How to Care for and Clean Sterling Silver Jewelry

How to Care for and Clean Sterling Silver Jewelry

If you’re a fan of sterling silver earrings, rings, and other jewelry pieces, you’ve likely noticed they can lose a bit of their luster after time. The good news is, while this dingy look may be a bit concerning, it’s normal and easy to remedy with a little elbow grease and some TLC.

Before you attempt to clean sterling silver earrings and accessories at home, there are a few factors you should take into consideration. We want to help you ensure your beautiful indie-made pieces stay in their best shape for years to come, so we’ve created this handy guide on how to clean sterling silver jewelry with simple home remedies. 

Let’s talk about the benefits of sterling silver, why it tarnishes, and preventative actions you can implement to care for your collection. We’ll also share our favorite ways to properly clean sterling silver at home.


What Are the Benefits of Sterling Silver?

Sterling silver offers an array of incredible benefits - some that may even surprise you. Who would have guessed that your favorite sterling silver necklace or bracelet could bring healing as well as beauty?


Some benefits of sterling silver:

  • Durable
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Boosts energy levels


The Durability of Sterling Silver

Learning to properly care for and clean sterling silver necklaces and other jewelry pieces can help them remain faves in your collection for years to come. Quality sterling silver earrings, necklaces, and the like are incredibly durable, standing up to normal wear and tear with the ability to bounce back after a battle with tarnish. In fact, its durability is one reason you hear of so many amazing sterling silver heirlooms being restored to tip-top condition after decades of neglect.


A Hypoallergenic Metal Alternative

It can be pretty disheartening when your new favorite jewelry piece turns out to be the cause of your skin’s discomfort and distress. Those with skin sensitivities and allergies to various jewelry metals know nickel is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis.

Nickel tends to be the culprit in many jewelry-related skin reactions. Allergic contact dermatitis is caused when your skin encounters an allergen, leading it to become itchy and irritated.

Sterling silver makes quite an appealing choice for jewelry wearers with sensitive skin. The metal is 92.5% (or more) pure silver, meaning it should not cause an adverse skin reaction. Good news, right? This makes those fabulous sterling silver necklaces and dangle earrings your new BFFs in the accessory department!


Sterling Silver Reduces Inflammation

Before you start shaking your head, hear us out. There’s a reason you’ve heard of arthritis sufferers wearing sterling silver cuffs or rings. When worn, silver may absorb directly into your skin, transmitting beneficial pain-relieving effects throughout your body. But how, you may be wondering?

It is reported that silver can promote blood circulation through your body while targeting pain within your tissue and muscles. The increased circulation can help relieve common symptoms experienced due to inflammation and arthritis.


How Does Sterling Silver Boost Energy Levels?

When the metal is worn in direct contact with skin, it is said to stimulate a flow of energy. The sterling silver necklace or cuff you wear may contribute to your body feeling restored and energized. In fact, silver is also known to help improve your mental clarity and boost concentration levels. We’ll take it!


Why Does Your Sterling Silver Jewelry Tarnish?

When your sterling silver earrings and necklaces come into contact with oxygen and sulfur, causing a chemical bond, your silver may begin to appear a bit dirty or discolored. The tarnishing occurs when the molecules interact. When the 7.5% of copper within your sterling silver jewelry is exposed to salt, oxygen, and moisture, it suffers discoloration. That’s why learning to properly care for and clean sterling silver jewelry is essential to keeping your pieces looking their best.


How Do I Keep My Sterling Silver Pieces Looking New?

The good news is the sterling silver earrings and other jewelry pieces you wear most often really only need the occasional polishing. It's your sterling silver jewelry items that don’t get much wear that will likely need more attention. If they tend to sit unworn, even tucked safely away in a jewelry box, (link to upcoming blog about storing) they may begin to tarnish.

We’ll share how to clean sterling silver earrings and other jewelry easily with a few of our favorite DIY methods. By using common household ingredients, you can create safe, effective cleaners and polishing agents. They’ll help remove tarnish and restore your jewelry’s shine.


Our Favorite Methods to Clean Sterling Silver Jewelry

Get those sterling silver necklaces and rings out and prepare to restore their shine. We’re about to introduce you to a few go-to routine care options and the ideal household items we love to use.


Our favorite go-to household options for routine cleanings include:

  • Dish soap
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil


How to Clean Sterling Silver Jewelry with Mild Dish Soap

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Mild dish soap
  • Bowl with warm water
  • Designated toothbrush
  • Microfiber cloth


Soak Your Sterling Silver Jewelry

Fill a small bowl with warm water and add a few drops of mild, liquid dish soap. Mix the solution until a small layer of bubbles forms. Soak your sterling silver earrings or other jewelry pieces in the solution for roughly five to ten minutes.


Scrub Your Sterling Silver Jewelry

With a soft-bristle toothbrush, scrub your sterling silver earrings, rings, and necklaces. Be sure to get into those crevices to remove all dirt and grime. Rinse your jewelry under warm water when done.


Dry Your Sterling Silver Jewelry

Make sure to dry your jewelry thoroughly. Gently pat and rub the silver piece with a soft jewelry cloth or microfiber towel. Avoid grabbing those napkins and paper towels. You’d be surprised how easily they can leave surface scratches on your silver items.


If soap and water didn't do the trick, you can try other DIY methods for cleaning silver that utilize common pantry and household staples, including baking soda, lemon juice, olive oil, white vinegar, salt, and sometimes toothpaste.


How to use Baking Soda to Clean Sterling Silver Jewelry

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Baking Soda
  • Warm water
  • Microfiber cloth


Clean Sterling Silver with a DIY Paste

To create your own jewelry cleaning paste, mix one part warm water with two parts baking soda. Gently rub the paste all over your jewelry. You’ll want to allow the paste to dry completely to get a nice, deep cleanse and help remove any tarnish.


