No matter how well you care for your silver jewelry, serving ware and cutlery, they will naturally tarnish over time. Although silver doesn't require the regular upkeep of more frequently-used household items like bedding and kitchenware, it still needs to be cleaned every so often to maintain its luster and keep heavy tarnish from making it look old and even more difficult to clean.
Your most-worn rings, necklaces and other jewelry pieces may only need a light polishing from time to time, but silver left on display or tucked inside boxes, cabinets and drawers that is used infrequently may require a more intensive clean.
Why does silver tarnish?
It's a chemical reaction from exposure to sulphur in the air and light that causes silver to tarnish, however, jewelry pieces stay bright with regular friction and frequent wear.
How often should you polish silver??
Polishing, while necessary, is abrasive so no matter how delicate your hand, there's no need to go overboard with cleaning — anywhere from two to six times a year usually suffices in most cases.
Follow these steps on how to clean silver from Carolyn Forte, Executive Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, to make it sparkle. Although there are recommended go-to cleaning products that make for a more effective clean, we've also included a few homemade cleaning remedies with basic pantry finds, including dish soap and baking soda, for less expensive cleaning options or to use in a pinch when you find you're out of regular polish.
What you'll need to clean silver:
- Silver Cleaner and Polish
- Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
- Anti-Tarnish Storage Bag
- Dish Soap or Baking Soda
How to clean tarnished silver with polish:
The easiest and most effective way to make silver sparkle is with a targeted silver polish like Good Housekeeping Seal star Weiman Silver Polish. Follow product directions or this step-by-step guide to polish silver properly:
- Put a small amount of silver polish on a clean cloth, dampened if necessary.
- Rub the polish on your item in an up-and-down motion, not circular to avoid highlighting fine scratches.
- Turn the cloth frequently as you work, so tarnish isn't deposited back on your item.
- Wash and rinse in warm water and buff with a clean, dry cloth to shine.
- Silver wipes and cloths are a less messy and more convenient option to liquid polish.
How to clean silver naturally with soap or baking soda:
Without a doubt, targeted polish (mentioned above) is the most effective way to clean silver. But if you're in a pinch, you can turn to your pantry for homemade remedies.
- For silver that is dull, filmy, or not yet discolored, mix a few drops of mild dish soap with warm water and dip in a soft cloth. Rub the item, then rinse in cool water and buff with a cloth until dry.
- For silver that is heavily tarnished, mix a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water. Wet the silver and apply the cleaner with a soft, lint-free cloth (not paper towels). Work the paste into the crevices, turning the cloth as it gets gray. Rinse and buff dry.
How to store silver and prevent tarnish:
Natural discoloration is unavoidable, but there are some ways to make sure that your flatware, jewelry, and trays don't lose their luster as quickly. Here are some helpful tips and tricks to prevent tarnish:
- Store each piece of silver jewelry in its own anti-tarnish bag in a cool, dry spot.
- Tuck a piece of chalk in an anti-tarnish bag to help absorb moisture from the air.
- Put jewelry on after spraying perfume to prevent your fragrance from landing on the silver.
- Don't be afraid to wear your silver: Friction slows down tarnishing, which means the more you wear it, the more it'll shine.