How to Polish Oxidized Silver

Written by jo burns
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How to Polish Oxidized Silver
Some types of oxidation have an aesthetic purpose. (Aaron Graubart/Photodisc/Getty Images)

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.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

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

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    Preserving Oxidation

  1. 1

    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.

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

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

    Removing Oxidation

  1. 1

    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.

  2. 2

    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.

  3. 3

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

  4. 4

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

Tips and warnings

  • 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.

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