The reason for the unattractive black coloration on silver rings or silverware is the formation of so-called silver sulfide. This is caused by a chemical reaction of the silver with oxygen and hydrogen sulfide from the air. Small traces of hydrogen sulfide are also found in certain foods and are already sufficient for the discoloration process. It is therefore advisable not to eat eggs, for example, with a silver spoon, because they contain sulfurous amino acids.
Black discoloration: Cleaning at home
The tarnished silver can, for example, be put into a chemical silver bath, cleaned with special cleaning cloths, a silver polishing cloth or a silver polish. They can be purchased, for example, in drugstores and supermarkets. However, it is important to wear protective gloves when using it, as chemical ingredients can irritate the skin. A look at the package insert or the back of the package can give more detailed information about the application.
If you don’t like spending money on silver cleaning, you can also make your silver shine again by using a few simple tricks with various household products:
- Tinfoil and salt
The silver pieces are placed in a bowl of hot water for about two minutes along with a few shreds of aluminum foil and a teaspoon of salt. It is important that the silver pieces have contact with the aluminum foil. In this way, the black silver sulfide is reduced to shiny silver again. A smell of rotten eggs is possible, because this chemical process also produces hydrogen sulfide. After the soaking time, the silver is rinsed under clear water and polished. If the result is still not satisfactory, the procedure can be repeated. However, the silver should not be left in this bath for longer than two minutes at a time, otherwise the chemical process will also dissolve the top silver layer.
Especially small pieces of jewelry can also be cleaned with toothpaste. For this purpose, put some toothpaste on an old toothbrush and brush off the silver. After that, leave to act for a short time and then rinse off as well. Since the black silver sulfide is only rubbed off here and no chemical reaction takes place, however, caution is advised with this method for silver-plated jewelry: With frequent use, the top layer of silver is gradually rubbed off.
- Baking soda
Larger silver objects, such as cutlery, can be cleaned with a paste of baking soda and water. To do this, simply apply the mixed mass to the silver and then carefully polish it with a cloth. However, this method also has its pitfalls, because baking soda has an abrasive effect and can cause scratches if polished carelessly.
- Further recommendations are also..
…to soak silver for several hours in acidic solutions. Here the tips range from vinegar to beer to lemon juice. Denture cleaner, dissolved baking soda or sour milk are also among the popular household remedies.
Professional cleaning is the safest
However, the safest and probably gentlest method remains cleaning by an expert, z.B. the goldsmith. Here your silver treasures are not only thoroughly cleaned and brought back to shine, but in addition, a look at the settings of gemstones, or the closure is thrown and any defects are corrected.
It is better not to do this:
- Cleaning silver in the dishwasher. Of course, this applies primarily to silver cutlery. If you still prefer machine cleaning, make sure the silver is not in the same wash cycle as stainless steel cutlery. Otherwise there is a risk that the silver will tarnish. Better always wash silver by hand.
- Polish with microfiber cloths: Here is the danger of scratches in the silver, if for example a grain of sand or similar gets caught in the cloth.
- Be careful with jewelry containing gemstones: Especially with chemical cleanings, make sure that the gemstones on your jewelry can really tolerate them. Stones that are of organic origin, such as pearls, amber or coral, should therefore not be cleaned with citric acid, baking soda or denture cleaner.
How to prevent tarnishing
In order not to have to constantly clean silver objects, silver should be used regularly and then cleaned carefully. The reason for this is that the reaction of silver and the surrounding air occurs only after the objects have been lying for a long time.
Silverware is best wrapped in a velvet cloth. Wrapping the silverware in an airtight plastic bag provides additional protection from the unwelcome discolorations. Some people also swear by a piece of school chalk, which is in the same drawer as the silver pieces.