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FAQ: How Do I Remove Tarnish from Sterling Silver Jewelry?

I've got tons of sterling silver supplies that I use for my handmade jewelry business, Peggy Li Creations. Every now and then, there is a batch that has "turned" a brown or black -- this is a natural oxidation that occurs with sterling silver. It can be a pain to remove with a polishing cloth, but I just tried the greatest trick to removing tarnish from sterling silver! And it WORKS!

Note: If you have silver items that have oxidized details (black background with raised polished accents), or sayings stamped into your metal, this technique may remove that background contrast. If you just want the raised area cleaned, use a polishing cloth.

All you need are:

* Plastic dish (big enough to dunk your silver pieces. I use a tupperware dish)
* Aluminum foil
* Baking soda
* Hot water

1) Put a piece of the aluminum foil at the bottom of your dish. Place your silver pieces so they are in contact with the foil.

2) Put a few tablespoons of baking soda in the dish.

aluminum foil method of removing tarnish from silver

3) Heat your water to almost boiling (but boiling is not necessary) and pour over just enough to cover the pieces.

4) The mixture of baking soda, hot water, and aluminum foil will cause a bubbling/foaming chemical reaction. Swirl your items in the mixture or let soak for tougher tarnish. I took a video of this process here (look closely and see the silver brighten as the water clears at about :30 seconds in!):

5) Voila! You may even smell a little sulphur "rotten egg" smell as the reaction takes place. Rinse and the silver pieces should be clean and shiny once again! If heavily tarnished, try a few additional applications of soda and hot water, or maybe a fresh piece of foil.

What's happening? It's a basic chemical reaction that binds the aluminum to the sulfur oxides (you might see yellow flakes at the bottom of the dish) that the heat and contact with the aluminum foil accelerate. For all the cool science-y details, click here.

The chem-E in me loves it. Works great on chains. If you want to clean silver jewelry with stones or pearls, definitely keep the stones/pearls out of the water (the heat may change color, take away shine, or crack your gems!).

Don't want to try this method? You can always purchase my favorite silver polishing cloth, Sunshine Polishing Cloths from my website!

Handmade Jewelry by Peggy Li

Where Have I Been?

Sorry for not posting in such a long time! My goal when starting this blog was to post at LEAST once a week. Alas, "real life" often gets in the way.

I've gone back to working 4 days a week at online games company My boss is out on maternity leave and I am trying to help fill in. Unfortunately, it means less time to work on the jewelry biz and more late nights!

In the meantime, I am looking forward to next TV season, not only for the return of "Lost" but also to get my jewelry on the cast of "Private Practice"!

'Till next time, Peggy.