How to Clean and Care for Your Sterling Silver Earrings
With proper care, a quality pair of earrings is a timeless investment. Discover how to keep your sterling silver earrings looking beautiful for years to come.
Keyword(s): sterling silver earrings
Throughout history, stylish women have valued the timeless elegance of silver jewelry.
With proper care and cleaning, a pair of sterling silver earrings is an investment that will reward you for years to come.
All you need to do is follow a few simple maintenance and cleaning tips, and your silver jewelry will continue to shine as beautifully as the day you first bought it.
Join us as we look at the enduring appeal of sterling silver earrings, and how to keep them in perfect condition.
What is Sterling Silver?
Pure silver is naturally a rather soft material, as with other high-quality metals such as gold.
This leaves it susceptible to scratches and damage unless alloyed with another metal. Enter sterling silver.
The finest sterling silver is (like that used in EVERY piece of repair-mssql-database jewelry) is an alloy of pure silver and copper. The ratio is normally 92.5% silver to 7.5% copper.
This is why you'll see it referred to as 925 silver, and have a '925' mark on it, or simply the words 'sterling silver' written somewhere inconspicuous. Check out our 6 must-know tips for buying the best sterling silver jewelry.
The resulting alloy is a material that is lustrous and luxurious, yet strong enough to hold up when molded into intricate designs.
This makes it perfect for creating beautiful sterling silver earrings. The downside is that the other metal (copper) in sterling silver react with oxygen.
This means that when they are in moist or humid conditions, or even just exposed to the air for a long period of time, they become tarnished and discolored.
To combat this tarnishing, many of our pieces are finished with rhodium over sterling silver. The rhodium prevents tarnish and preserves the silver's natural shine. However, for the pieces that are not rhodium finished, a little bit of TLC goes a long way.
Sterling silver earrings require simple but regular cleaning and care to keep them in tip-top condition.
Let's look now at how to care for our sterling silver earrings.
How to Care for Sterling Silver Earrings
Let's look at some of the friends and enemies of sterling silver so that your earrings are waiting to dazzle every time you need them.
After Wear Care
After coming in contact with your body's natural oils and moisture, your sterling silver earrings need a little TLC before you put them into storage.
Simply run your sterling silver earrings under warm water to allow any dirt that they have picked up to wash away.
Now the most important part - dry them thoroughly. Air-drying causes water spots, but these can be quickly remedied by rubbing them dry with a clean, lint-free cloth, along the grain of the silver.
That being said, the best thing that you can do to keep your silver looking great is to wear it! The natural oils in your skin will provide a protective barrier against moisture, preventing tarnish.
This light clean should simply ensure that when you store your sterling silver earrings there is no residual dirt or moisture on them that could lead to damage.
There are a few dos and don'ts when it comes to storing sterling silver earrings that will help you to avoid tarnishing and having to clean them regularly with strong solutions.
The first is to avoid sterling silver's great enemies - heat and moisture.
Invest in a purpose made storage bag or box for sterling silver, or at least, some small Ziplock bags! Carefully wrap your earrings each time you remove them, to limit their exposure to the air and sun.
Keep pieces stored separately, and leave any clasps or clips undone.
One random but failsafe tip for keeping your silver dry - keep a silica packet (the kind that comes in new handbags) or a piece of chalk in the bag with them!
Also, don't store your silver jewelry in the bathroom - however convenient it might be. The warm, humid atmosphere is terrible for tarnishing.
Keep it somewhere cool and dry, like the bedroom, and away from direct sunlight.
Avoid Chlorinated Water
Although sterling silver earrings will fare much better than those of lesser quality if you keep them on all the time, it is still best for their longevity to remove them before showering or taking a bath.
It's particularly important that you remove them any time they could come in contact with chlorinated water, such as at the swimming pool, in a hot tub or even when cleaning the house using chlorine-containing chemicals.
The chlorine in the water will speed up the tarnishing process if care is not taken.
Avoid Sulfur Containing Foods
Another enemy of sterling silver is sulfur. It has a similar effect on it to light and moisture, causing tarnishing and discoloration.
What foods are high in sulfur?
- Salad dressing
Make sure your earrings avoid any contact with these foods and don't wear them when preparing them.
Sulfur also pops up in a few other unexpected places:
Although the last two are relatively unlikely to come into contact with your earrings, wearing a high-neck wool sweater would bring your earrings into direct contact with sulfur, potentially causing tarnishing.
When NOT to Wear Your Sterling Silver Earrings
You'll probably love your sterling silver earrings so much that you'll want to wear them all the time.
However, remove them and store them carefully when taking part in the following activities and they'll stay tarnish free for longer:
- Doing the dishes
- Applying lotions or hair products
- Applying perfume
To avoid the last two, simply get into the habit of putting your jewelry on last when you dress.
Remember the two main enemies of sterling silver - light and moisture - and they'll reward you with an enduring shine.
