Let’s kick off this Olympics-themed two weeks of posts talking about the BLING! You and I are probably never going to have the chance to ponder the best way to clean and maintain our Olympics medals, but we do have gold, silver and maybe even bronze around the house. They need care, and here are some tips on the best way to take care of our precious metals around the home, at home!
Gold itself doesn’t tarnish, but a lot of the gold jewelry you have around the house is probably not all gold, but probably mixed in with other metals, some of which are more prone to tarnishing than others. Even if the jewelry isn’t tarnishing, it can get dull and dirty, and needs to be cleaned.
One way to think about how best to clean your gold is “with gemstones” or “without gemstones”. Without gemstones? You can actually use a bowl warm (not hot) water and some mild dish soap, mixed together, and let the jewelry soak for about 20 minutes. THe dish soap helps to remove some of the oils or makeup that is on our skin and comes into contact with the jewelry, but handles it delicately. If there is still a tarnish after removing from soaking, use a cotton swan or your finger tip, if you can, to rub at the tarnish a bit more to help remove the last of it. After soaking, rinse with fresh warm water, and use a clean, dry, soft cloth to fully but gently clean the jewelry. Continue to lay out and air dry thoroughly, potentially even overnight.
With gemstones? Well, you don’t want these submerged in water and soaking, so we need to take a different approach. You can still prepare the warm, soapy water, but instead of letting them sit in the bowl, you’ll take a dry, clean cloth, dab in the soapy water, and use to clean the gold from the jewelry by hand. You’ll gently rub over the gold and the gemstones, and then use a clean cloth for drying it all.
With hard to reach places, or engraving or decorative, fine details, for either with gemstones or without, you may need to use a soft-bristled toothbrush, dipped in the soapy water, to help get at the tougher spots. Use the softest bristles you can, and be as gentle as you can; this is not a “scrub” scenario.
Sterling silver is a soft metal. You may have this at home not only in jewelry, but in your dining room, with silverware, serving pieces, candlesticks, etc.
Home remedies or products can make a big difference in dealing with the tarnish.
With jewelry, really, starting with (and maybe even ending with) a silver polishing cloth is the best way to approach it. Use the cloth to gently rub at the jewelry, remembering that it easily scratches. You can buy cloths at home stores, amazon, or at jewelry stores.
Cleaning silverware, serving pieces, etc., you might try some other methods or products. In terms of a natural home remedy to tarnish, there is a lot written about using a mixture of aluminum foil, hot water, salt and baking soda. I’ll admit I’ve tried it and haven’t been WOWED by the results, but I would try it again… especially to clean something I’ve already done a decent job with, and it’s more of a maintenance mode. Here is a link that walks through that technique.
If, like me, your results weren’t awe-inspiring, you might want to amp it up to testing a bottle of silver polish. I use Weiman’s Silver Polish, but there are others out there, for sure. With a polish, you apply a bit at a time with a soft cloth and rub gently, and then wipe clean with warm water and dry quickly with a clean cloth.
I took some of my older candlesticks (hadn’t peen polished in AT LEAST a year, and tried a combination of home methods and silver polish. I was SO pleased with the results (and maybe a little embarrassed that I didn’t realize how bad they’d gotten until I cleaned them to their best state!)
Maybe you don’t have that much bronze around the house, but some people have bronze faucets, or statues, especially outdoor statues or features. Bronze develops a greenish patina, similarly to copper, and there is a home recipe to clean up that bronze and get it back to where you remember it being when you first bought it. This recipe uses warm water, baking soda, and lemon juice.
Once you clean off the patina, you can dry thoroughly. You may find that using a wax, especially for outdoor statues, can help to protect the surface from the air and moisture. This site walks through a number of recommendations on the options and how best to choose among them.
Whether your cleaning gold, silver or bronze, you can always seek the help of a professional to clean your jewelry and fine items. Some things, given the investment, may just be worth the splurge. Until then, try some “at home” methods and see if you can make a difference in your collection, today!