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Metal finishing Q&As since 1989


Jewelry cleaner turned silver black

Q. Left an old ring overnight in jewelry cleaner and finish came off, now metal looks dull awful, help, what to do.

n gates
- Redwood city, California
January 5, 2024

A. Hi N,
Without knowing what the ring was made of (silver?), whether it was plated with another material, etc., it's hard to know what went wrong and how to fix it, but lots of people have 'fixed' silver rings by doing nothing more complicated than rubbing it with tooth paste on a wash cloth.

Please search the site for "toothpaste silver" if you want to read more before trying it. You may wish to send a photo of the ring to for posting here and/or tell us more about the ring. Good luck.

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

⇩ Related postings, oldest first ⇩

Q. I have a 1 oz. bottle of Tarn-X and I've had it for a while and it is all gone now. All I wear is silver jewelry and this is the only stuff that I really like to use but, my problem, is that I don't know where I got it in the first place. Do they still make this product? If so could you please tell me where to obtain it?


Melisa A [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]

Ed. note: Tarn-X "Tarnish Remover" is readily available at a reasonable price from a choice of online suppliers [on eBay or Amazon affil links] . There is or was also a Tarn-X "Silver Polish", which is much much more expensive, presumably because it seems to be a discontinued product [adv: discontinued item on eBay or Amazon affil links] .

Q. I sell Silver Jewelry on an island, Where the rate of tarnish is much higher than anywhere else.
I was told to soak tarnished jewelry in acid, overnight. So I purchased Muriatic acid/Hydrochloric acid and did so.
In the morning, All my jewelry turned pitch black, worse than ever. I have never seen silver tarnished like this being in the jewelry industry for 20 years.
I am asking for help by getting assistance from a professional in the chemical industry to help me regain my Silver jewelry.

Haresh Udhwani
jewelers - St. Thomas, USVI

A. You can use slightly acidified 100 gm thiourea [on eBay or Amazon affil links] / 1 lit water solution (thiourea is carcinogenic substance!), or you can use 300 gm sodium thiosulphate [on eBay or Amazon affil links] /1 lit water solution.

Goran Budija
- Cerovski vrh Croatia

Q. I am looking to remove some discoloration from a silver alloy using the Sodium Thiosulphate formula that was recommended above, but I have no experience with this chemical. Will this chemical cause additional discoloration if left on the part too long? Will this chemical remove other metals such as gold? Can you use this chemical to electrochemically remove material? Thank you for any help you can give.

Cameron Kivela
- Boulder, Colorado, USA
October 9, 2015

A. Silver does form a stable water soluble complex with thiosulphate. There's a prep method for analytical samples to be analyzed for Ag that uses it.

Add electricity to the mix? You might try making the workpiece mildly anodic in a Na2S2O3 (sodium thiosulphate [on eBay or Amazon affil links] bath) if simple immersion doesn't work.

Of course, cyanide works better. I used to clean my girlfriend's silver jewelry with a little KCN dissolved in warm water. No polishing needed, just a dip. But you might not want to play with that. Hard to beat the good old toxic stuff. :)

dave wichern
Dave Wichern
Consultant - The Bronx, New York

Ed. note: Indeed, cyanide is only for trained chemists in proper facilities.

A. I'm doing silver cleaning job everyday in my area which works best and fast. I do cleaning & repolishing about 1 kg everyday for other goldsmiths.

Only if your jewelry is without stones then only use following process:
Use 15% to 25% sulfuric acid in water and then if you can heat the silver jewelry and then directly put into the acid it'll come out white smoke and then just put for 5 to 10 mins, then rinse and then do the polishing or put into tumble machine [on eBay or Amazon affil links] with very small amount (5 ml to 10 ml) of acidic solution.

If the jewelry is made in Italy then it'll need another process which is long and not good for health.

I advice you don't do this at home -- please use in workshop only.

Good luck,

Dipen Pattni
Dipen Pattni
jeweler/goldsmith - Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania

A. I don't know who did that to you [suggested overnight in sulfuric acid], but it was mean.
Use a fine polishing compound, Brasso [on eBay or Amazon affil links] or similar, buff to luster.
Next time, get Tarn-X [on eBay or Amazon affil links] and dilute.
Alternately, you can use some hair shampoos to keep your jewelry clean, I know that Head and Shoulders as well as Selsen Blue work in a 1/10 mix for light cleaning.

Marc Banks
Blacksmith - Shiloh, North Carolina, US

? It seems funny that those selenium sulfide shampoos would work, Mark. With their sulfide content they would seem to be mild darkening agents rather than lightening agents, but I haven't tried it.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Silver Cleaning Plates
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A. Non-professional method I use in the kitchen:
Plastic flat-bottom container, lay aluminum foil in the bottom, fill with hot (120 °F) salt water, add tarnished silver. The silverware turns nice and shiny by the time the water cools. note: the silver has to be in contact with the aluminum.

Bob Elmore
consumer - Cary, North Carolina

Ed. note: The water must be made highly conductive by the addition of washing soda [on eBay or Amazon affil links] , salt, or similar stuff. This use of aluminum foil or a silver cleaning plate [on eBay or Amazon affil links] is explained in detail in topic 4785 and topic 34314, or search the site for "silver cleaning plate aluminum".

thumbs up signI followed the salt and aluminum foil advice, it WORKS GREAT! That's the easiest, fastest, least expensive way ever to clean and restore silver. Thanks.

Rob Clark
- Cartersville, Georgia

! BE CAREFUL! The salt & foil method really works! I put some high quality silver and gold earrings and a ring in jewelry cleaner overnight and the silver had turned black and blue. Not tarnished -- it wouldn't rub off at all with typical silver polish, etc. -- but absolutely black. The salt/foil trick did the job immediately. BEWARE, however, that it looks like it took off some of the black highlighting that was originally on the pieces.

Mary Doggett
- San Antonio, Texas

A. You can use boiling 5% solution (50 gm borax [on eBay or Amazon affil links] , 1 lit water) -- simple and very safe ... Good luck!

Goran Budija
- Cerovski vrh Croatia

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