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6 Simple Methods For How To Clean Tarnished Jewelry

6 Simple Methods For How To Clean Tarnished Jewelry

You wear your favorite piece of jewelry every single day. You wear it to work, out with your friends, you wear it on special occasions, or just on a regular day. No matter what outfit you wear, that special piece always adds something a little extra to your overall look. You love that piece of jewelry. But, over time, your favorite piece of jewelry will probably become discolored, appear dull or even have some scratches and nicks in its surface.

What can you do?

Though this process, called tarnishing, is natural for your jewelry items, it can definitely be sad when your favorite piece of jewelry is looking like it might need to be replaced. Fortunately, there are a lot of DIY home cleaning methods for jewelry, so you don’t have to plan that jewelry funeral just yet. All you have to do is know the right way to clean tarnished jewelry. With this guide, you can discover all the methods for how to clean tarnished jewelry! Spruce up your bling with these easy-to-follow and reliable jewelry cleaning methods!

If you’re looking to clean a jewelry item of a specific kind of metal, check out our Complete Guide: How To Clean Jewelry for more detailed information.   

How To Clean Tarnished Jewelry At Home

You Will Need:

  • 1 tablespoon washing soda (you can substitute with baking soda!)
  • Glass bowl
  • Tin foil
  • Boiling water
  • Paper towel/soft cloth to dry

how to clean tarnished jewelry


  1. Add 1 tablespoon of washing soda/baking soda to a glass bowl that is covered in tin foil
  2. Add boiling water to the bowl, enough to cover the jewelry
  3. Let the jewelry items soak for a few minutes
  4. Remove the jewelry and place on a paper towel
  5. Polish the jewelry items with a soft cloth to remove any excess residue

What Does Tarnish Mean?

clean tarnished jewelry

Before you being cleaning, you might be curious: what even is tarnish? What does tarnish mean? It can be helpful to know exactly what tarnish is in order to remove tarnish from jewelry.

Tarnish is what happens when an object has become sullied, grown dull, become discolored or lost its luster. Through oxidation, an object’s metal surface is dulled or stained. Tarnish is also known as a coating on the outside of a metal surface, or the lustered condition of the object’s surface.


What Causes Jewelry To Tarnish?

Tarnish occurs on a jewelry item when the metal comes into contact with certain outside substances, such as body oils, sulfur, sweat, makeup and other cosmetics. There are varying degrees of tarnish that can occur on your jewelry item, which can determine which method you choose to clean tarnished jewelry. Just like you need to clean up after a long day, so does your jewelry! There are a couple different causes for jewelry to tarnish:

Abrasion - Metallic abrasion of jewelry items occurs when cosmetic products (e.g. makeup, perfumes, lotions that are usually applied to the skin) comes into contact with the metal jewelry item. Cosmetics often contain chemical compounds (e.g. titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, calamine and ferric oxide) that are harder than the metal within the jewelry. When cosmetics and metal jewelry come into contact with one another, tiny particles of metal (which appear as black dust) rubs off and falls on absorbent material, such as skin or clothing. It looks like a black smudge. To avoid this, avoid cosmetics with the aforementioned chemical compounds and remember to remove all of your jewelry items when applying cosmetics. Make sure your skin is dry before you put on your jewelry items.


what does tarnish mean

Corrosion - Discoloration of jewelry items can also be caused by corrosion of the jewelry metals. For instance, pure gold (i.e. 24K) will not corrode, but it is far too soft to actually form into a jewelry item. Therefore, pure gold must be alloyed with other base metals (e.g. silver or copper) to make it harder and more suitable for everyday use. If a jewelry item is corroding, it is the base metal, and not the pure gold, that is corroding.

How does corrosion happen?

Corrosion occurs when there is moisture or wetness. Our skin has thousands of perspiration glands, which secrete fat and fatty acids. When our perspiration is combined with warmth and open air, jewelry containing copper or silver tend to corrode very quickly. Additionally, exposing your hands to salt (via salty foods) can cause your jewelry items to corrode and discolor, leaving stains underneath where your jewelry items are.

Exposure to Air - Sterling silver jewelry has a greater tendency to tarnish than jewelry items made of other kinds of metals. The tarnish on sterling silver items is usually caused by contact with sulphur compounds. Hydrogen sulfide gas in the air is the main cause of tarnishing, and is particularly present in strong-smelling pollution and foods such as eggs, onions and fish. People with particularly moist skin tend to see more green stains on their skin from their sterling silver jewelry.

Dermatitis + Exposure to Other Elements - When other elements (e.g. soap, detergent, cosmetic creams, medications, antibiotics or polish) build up between the jewelry item and the skin, dermatitis can occur. A burning sensation and redness of the skin occurs when dermatitis happens. To prevent this from happening, remove all jewelry before using any of these products, clean your jewelry items frequently, and make sure you skin is completely dry before putting your jewelry on. In some cases, the jewelry wearer’s basic body chemistry reacts to alloys in the jewelry and causes tarnishing. A possible solution to this is to wear jewelry items with a higher metal purity level (e.g. 18K or 22K gold jewelry instead of 14K).

