No registration, no passwords; no pop-up ads -- just aloha, fun, & authoritative answers.
As an eBay Partner & Amazon Affiliate we receive compensation for qualifying purchases.
Home /
Search 🔍
the Site
pub  Where the world gathers for
plating, anodizing, & finishing Q&As since 1989


Why Does Silver Tarnish?

Q. Hello, I am in organic chemistry class and today we received a handout asking why and how silver tarnishes. I know it has to do with silver oxidizing, however, I'm not completely sure as to why or how. Does the presence of sulfur, cause the tarnish on the silver?

If anyone could help me I would greatly appreciate it.

C. Benson
- Houston, Texas USA

A. Silver sulphate is the principle product formed when silver turns dark colored (tarnishes). There is sulfur [affil link] containing compounds in air, and most papers, so to prevent tarnish, one needs to prevent contact of the silvered item with air by storing it in an air tight, sulfur-free container, or, if viewing is desired, applying a tightly adhering clear film such as a lacquer.

W. Carl Erickson
- Rome, New York

A. Tarnish is what happens to silver when silver becomes silver sulfide. You can see this by looking at silver and looking for a dark black color. This happens when the sulfide in the spoon or metal reacts with the air around it

Amanda D.
- Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, USA

Q. Why does silver tarnish ?

Marilyn K Price
teacher - Phila, Pennsylvania, USA

Silver Anti-tarnish Strips

on eBay or


(affil links)

A. Hi. For all metals except precious metals like gold and platinum, the oxidized or sulfided state is a lower energy state than the raw metal state. So sulfur in the air will react with silver and leave a black tarnish on it, very slowly releasing a small amount of heat when it does so.

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

!! My silver ring recently turned black, and seeing how I have been wearing it for years without such a reaction I got to wondering what could have caused this. Then I read your reader response on sulfur and realized it must be the sulfur soap I have started using on my face. Lesson learned: Take off your silver jewelry when washing your face with sulfur products!

Panja Cantala
- EL Paso, Texas

A. Tarnished silver can be cleaned with boiling water and baking soda [on eBay or Amazon affil links]

Rena Kouper
- Christchurch, New Zealand
February 16, 2009

Silver Cleaning Plate

on eBay or


(affil links)

thumbs up signThanks Rena. I think that's a slight simplification though. The silver must be touching an aluminum cleaning plate, or at least aluminum foil, for that to work. It's explained in letter 4785, "Polishing Silver with Aluminum Foil and Baking Soda".


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

(No "dead threads" here! If this page isn't currently on the Hotline your Q, A, or Comment will restore it)

Q, A, or Comment on THIS thread -or- Start a NEW Thread

Disclaimer: It's not possible to fully diagnose a finishing problem or the hazards of an operation via these pages. All information presented is for general reference and does not represent a professional opinion nor the policy of an author's employer. The internet is largely anonymous & unvetted; some names may be fictitious and some recommendations might be harmful.

If you are seeking a product or service related to metal finishing, please check these Directories:

Chemicals &
Consult'g, Train'g
& Software

About/Contact  -  Privacy Policy  -  ©1995-2024, Pine Beach, New Jersey, USA  -  about "affil links"