How to Clean Sterling Silver Earrings
However carefully you've worked to keep your sterling silver earrings looking their best, from time to time, every piece needs a pick me up to put the sparkle back into it.
Your first port of call for all tarnishes should be to try to polish them out.
You can buy a specialist silver cloth for this or use a microfiber or other lint-free cloth as well. However, do not use tissue paper, or paper towels, however accessible they may be. They can cause scratches to the silver.
Although it may feel a little unnatural, work in short back and forth motions along the grain of the silver. Avoid polishing in circular motions. This will actually highlight scratches.
Keep polishing until minor blemishes and tarnishing is removed. If in spite of your best efforts, you find your earrings are still looking rather dull, don't despair!
To take polishing to the next level, follow our first two tips that add an extra helping hand to the buffing process.
If those don't work for you, then read on for our alternative cleaning methods, mostly involving household items that you probably never realized could be put to such use!
Although soda, which we'll look at in a moment, might destroy your teeth while toothpaste protects them, interestingly they both do a good job when it comes to removing tarnish from your sterling silver earrings!
This time, simply use toothpaste to polish the silver, putting a little on a soft cloth and buffing away, as mentioned before, using back and forth motions along the grain of the silver.
This should restore the vibrancy of your earrings in no time - just make sure you give them a thorough rinse and dry before storing - no mouthwash needed.
Lemon Juice and Olive Oil
Another great rub for chicken... I mean earrings, is lemon juice and olive oil!
Make a thin paste by combining the two together, dip in your cloth and get buffing! The combination of the acids in the lemon juice and the action of the oil with the cloth should help those stains to melt away before your eyes.
Soap and Water
Choose a soap with ammonia and this should get to work on your tarnish in no time. Something like a mild dish soap would probably work well.
Simply gently wash your earrings in a soap and warm water mixture and dry them off, buffing away any dirt and tarnish and revealing the beautiful luster beneath.
Baking Soda and Aluminum Foil
If soap and water aren't cutting it, then it's onto one of the big guns of the cleaning world - baking soda.
The best thing about this next step is that it has the feel of a high-school science experiment about it - plus it does the job in next to no time.
Carefully bring one liter of water to the boil and add one tablespoon of baking soda to it. Here's the weird bit - also add a piece of aluminum foil into the mix. Remove this from the heat.
Take your earrings and place them in this concoction, but only for 10 seconds, or a little longer if the tarnish is heavy. Watch them buff to a shine after you very carefully take them out, and allow them to cool a little.
Baking Soda and Water
If you find even this isn't working, then there is still hope with baking soda.
Make a thick paste from a quarter of a cup of baking soda and two tablespoons of water. Then use this paste to buff away any discoloration.
If you have sterling silver earrings with beautiful, intricate designs that are becoming tarnished, you can get into all of these nooks and crannies by using a toothbrush along with this paste.
Simply work it into all of these areas, making the paste a little thinner with some extra water, if it's not able to reach where you need it.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
Another great baking soda solution with a bit of extra fizz is baking soda and vinegar. This is a slow burning method but can yield great results.
Simply combine half a cup of white vinegar and two tablespoons of baking soda. Allow your earrings to sit in the solution for two to three hours, then thoroughly rinse and buff dry.
If you're out of baking soda, don't despair. Another great household product that comes into its own for cleaning silver jewelry is cornstarch.
Simply form a paste from cornstarch and water and apply it to the earrings.
Allow this to dry, removing the tarnish as it does so. You'll need a slightly abrasive cloth such as a towel to ensure that it's totally removed, but it should reveal shiny, lustrous sterling silver beneath.
Something else you might have lying around the house is common or garden soda pop. Specifically, something citrus flavored, like lemon-lime, is good for the job.
Simply take your sterling silver earrings and soak them in a bowl of the stuff for an hour. Rinse and buff to reveal tarnish free accessories.
Professional Cleaning Services
If your earrings are sadly tarnished beyond the help of these household fixes, then don't despair! It is still possible to bring them back to life with the help of a professional.
Research online for local professional jewelry cleaners who have a range of specialist chemicals and techniques at their disposal that will have your earrings radiant again in no time.
Summary: How to Clean and Care for Your Sterling Silver Earrings
As we've seen, sterling silver earrings are one of the best investments you could make.
They not only look fantastic, they also reward you with years of shine as long as you follow a few basic maintenance techniques to keep them looking their best.
Our key takeaway tips are to wear them as much as possible and store them carefully, away from light and moisture.
And if you find that the time has come for a more thorough cleaning session, then look no further than your own pantry or bathroom cabinet!
Only the most difficult tarnishing will be able to stand up to this onslaught! Have some fun as you experiment with these techniques, and find one that will become your 'tried and true' method you share with all your friends.
If you'd like more convincing that sterling silver jewelry would look great on you, check out 7 reasons to start buying sterling silver jewelry today!