How to: Clean Your Sterling Silver, Gold-Plated, and Brass Jewelry
If you read my email this morning (sign up @ the bottom of the page to be on the list!), then you know I'm on a major clean/purge fest. That means I'm cleaning out my closet (gotta figure out this Poshmark deal) and the studio (hellooo new markdowns in Sale)! This also means that I'm cleaning/polishing up all the inventory we have in house.
I've had several people ask me over the years what I use to clean our brass, sterling silver, and gold-plated jewelry. And I'm sorry it's taken me this long to write this blog post! I have a few methods I use for each metal:
For Sterling Silver Jewelry:
All MFF silver jewelry is solid sterling silver. So, just as a disclosure, I have no idea how this method will affect any silver-plated items (usually sterling silverware is plated, FYI). My mom has used a variety of polishing cloths on her silverware, but I'm far too impatient for polishing cloths with my sterling silver jewelry, especially if there's a quicker way to get the job done. Plus, all the crevices in the texture make a polishing cloth almost not worth it. However, I should mention that polishing cloths, like a Sunshine Cloth, are actually totally fine, and intended, to be used on solid sterling silver jewelry; I just personally don't like how much time they take. Here's my solution:
Sterling Silver Jewelry Cleaner + an Ultrasonic Cleaner
I found this liquid solution a few years ago on Amazon, and now I buy it in bulk! I recommend it to all my retailers to keep their silver pieces bright and shiny. Yall, this stuff works wonders. Every time I pull a load out of the ultrasonic cleaner that's been soaking in this solution, my jaw drops to the floor. It gets in all the nooks and crannies and really gets the dirt and tarnish out.
Now, I understand that not everyone owns an ultrasonic cleaner. That's probably one of the biggest reasons I've never offered up this solution before. HOWEVER, they are an excellent tool to have, and I purchased this small one from Bed Bath and Beyond for $50. It's been well worth it. Yes, it's small, but so is your jewelry! I'm sure larger companies use crazy huge cleaners, but my baby one from BB&B has worked well for me for the past few years. I will tell you this, though: the cleaning solution doesn't really work without the ultrasonic cleaner. They're a pair (like Mrs. Salt and Mr. Pepper). I've tried simply soaking my jewelry in the cleaner without placing it in the ultrasonic machine, and the results were underwhelming. A small bit of tarnish wore off, but I mostly had to remove the rest with a polishing cloth.
For Gold-Plated Jewelry:
Most MFF "gold" jewelry is solid sterling silver then plated with gold (I go more into detail about that here). Since there is a layer of gold over the silver, I don't recommend using the above solution to clean your gold-plated jewelry as it's specifically made for sterling silver so I'm not sure it if would strip the gold.
For our gold-plated jewelry, I've found just one cleaning method that works well:
DO: An Old Toothbrush and Mild Soap in Warm Water
DON'T: A Sunshine Polishing Cloth
The best thing about using a tooth brush is that it's going to reach those tiny crevices that a polishing cloth can't (and shouldn't - read on to find out why). I always say to use a mild soap, like Dawn. Don't ever use soap that has beads or something rough in it (you will definitely strip the gold that way). And, always try to use an old toothbrush, one whose bristles have been softened by months of brushing teeth. A new brush's bristles will be too hard and scratch your jewelry piece.
Gold-plated jewelry is very tricky to clean as you don't want to risk removing the gold. Though these Sunshine Polishing Cloths are quite gentle, in my experience, they will still strip the gold off your MFF jewelry almost immediately, leaving you with a silver piece of jewelry. If you're looking to get rid of the gold on your piece and simply wear it as silver, go for it. But, if you're looking to bring back that gold shine, use a suuuupperrr soft toothbrush and mild soap. Or, if you'd like to have your piece re-plated, just get in touch! It's more affordable than you think (and free if the piece was purchased in the last 6 months).
For Brass Jewelry:
We offer a few select pieces in brass on our site. To me, the coolest thing about brass jewelry is that it patinas and gets a new kind of shiny over time. The "tarnish" doesn't really degrade the piece, but rather gives it a whole new life. However, some folks are not quite as partial to the patina, and for those folks, I say Polishing Cloth it up, or try any of these solutions:
You can also use the old toothbrush method
Or, I've read that you can soak your brass jewelry in ketchup; yep, you read that right: ketchup.
Submerge your jewelry pieces in ketchup in a small bowl for up to 30 minutes then rinse with warm water and dry them off with a soft cloth. Be careful with how long you submerge the piece though as ketchup is acidic.
Speaking of acid, I'd be careful with any vinegar-based cleaning solutions as the acid in the vinegar (or ketchup) can strip the brass of its copper content; therefore, making your jewelry weaker. Just an FYI, don't use the sterling silver cleaning solution listed above on brass either. The instructions specifically say don't use on brass.
I hope this has been helpful and informative! Still have burning jewelry cleaning questions? Drop me a line or comment below, and let's figure it out together!