Rinse and Dry Your Jewelry

There’s no need for scrubbing with this handy DIY paste. Rinse your sterling silver earrings and additional pieces completely with warm water. Then, use a soft cloth or microfiber towel to dry your jewelry thoroughly.  


Baking Soda Cleaning Tips:

If you don’t have baking soda handy, you can substitute with cornstarch.

Alternatively, you can combine vinegar with your baking soda. Just add two tablespoons of baking soda to 1/2 cup of white vinegar, then let your jewelry soak for two to three hours. Rinse well and dry thoroughly for a fabulous shine!


How to Clean Sterling Silver Jewelry with Lemon Juice and Olive Oil

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil


Clean Sterling Silver with a Fragrant Solution

In a small dish, mix one teaspoon olive oil with 1/2 cup lemon juice. Dip a soft, clean cloth into your solution and rub the jewelry piece in gentle, circular motions until shine is restored.


Rinse and Dry with Care

Make sure to rinse your jewelry well and dry it with a soft cloth before wearing or storing.


How to Clean Sterling Silver Earrings

Your sterling silver earrings likely see a whole lot of action, and with that comes exposure to dirt, debris, chemicals, and oils. It’s essential to clean sterling silver earrings to keep them in excellent condition. You can show your sterling silver hoop Apple Earrings and studs some love with a little routine TLC that shouldn’t take much of your time but offers your earrings longevity.

We suggest working with a gentle cleanser and brush or cloth to avoid surface scratches. If you find that mild soap and water just aren't enough, you can use a clean toothbrush to work in between crevices and remove tarnish. When you think about the cleaning solutions, beauty products, sunscreen, and other items you come into contact with each day, it’s no wonder our jewelry can build up so much gunk.  

My best advice for cleaning sterling silver earrings is to consider the style of earrings you have. Do your sterling silver earrings boast badass turquoise stones? Are they set with dainty pearls? Do you have a collection with your favorite gemstones that you wear for special occasions? I ask because the cleaning solutions you choose need to be compatible with your earrings’ embellishments. If not, you risk causing damage to your pieces.


How to Clean Sterling Silver Necklaces

Your sterling silver necklaces may tarnish faster if you’re a lotion or perfume wearer, like me. You may even notice your sterling silver necklace start to darken in color from your perspiration. That’s why it’s important to clean sterling silver necklaces routinely. I often find the home remedy methods work quite well and quickly have my silver chains back to sparkling. 


So, What Preventative Steps Can You Take to Keep Your Sterling Silver Clean?

To help keep your sterling silver pieces looking their best, you can take preventative measures. From your daily habits to contact with various elements, being aware of what meets your sterling silver is half the battle.


Here are a few helpful tips to help your jewelry stay fabulous:

  • Wear it often
  • Avoid exposure to certain substances


Wear Your Silver Often

While it may seem counterproductive, you can actually limit tarnishing of your sterling silver necklaces and other pieces by wearing them more often. Yep … the natural oils from your skin can keep your silver from looking dull and dirty.

You’ll still want to clean sterling silver routinely and avoid wearing it if you’re cleaning with harsh chemicals. But an abundance of wear can keep it in excellent shape.


Avoid Exposure to Harsh Elements

To help keep your sterling silver jewelry free of impurities, harsh elements, and buildup, we recommend removing your sterling silver earrings, rings, and other pieces when cleaning, applying lotions and sunscreens, or working with your hands outdoors.


You should also avoid bringing your silver into contact with certain substances, including:

  • Household chemicals
  • Sulfur
  • Cosmetics


Some Household Chemicals

When it’s time to do the dishes, your laundry, or other household chores that involve chemicals, we recommend you take off your silver. Even if the chemicals you use claim to be gentle, many can erode the shine of your sterling silver jewelry.


Substances That Contain Sulfur

Sulfur is one of the main causes of tarnish and corrosion. Think of it as the plague for your silver jewelry. If you’re using substances containing sulfur, you’ll likely want to remove those silver pieces to ensure they keep their luster.

In case you aren’t aware, these items can include eggs, onions, mayonnaise, mustard, wool, and latex. That made you raise a brow, didn’t it?  


Your Cosmetics

Sadly, it’s true. Your cosmetics can be the culprits of accelerating the downfall (okay, the tarnishing) of your sterling silver jewelry. To clarify, we’re grouping several things into the cosmetics category, including lotions, hair products, perfumes, and facial products.

No, we aren’t suggesting you choose between your favorite indie-made sterling silver necklace and hair spray. But we are advising you to leave your jewelry for the last finishing touch. Wait until all your scents and setting sprays have settled before accessorizing to help prolong the life of your accessories.


Your Outdoor Activities

Whether you love to garden, swim, rock climb, or jog, your outdoor activities can impact the longevity of your silver. I make it a habit to remove all jewelry items before activities to avoid damage from perspiration, accidental scratches, loss, or getting them caked with dirt and grime.

Regardless of if you’re wearing your wedding ring or a stunning handmade necklace, you may want to adopt the habit of removing your jewelry and placing it in a jewelry tray or box until you’re ready to put it back on. If it’s going to be off for a while, I highly recommend an airtight jewelry storage option for your silver accessories.

From minimalist Hammered Stick Earrings to a cool Lariat Y Necklace in sterling silver, you’ll find quite the collection of jewelry made by talented independent designers and makers at Embellish Asheville. If you’re searching for a special accessory that suits your style and personality, we invite you to stop in or explore our unique sterling silver jewelry options online.

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