I like to wear silver jewellery when it is all shiny and sparkling; I don’t like it when it becomes grubby and tarnished. In the past, I have bought chemical filled products for cleaning silver to help restore the shine, and when that hasn’t worked, I’ve bought replacement jewellery. As time went on I realised how unsustainable this process was, both for the planet and for my bank balance!
I have now imposed a moratorium on jewellery purchases, but more importantly I've also found a cheap and non-toxic way to clean silver jewellery using just aluminium foil and bicarbonate of soda (also known as sodium bicarbonate or baking soda). It sounds improbable but it really works! Read on to find out more:
Materials for cleaning your silver
To clean your silver jewellery without using toxic chemicals, you will need:
A bowl (suitable for holding boiling water and large enough to hold all the items to be cleaned)
Bicarbonate of soda
Method for cleaning your silver
Before you begin, if your jewellery contains any non-silver elements such as gemstones, check that it is suitable for cleaning in this fashion first. Then:
Tear off a sheet of foil, scrunch it up into a ball, then place it in the bowl.
Put your silver jewellery in the bowl, then add a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda.
Pour in boiling water to cover the jewellery, and leave it for about an hour, for the magic to happen. (Now, it is important to remember at this point, that you are actually very busy cleaning jewellery and should not be disturbed – so put the kettle on, put your feet up and relax!)
Once you are fully relaxed (after about an hour), remove the jewellery from the bowl and give it a careful wipe over with a damp cloth to remove any bicarbonate residue.
If you find that you have any stubborn spots of tarnish that were not removed during your busy cleaning process, give them a gentle scrub with the scrunched-up foil, then wipe over with the damp cloth.
You should now have shiny, sparkling jewellery, without resorting to harsh chemicals or expensive cleaning products.
Cleaning silver jewellery with bicarbonate of soda: video
For a demonstration of how you can use bicarbonate of soda to clean tarnished silver jewellery without the use of toxic chemicals, watch our short video:
[Music credit for video: Music: Ice Tea; Musician: Not The King]
Caution: Non silver elements
This method of cleaning tarnished jewellery is safe for silver. However, if your jewellery also contains gemstones or other types of inlay you need to take care and make sure that you know what it is made of before you begin. Not all jewellery elements are suitable for submerging in boiling water or for mixing with bicarbonate of soda!
While this method should be safe for most hard gemstones, it is not suitable for jewellery containing soft or porous stones such as lapis lazuli, opal or emerald, or for jewellery containing organic material such as pearls, mother of pearl, coral or amber.
Note that the above is not an exhaustive list, so if you are in any doubt, check with an expert first.
Cleaning other silver items
This same non-toxic method of cleaning tarnished silver is also suitable for cleaning other small silver items, such as cutlery, candlesticks, napkin rings, etc. You just need to find a container large enough to ensure that all the items are submerged under the water, and increase the amount of bicarbonate of soda accordingly.
As with the silver jewellery, if the silver items to be cleaned include any other materials or decoration, check that they are suitable for this treatment before you begin.
For more eco-friendly cleaning tips, take a look at our Eco-Cleaning Handbook. It's free to download and contains instructions for making 21 non-toxic and plastic-free cleaning products, helping you to reduce your impact on the environment as well as saving you money.
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