- Never place next to stainless steel as this will cause discolorations.
How Often Should You Polish Silver?
Frequency will vary depending on how you store it and where you live. Higher humidity locations tend to cause silver to tarnish more quickly.
How Do You Know When Silver Should Be Polished?
Knowing when you need to polish your silver is easy to see. Tarnish is a visible change that is easy to see. Clean the items prior to each use based on visible tarnishing.
How to Keep Silver From Tarnishing
- Keep your sterling silver away from wood. Keep away from any chemically treated surfaces, particularly surfaces made of wood if it has been stained or treated which speed up the tarnishing process.
- Store your sterling silver away from sunlight. Keep it out of direct sunlight, in a cool dry area and away from other jewelry pieces that can cause scratches and damage.
- Store in anti-tarnish bags. It is recommended to store using specialized jewelry storage bags which can be purchased online or at your local jewelry store.
- Store your sterling silver with chalk or Anti-Tarnish strips. Chalk naturally absorbs moisture and chemical residue. Place a piece of chalk or specialized strips when storing in your jewelry box or storage bags.
- Store with silica packs. These are often found inside new shoes, shoe boxes and, sometimes, in clothing. They are used to keep these products moisture free. The next time you find one, keep it and store with your silver to keep it from tarnishing. You can also purchase silica packs.
- Use Anti-Tarnish cloths. This is the most popular way most people keep their jewelry from tarnishing. They work by absorbing sulfur and oxygen in the air and are usually treated to prevent tarnishing. Use them regularly and give your silver jewelry a swipe using these cloths after wearing your jewelry and before storing it away.
If your sterling silver is already tarnished, try to clean it immediately to avoid further tarnishing. Use a polishing cloth made especially for silver or brush (with very soft bristles to reach recessed areas). If the tarnish is beyond repair using a cloth, try a silver wash. If this doesn't work, you can visit your local jeweller who has special equipment to rid silver of tarnish.
While some people may recommend baking soda or toothpaste to rid sterling silver from tarnish, it's not advised as those are too abrasive. You can use this method to clean other jewelry, but not silver. When using commercial silver polish, it's important to follow the instructions on the bottle. Generally, you use circular motions working one area at a time.