How to Polish Oxidized Silver

Updated April 13, 2018

Oxidation is a chemical reaction that produces different results on different types of metals. When iron oxidises, rust is created. But when silver oxidises, a black film appears on the metal's surface. Oxidation is often created purposefully to add depth and visual appeal to some silver objects, especially jewellery; however, oxidation is unwanted on most other silver objects. Items with artistic oxidation should never be submerged in liquid silver cleaners or the effect will be stripped away.

Mix a few drops of non-lemon dish soap in water. Use a soft cloth to wash the silver piece. Remove dirt and build-up from small crevices, such as in jewellery, with cotton swabs.

Dry the silver thoroughly with a soft, lint-free cloth and swabs. Take special care to dry the oxidised sections especially well.

Rub a flannel polishing cloth along the non-oxidised portions of the item until it is clean and shiny.

Wash the piece in soapy water and dry it well. Rub a polishing cloth over the entire surface to remove a light coat of oxidation.

Apply a nonabrasive paste to clean stubborn layers of oxidation. Place a small amount of polish on a cotton ball and rub on the paste in a back-and-forth pattern, not in circles. Rotate sides or use a new cotton ball when it becomes dirty, as some of the dirt and tarnish may attain contain abrasive elements that can scratch the silver.

Allow the paste to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions. Remove the paste with a soft flannel cloth.

Clean paste from crevices and embellishments with a wetted soft-bristled art brush, cotton swab/ball or toothpick.


Avoid wearing silver jewellery when you swim, bathe or wash dishes to help prevent tarnish and oxidation. Store silver items in tarnish-resistant bags or chests. Wash and dry silver service items carefully after each use and they will require less frequent polishing. Always remove the salt from a silver shaker before storing. Over time, salt will corrode silver. Use plain cotton gloves when polishing your silver; the oils from your fingers contribute to tarnish build-up. Clean off unwanted oxidation as soon as it is noticed for the easiest maintenance.


Do not submerge silver items with porous attachments, such as wooden handles, into water. Immediately wipe off any polish that spreads onto porous attachments. Do not place silver items in the dishwasher. The heat of the dishwasher can damage the silver, requiring professional restoration. Do not use toothpaste as a silver polish, it contains abrasives that can scratch the delicate surface of your silver.

Things You'll Need

  • Dish soap
  • Soft cloth
  • Cotton swabs
  • Flannel polishing cloth
  • Polishing paste
  • Cotton ball
  • Art brush
  • Toothpicks
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About the Author

Jo Burns has been a freelance writer since 1980. She specializes in articles relating to home and garden, alternative health care, travel, writing and crafting. In 2007, Burns received an M.F.A. in creative writing.