Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How To: Greener Silver Cleaner

I make jewelry crocheted with fine gauge silver wire. I incorporate all kind of beads from wood to pearls to resin. Over time the necklaces would tarnish and look dull. Cleaning with a cloth or paste toothpaste & toothbrush just didn’t get in all the nooks and crannies. I try to prevent tarnish by keeping them in a zip lock bag with a piece of chalk as a desiccant (my mom’s trick), which works well, but unfortunately, they don’t always make it into the bag. In my search for a cleaner that would be safe for all my beads and non toxic I happened on a recipe in Real Simple magazine that proved to be the solution. Here’s the “recipe”


Piece of aluminum foil

¼ cup baking soda

Boiling water

Start by washing your silver with a bit of dish soap to remove any oils.

Line the bottom of a glass pan, like a baking dish for lasagna, with a piece of aluminum foil. Put in baking soda and add boiling water. The mixture will fizzle. Add your silver and make sure it’s covered with boiling water. In as little as 10 seconds your silver is clean, but for heavy tarnish, it may take longer, up to a minute.

When your items are clean, they will have a gritty coating from the baking soda, so it’s important to rinse them again with dish soap and lots of water.

The chemical reaction between the aluminum and the baking soda removes the tarnish which then adheres to the foil, which will have a coating of tarnish on it and should be discarded. I have found this to be safe for all my beads and even fibers, with the one exception being unsealed, died wood beads, which run, but not so badly that the bright, clean silver isn’t worth it. Freshwater pearls seem to do fine, but for more expensive pearls, I wouldn’t want to suggest this, as the boiling water might affect their finish.

I include a business card sized “recipe” for this when I sell silver jewelry as a convenience to my customers, who seem to really appreciate the guidance.