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Cleaning Tarnished Costume Jewelry

How to safely return the sparkle to your favourite jewelry



When making your own jewelry you will often start by using cheaper crafting components that would are more susceptible to tarnishing. Cheaper costume / fashion jewelry is also more likely to be made from plated metal with semi-precious stones, this makes them much more affordable but they can tarnish easily unlike pure gold.

What causes costume / fashion jewelry to tarnish?

There are a number of things that will contribute to tarnishing, contact with oils, moisture, acids and even just air can cause the metals in the jewelry to react causing a discoloration

Oils from contact with skin while wearing a piece can accumulate on the surface of jewelry so regular cleaning is important especially if it is something you wear often.

Sulfur in the air combined with moisture will cause silver and silver plated jewelry to tarnish. Tarnishing will occur quicker in high humidity.

How to clean tarnished jewelry

Cleaning tarnish is very easy with just a few household items you will likely already have.

  • Aluminum foil
  • Salt
  • Baking Soda
  • Hot / warm water
  • Soft cloth

Line a bowl with aluminum foil, ensure the foil is shiny side up.

Add one tablespoon of salt and one tablespoon of baking soda and mix.

Pour in about 1 cup of hot water and mix. Drop in your jewelry and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.

You will see bubbles coming off the jewelry as the ingredients react with the tarnished metal.

Heavily tarnished jewelry component before cleaning

tarnished jewelry before  cleaning

Cleaning - notice the bubbles which are formed during the chemical reaction between the salt, baking soda and foil

cleaning tarnish jewelry

After Cleaning

after cleaning jewelry

Don’t use baking soda on antique silver, as it can be too abrasive and ruin the finish. Also avoid cleaning any rings with stone settings as this method may degrade the glue holding the stone in place.

Tips for Reducing Tarnishing

Keep your jewelry dry. If you accidentally splash your jewelry dry it well straight away with a cloth


There is a lot of moisture in the air, so leaving items out will lead to tarnishing

Dry air-tight containers

Not particularly glamorous option but keeping your jewelry in a zip lock plastic bag, with as much air as possible squeezed out will help keep your favourite pieces from tarnishing.

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