Do you want to preserve your sterling silver chain? Are you afraid to clean it for fear of doing damage? Are you uncertain about the many opinions you have heard on how to clean your silver sterling chain?
You need not remain in the dark on this matter. And there is no reason for you to proceed on hearsay and gossip. It is possible to clean your sterling silver with full confidence in your effectiveness.
Is the age of the silver sterling chain a factor?
One of the first—and perhaps silliest—myths that you will need to debunk is that the age of a silver sterling chain is a factor in how it must be cleaned. This is simply not the case.
Silver sterling, as a jewelry product, has been around for centuries. Sterling silver was widely used in Colonial America for belt buckles and tea pots. The composition of silver sterling has changed little since then. It is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metal—usually copper.
The methods for cleaning silver sterling have only improved over the years. If you have inherited a silver sterling chain that is an old family heirloom, you can rest assured that it will not break apart from cleaning.
It may be delicate, which means you should handle it with care, but if it is real sterling silver it will react to the cleaning products you use like any other sterling silver product.
Why you should prioritize cleaning your silver sterling chain
If you have a favorite silver sterling chain, one that you wear nearly every day, it may never occur to you to clean it. Unlike countertops and hardwood floors which show visible signs of dirt, dust, and grime, your silver chain may seem perfectly fine for a long period of time.
Silver sterling chains do not tarnish as quickly as other types of silver objects, but they do eventually turn. When this happens, you will need to clean it.
Causes of tarnish
Numerous factors cause silver sterling chains to tarnish. These include perfumes, body lotion, sweat, high humidity, and exposure to air and sunlight.
If you wear a particular chain often, then you will expose it to all of these things regularly. Tarnish is the result of the chain’s reaction to moisture and sulphur in the air.
This causes a thin dark layer to form on the surface of the chain over time. Tarnish develops faster in regions with high humidity and air pollution.
It should also be noted that the chemicals used in hairspray, perfume, deodorant, lotion, and bleach also speed up the rate at which silver will tarnish or turn black.
How to clean a sterling silver chain
Silver is soft and shiny metal. Although your silver sterling chain is mixed with other metal alloys to make it sturdier, you should handle it with care. If you have recently purchased your silver sterling chain or it was given to you as a gift, then you have probably already confirmed its authenticity.
If you have decided to de-clutter your home and have come upon silver jewelry that you are unsure about, then there are ways to confirm whether it is sterling silver or silver-plated. The easiest way is to check the clasp for a hallmark. The latter is stamped on every silver product. If it reads 925, Sterling, or S/S, then you have the genuine article. If not, then you have fake silver or a silver-plated object.
After you have confirmed the authenticity of the silver, you are ready to clean. You can clean your sterling silver chain with everyday household products—stuff that you use to clean your home. The most basic way to clean sterling silver involves a mixture of warm water and mild dishwashing soap.
Here are the steps:
- Put warm water in a bowl. Ensure that the water is warm rather than scorching hot, as the latter can actually damage your jewelry.
- Add a few drops of dishwashing soap to the water and mix until bubbles form.
- Soak your sterling silver chain in the solution for about 10 minutes.
- Then use a soft-bristle brush—an old toothbrush will do—to clean between the links and crevices.
- Rinse your chain in warm water.
- Dry the jewelry by gently rubbing it with a microfiber towel or a silver cloth. You can find either of these at a jewelry store or online. You should not use paper towels to dry your silver chain. They can scratch the silver.
You can still use this method even if your sterling silver chain contains diamonds or other gemstones. If you have doubts or worries, you can speak to a jeweler before you proceed.
Other methods of cleaning
You can clean your sterling silver chain by other means if soap and water do not work. Again, you can use common household products such as baking soda, lemon juice, olive oil, white vinegar, salt, and toothpaste to do the job.
Here are a few specific cleaning solutions:
Baking soda paste
- Mix baking soda and water to make a paste
- Gently rub the paste onto the jewelry
- Rinse the paste out with warm water
- Dry the piece with a soft cloth
Lemon and olive oil
- Mix half a cup of lemon juice and a teaspoon of olive oil
- Dip a clean cloth in the solution and rub down the silver
- Rinse with warm water
- Dry the jewelry with a soft cloth
Vinegar and baking soda
- Mix half a cup of white vinegar and two tablespoons of baking soda in a bowl
- Soak the chain in the mixture for three hours
- Remove the chain and rinse it with warm water
- Dry and polish with a soft cloth
Use a small amount of diluted toothpaste
Ensure that the toothpaste you use does not contain a whitening formula. You can use an old toothbrush to scrub the chain. Then rinse it with warm water and dry it with a soft cloth.
Here is another way to clean your silver sterling chain. This method uses aluminum foil to pull the sulfur atoms off the silver, which has the effect of making the jewelry shine and sparkle. This is one of the most effective ways to clean silver jewelry, but it can produce an unpleasant smell.
The steps are as follows:
- Line the surface of a large bowl or pan with aluminum foil.
- Boil water and fill the pan with it.
- Add a one-fourth cup of baking soda and two teaspoons of salt to the water and stir until bubbles form.
- Place your silver chain in the solution and mix it gently. Make sure the piece does not bump against the sides of the pan.
- Let the jewelry soak in the pan for 5 minutes.
- Then remove the chain and rinse it with warm water.
- Dry with a soft cloth.
If your silver has gone beyond a slight tarnish and has turned black, then the best way to clean it is with silver dip. You can find this product at a local jewelry shop.
All you need to do is place the jewelry in the dip for 20 seconds. Then remove it, wash it down with warm water, and leave it out to dry. Once the metal is dry, you can polish it with a soft cloth.
Tips for preventing tarnish
There is no way to completely protect your sterling silver chain from air, heat, and moisture. You can limit exposing family heirlooms to these elements.
But if you have a sterling silver chain that you wear regularly, it will be subjected to your body and cosmetics as well as the natural environment. However, there are measures you can take to reduce the rate at which your jewelry tarnishes.
You should store your piece in a soft anti-tarnish bag. Be sure to put the bag in a cool and dark place. The lower the humidity of the storage space the better. You can also add a piece of chalk, charcoal, or silica gel to the bag to help remove moisture.
You should remove your sterling silver chain before you shower, swim or do dishes. Another trick is to put your chain on last before the perfumes and lotions you apply to your body have had time to sink in.
You don’t have to clean it yourself
If you are not confident in your ability to clean your sterling silver chain, if you don’t have the time or inclination to do so, you can simply take the piece to a trusted jeweler or jewelry repair shop.
Such vendors have the tools to do the job for you. If you are dealing with sterling silver that seems to have been tarnished for a long time, it may need the kind of professional deep cleaning that such shops can provide.
It is not that hard to clean a sterling silver chain. You should not be worried about the age of your jewelry, as it will not affect how the piece is to be cleaned. You should prioritize the cleaning of your sterling silver chain. It is the best way to maintain its shine, sparkle, and luster.
You can clean your sterling silver chain using household cleaning products. It takes very little time, but you must ensure that you have the right items and that you use the proper techniques. If you prefer not to clean the jewelry yourself or believe it needs a deep clean, then you should take it to a professional.