How To Clean Tarnished Costume Jewelry (Other Methods!)

If you’re curious how to get tarnish off jewelry, how to clean tarnished fake gold jewelry, how to clean tarnished gold plated jewelry, or how to clean tarnished gold jewelry, then you’re in the right place! What can you use to clean tarnished jewelry? There are actually a lot of at-home DIY methods for you to try out on your jewelry items to remove the tarnish! Check out the following 6 methods to clean tarnished jewelry.

#1 White Vinegar + Water

white vinegar

This method is great if you’re wondering how to clean tarnished costume jewelry because it leaves your jewelry items super glossy and clean. If you’re just not sure how to get tarnish off jewelry, try this method!! You will be surprised.

  • Combine equal parts white vinegar and water in a bowl
  • Mix in tarnished jewelry
  • Get a toothbrush to scrub the crevices of the jewelry item
  • Soak the toothbrush in the solution and gently brush every tarnished area
  • You can also soak the jewelry item in the solution before scrubbing it with the toothbrush


    #2 Warm Bubble Bath

    warm bubble bath

    Yep, that’s right — a warm bubble bath can do the trick! This easy method works for both sterling silver and gold jewelry, as well as precious stones. This is a simple method for how to clean tarnished jewelry at home and works well as a DIY method.

  • Combine mild dish soap and warm water into a bowl until the solution is foamy
  • Place jewelry in bowl
  • Allow jewelry to soak for ~ 30 minutes
  • You can add multiple pieces to solution but be careful not to overcrowd the bowl
  • After 30 minutes, remove jewelry pieces one by one and place them into a second bowl of clean water to rinse
  • Gently scrub pieces with a toothbrush until tarnish comes off
  • Place jewelry items on clean cloth to air dry


    #3 Dry Mango Powder or Lemon Juice

    remove tarnish from jewelry

    Though lemon juice seems like an abrasive way to clean tarnished jewelry, it really does work wonders! If you’re struggling to find the right method for how to clean tarnished jewelry, this is the way to go.

  • Combine 1 part water and 1 part lemon juice in a bowl
  • Place tarnished jewelry pieces in bowl and let sit for 10-15 minutes
  • If, after 15 minutes, the dirt and grime doesn’t dissolve, let your jewelry sit in the lemon juice a little longer
  • Rinse with water
  • Buff with a clean, dry cloth

  • OR

  • If you have dry mango powder at home, mix 2 tablespoons of it with water to make a thick paste
  • Rub the paste on the tarnished jewelry and set aside for 10 minutes
  • Rinse with water
  • Buff with a clean, dry cloth


    #4 Aluminum Foil, Salt + Baking Soda

    method 4 clean tarnished jewelry

    If you’re still unsure how to clean tarnished jewelry or how to get tarnish off jewelry, using aluminum foil, salt and baking soda is sure to work.

  • Get a deep pan/plate and line it with aluminum foil with the shiny side up
  • Lay all jewelry in pan, with each piece touching the aluminum foil
  • Combine a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of baking soda into the pan
  • Heat 1 cup of water and pour into pan
  • Bubbles should occur
  • In a few minutes, the chemical reaction caused by the baking soda, foil and hot water will clean off all the dirt and tarnish
  • Rinse with warm water
  • Buff dry with a clean cloth


    #5 Soft Bristle Toothbrush + Toothpaste

    method 5 clean tarnished jewelry

    You’re probably baffled that you can remove tarnish from jewelry with a soft bristle toothbrush and toothpaste, but it turns out this method works! If you’re not convinced by the other methods for how to clean tarnished jewelry, try this one!!

  • Squeeze some toothpaste onto your tarnished jewelry items
  • Work the paste into all the nooks and crevices of the jewelry item
  • Once the paste is smoother over the jewelry piece, gently clean the toothpaste off of the jewelry item with a soft bristle toothbrush
  • Rinse with warm water
  • Buff dry with a clean, dry cloth


    #6 Shampoo + Toothbrush

    method 6 clean tarnished jewelry

    With a little care and diligence, you can prevent your precious jewelry items from becoming too badly tarnished and keep them looking shiny! It really is a pain when your jewelry items are too sullied to wear, but thankfully, with these methods for how to clean tarnished jewelry, you don’t have to worry!

  • Take 2-3 drops of mild shampoo or baby shampoo and mix it with 3 drops of water directly on your tarnished jewelry pieces
  • Use a soft bristle toothbrush to clean the grime off of the jewelry items with the mixture
  • Rinse with cool water
  • Dry jewelry items with clean, dry cloth
    • April 10, 2019
    • Customer Support
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