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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Remove Tarnish Without Using Toxic Chemicals

I realize you guys might already know this, but I just tried it and could not believe how awesomely it works. I hate using dips and find the tarnish actually comes back quickly when I use them. This method should keep your jewelry tarnish free for much longer and isn't harmful to you, your children (if you have any), or the environment.

Place a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of a shallow dish. (I use a glass baking dish.)

Set the tarnished item directly on the aluminum foil; it has to be in contact with the aluminum.

Heat a quart of water to boiling in a saucepan.

Set the pan in the sink and slowly add 1/4 cup baking soda. Be careful, because it might fizz up and spill over, which is why you add the baking soda slowly & in the sink. Stir until the baking soda is dissolved.

Pour the water into the dish until the tarnished item is immersed. Slightly tarnished pieces will return to silver almost instantly; badly tarnished items will take longer.

You can also use this for flatware or silver/silverplated dishes. Very badly tarnished pieces will look ruined and scare the living heck out of you. (Seriously.) All you have to do is get a little baking soda on a soft, 100% cotton pad, and *gently* buff the silver. The dull grey and residual black will fall away, and the silver will be nice and shiny again, though it may have some "water spots" or "pits" from the tarnish - tarnish is destructive and eats into the silver, just like rust is destructive and eats into steel. For larger pieces, just use more water. The ration of water to baking soda is one cup of soda for every gallon of water.

Why does it work?
Tarnish is composed of silver sulfide, a mix of silver and any sulfur it comes into contact with thru contact with the air and other objects. It basically eats away the surface of the silver. Most removal methods involve removing the tarnish AND the silver that has been destroyed by it. Instead of doing that, this method converts the tarnish back into silver thru an electrochemical reaction. Sulfur more easily attaches to aluminum than it does to silver. The baking soda and hot water are the catalysts for the chemical reaction that causes the silver sulfide atoms to react with the aluminum. Give it a push with a tiny electrical charge (generated between the silver and the aluminum), and the sulfur atoms let go of the silver to go bond with the aluminum instead. Think of it as a choice between one bite of chocolate cake and the whole piece...which would you go for? Apparently, sulfur atoms are no different than you or I. And that, in a simplified nutshell, is why this works and is less damaging to your sterling silver pieces than dips or polishes!


Blogger Silver Parrot said...

Okay, that is SO COOL! I'm going to go home and de-tarnish a ton of stuff this weekend!

12:15 PM  
Blogger Jenie said...

:) I can't believe how well it worked. You can use cooler water, but the hotter it is, apparently the faster it works.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW! This is awesome. I just tried it and it worked miracles on my silverware. Thank you so much for the advice!

11:27 AM  
Blogger Jenie said...

Oh, you're welcome, anon. I try to be of service when I can. :)

5:23 PM  
Blogger aaiou1 said...



9:45 AM  
Blogger Jenie said...

:) I'm glad you like it. :) I think it's even safe for pearls. Remember to rinse the items well when you take it out. :)

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The same thing works with salt and soap instead of the baking soda.

11:50 AM  
Blogger Jenie said...

That *may* be true, anonymous; however, salt is corrosive and should NOT be used to clean your jewelry. Mild soap such as Woolite may be used to clean your jewelry to remove oils and grime, but it will not remove tarnish. In addition, salt can scratch silver and softer stones if it is not fully dissolved. I would NEVER recommend using salt as a tarnish remover. Especially with such an easy and gentle method as baking soda and water available.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just tried this on my favorite pearl necklace strung with silver wire and it looks like it did corrode my pearls. They were not of the highest quality and perhaps I left it in too long, but I would definitely use caution when dipping pearls. On my semi- precious stones, this worked great!

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a follow-up to the pearl experiement. I just re-rinsed my pearl necklace and the pearls appear to be okay! I think the soda clung to the pearls making them look splotchy and dull. I rinsed each one by rubbing the pearl and they look great (as good as before!) Thanks for the info! This is ground breaking!

8:21 PM  
Blogger Jenie said...

Well, I'm glad your pearls are okay! :) It's probably good to note that if you do this with anything containing pearls, you should probably NOT use hot water. I'd only use warm or cold water, to be safe. Thank you for posting about this, btw. I can't test it on everything, so it's good to have input from others! :)

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


9:53 PM  

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