The best silver cleaner
There's no need to pass over those elegant but heavily tarnished silver candlesticks you spotted at the local flea market. You can dig out your antique silver jewelry and flatware from the attic, too. All it takes to bring the shine back to your silver is a little buffing with a quality silver cleaner. Even if you're sensitive to chemicals, there are ways you can safely clean your silver. Our buying guide will help you find the best cleaner for your needs, including our favorite, the mild and easy-to-use Wright's Silver Cleaner and Polish Cream.
Considerations when choosing silver cleaners
Type of cleaner
The type of silver cleaner you choose will depend on the type of item that needs to be cleaned. There's no shortage of types of silver cleaners:
Liquid dip/bath solutions for small jewelry
Convenient portable wipes
Buffing cream or paste polishes
Lathering easy-on, easy-off foams
Dry cloths or mitts with embedded silver cleaner
Sprays for larger silver items
You'll also find an array of anti-tarnishing bags for storing silver. The bags can prevent some tarnish accumulation, but they won't eliminate it 100%. Handling silver also leaves behind a residue of salts, oils, and skin-based acids that cause tarnish regardless of how the pieces are stored, so you'll still need to polish your silver items.
Item that needs cleaning
Wipes and cloths may not always be able to reach into crevices of jewelry or deeply etched flatware to clean away tarnish. In those cases, a wet cleaner, such as a dip, bath, or cream, is necessary. However, moist wipes may be best for delicate items that shouldn't be aggressively rubbed.
There may be an accompanying accessory to help you clean your silver depending on which cleaner you choose. Creams may come with an applicator sponge. A dip/bath comes with a basket to hold jewelry, and it may also include a small scrubbing brush to eliminate stubborn dirt.
If you have more than just silver to clean, consider a multipurpose cleaner. Some silver cleaners can clean other types of metals, such as brass and stainless steel or even gold and platinum. There are also some cleaners reserved solely for silver items. In addition, if you plan to clean jewelry, there are many gems and stones that won't tolerate the harsh chemicals of any silver cleaner. Carefully check labels before purchasing.
Cleaning your silver definitely won't break the bank. Packs of silver-polishing clothes run from $7 to $16. Gloves or mitts may cost about $13 to $20 per pair. An eight-ounce jar of liquid-dipping silver cleaner with a basket or a jar of jewelry wipes can run in the range of $9 to $16. An eight-ounce jar of cream silver cleaner can cost about $7, or you can find value packs of three jars for $22.
Q. What is silver tarnish?
A. Silver items are made with a silver alloy mixed with other metals for strength, such as copper, brass, or nickel. When the alloy is exposed to air, especially humid air in damp spaces, there's a chemical reaction that creates a shadowy almost dirty appearance on the silver finish. The dingy finish is formed when minute traces of sulfur in the air react with the silver in your jewelry or decorative pieces. It takes another type of chemical reaction using silver cleaners to remove the tarnish and bring the piece back to its original luster.
Q. What should I use to clean antique silver jewelry or decorative items?
A. You may have come across the many weird and wonderful ways you can try to clean antique silver, from polishing items with toothpaste or dunking silver in lemon-lime soda for an hour. For best results, use a damp sponge to wipe on a commercial cream or paste. Buff with a clean non-abrasive cloth, rinse or wipe off, and thoroughly dry.
Silver cleaners we recommend
Best of the best: Wright's Silver Cleaner and Polish Cream
Our take: A mild and ammonia-free cream cleaner you can use on your jewelry to wipe away dirt and sweat, and on silver cutlery and serving ware to easily eliminate tarnish.
What we like: Comes with a sturdy sponge, and it's mild on the hands. Works on brass, stainless steel, and chrome items, too. Just wipe it on with the sponge, and rinse with clear water.
What we dislike: It can be a little messy.
Best bang for your buck: Brilliant's Silver Jewelry Cleaner with Cleaning Basket
Our take: A classic favorite silver jewelry cleaner that removes the grime fast, but beware the possibility that some pieces may dull from the cleaner, and it'll take some effort to return the finish.
What we like: It works lightening fast to clean only sterling silver and silver-plated jewelry.
What we dislike: The basket that holds jewelry while cleaning could be better designed.
Our take: An affordable dry polishing cloth for anyone with allergies or sensitivities to cream or liquid chemical cleaners.
What we like: The cloth's large size can be cut down to use on multiple items for tarnish removal. Works on gold, silver, and platinum by using the inner layer of fabric to remove tarnish and an outer layer of cloth for buffing.
What we dislike: There's a learning curve on the best way to use the cloth to clean items without too much elbow grease.
Marilyn Zelinsky-Syarto is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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