Monday, November 12, 2012

How to Clean Silver Jewelry Without Chemicals

Looking for an eco-friendly alternative to Tarn-x and other tarnish removing solutions made with potentially harmful chemicals? Try toothpaste!

My mom passed down one of her hippie silver bracelets to me when I was a very little girl. First, I was too small to wear it. Later, as a teen, I was too cool. By the time I realized its awesomeness, just three years ago, the bracelet was literally black. I remembered overhearing somewhere that you could use toothpaste to polish silver so I gave it a shot. The results were amazing! The neglected silver bangle went from blacker than coal to shiny silver with the help of a pea sized amount of toothpaste and less than a minute of rubbing with a sock.

I thought it was just too good to be true. I figured it my results were good luck or possibly dangerous for the jewelry in the long term, but during my training at Craftland, Devienna the fine metal jewelry maker behind DA Metals, confirmed that toothpaste safely removes tarnish from silver.

I was excited to try using toothpaste on these sad sterling silver earrings.

Toothpaste and a cloth ready to clean tarnished silver earrings.

It worked! In two minutes (yes, I timed myself), one earring was polished and looking superfancy next to its tarnished match.

Big difference in a little bit of time.
 I remembered the earrings came with a necklace.

Tarnished necklace.

If ribbons were awarded for most improved jewelry, I'd award one to the stars on this necklace!

Polished set!

Silver polishing nerdery and tips:
  • Use white paste, not gel. A friend tried polishing with gel toothpaste and it didn't work well.
  • I've noticed no difference in results between Colgate and Tom's of Maine toothpaste. This is a great use for paste you wouldn't necessary want to ingest.
  • You really don't need to use a lot of toothpaste. Start with a pea sized amount, adding more as necessary.
  • I used a cloth to polish my jewelry today, but the first time I wore a sock as a mitt cloth and I liked that experience better. My hands didn't get as dirty and it was easier to manipulate the jewelry when I used a sock.
  • Silver jewelry won't tarnish if you wear it regularly. I haven't had to polish my bracelet again because I wear it at least every other day.
  • Sterling silver is also called 925 and it's a mix of copper and silver. The copper is actually what's tarnishing.

Olivia Lane is a Blogger, Green Living Educator, and Health Coach trained at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She's also author of Baking Soda & Bliss: The Healthy & Happy Guide to Green Cleaning 

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