How to Clean Tarnished Costume Jewelry

Unlike gold, costume jewelry can get tarnished easily, destroying its worth and appearance. But this doesn’t mean that you have to throw your tarnished costume jewelry away. There are many simple ways of cleaning costume jewelry when it gets discolored. Continue reading to learn simple tips on how to clean tarnished costume jewelry.

What Does Tarnished Costume Jewelry Mean?

Tarnished meaning

When your costume jewelry changes color, it doesn’t mean it is a knockoff, in fact, this discoloration is a normal reaction. This reaction normally occurs when you pack away your costume jewelry for a long time. After prolonged exposure to the elements, the chemical reaction will cause the jewelry, especially the metal part, to develop discoloration. This is referred to as tarnished costume jewelry.

Why Does Costume Jewelry Get Tarnished?

All types of costume jewelry that are not 100 percent pure gold, which is about 24k gold, or 100 percent pure silver (fine silver) are susceptible to tarnish. In fact, this problem also affects any fine jewelry containing solid 9k, 14k, 18k gold, or sterling silver.

Although the main cause of tarnished costume jewelry is the chemical reaction caused by continued exposure to the elements, there are many other reasons why your costume jewelry could have tarnish.

get Tarnished

For instance, your silver or gold jewelry could get tarnished when its surface comes into contact with sulfur, makeup, sweat, and body oils. When the metal mixes with sulfur, it causes a chemical reaction that results in the production of silver sulfide, which causes black discoloration.

The degree of tarnish varies with the type of harsh elements your jewelry is exposed to and the length of exposure. Therefore, your pieces might appear slightly dull or completely discolored. When you step out of the house, your jewelry is bombarded with different kinds of substances that might leave them tarnished. That’s why you need to learn how to clean tarnished costume jewelry.

How to Clean Tarnished Jewelry

It can be quite frustrating to see your expensive costume jewelry losing its original colors. Fortunately, there are many ways of getting rid of discoloration. The first piece of advice is to take your jewelry to your trusted jewelry store to see if professionals could do something to fix it.

You can also do it yourself if you are very skilled. In this case, you need some tools like Sterling Silver Cleaning Cloths.

Whether your pieces are handcrafted, costume jewelry, or 100 percent pure, these cleaning methods will help you to restore the bright, shiny gloss to your tarnished jewelry. However, you need to consider the type of material you are cleaning.

Most Common Costume Jewelry Materials

1. Gold


Gold is a highly precious and expensive metal that is highly versatile and malleable. It can be used to craft almost any type of jewelry. Jewelers also love gold because it is hypoallergenic. When you are cleaning gold jewelry, do not use harsh cleaning products like bleach, large brushes, or soap with unknown ingredients.

2. Silver


Although silver is one of the most precious metals used in jewelry, it is too soft to be used alone to make jewelry. So, most jewelers mix it with copper to enhance its luster, hardness, and glossy finish. When you are cleaning silver jewelry, do not scrub them with a hard brush or use cleaning detergents with chloride or undiluted bleach. Also, do not put your silver pieces in a dishwasher.

3. Pearl


Pearl is an organic gem that requires special care in order to last long. Therefore, you need to be careful when cleaning your pearl jewelry like the Francesca pearl bracelets with charm because it can easily be damaged by harsh cleaning detergents. Also, do not use a toothbrush, scouring pad, or any other abrasive material to clean your pearl pieces.

4. Gemstones

gemstonesBefore you start to clean your jewelry, identify the type of gemstones available. Different stones have diverse physical properties. Therefore, they will react differently to different cleaning products. So, it will be easy for you to choose the right cleaning products for your jewelry when you know the type of stones they have and how they are likely to react.

Best Home Remedies for Cleaning Tarnished Costume Jewelry

1. Lemon Juice

Lemon juice contains a special type of acid that easily clears discoloration on costume jewelry. You just need to mix a cup of water with a few tablespoons of lemon juice. Soak your costume jewelry in the mixture for at least 10 minutes. The acid in lemon juice will eat away the tarnish without damaging the finish.

After ten minutes, remove your pieces from the lemon mixture and rinse them with clean water. If you still find traces of tarnish, place the pieces back in the mixture for a few more minutes. When you are rinsing your jewelry after cleaning with lime, don’t douse them with water; use just enough. Then buff-dry them with a clean piece of cloth.

2. Baking Soda, Salt, and Aluminum Foil

Start by lining a found pan or bowl with a sheet of aluminum foil and make sure the shiny side is facing up. Then put all your tarnished jewelry in the bowl and add a mixture of one cup of warm water, one tablespoon of salt, and one tablespoon of baking soda. As this mixture reacts with the foil, the tarnish on your jewelry is eaten away. Once you are satisfied with the results, rinse and buff dry your jewelry with a piece of cloth.

3. Toothpaste and Toothbrush

Smudge a small amount of regular toothpaste on your tarnished costume jewelry with your finger and brush the thin coating clean with an old toothbrush. The gritty texture of the toothpaste is known to remove even the toughest dirt. Then rinse the pieces with cool water and buff dry them with a piece of cloth.

4. White Vinegar and Water

This mixture leaves costume jewelry looking glossy and clean. You just need to add equal amounts of white vinegar and water in a bowl. Then soak an old toothbrush in the mixture and brush the tarnish off gently. Make sure the toothbrush reaches into all the corners and gaps to get rid of the dirt.

Best Products to Clean Tarnished Costume Jewelry

1. Ammonia Solution

Ammonia Solution

Just pour 6 parts of warm water in a bowl and add o1 part of ammonia. Soak your tarnished jewelry in the solution for at least 10 minutes. Then use an old toothbrush to brush the jewelry gently. After brushing each piece, soak them again in the solution for an extra ten minutes and brush them for the second time.

Make another mixture of warm water and ammonia, and add several drops of mild dish soap. Stir the mixture thoroughly until it’s foamy. Soak your jewelry in the solution for ten minutes and then polish them with a lint-free piece of cloth. Then rinse the pieces with cool water and allow them to dry completely before storing them away.

2. Club Soda

Club Soda

Fill a glass with club soda and soak your tarnished custom jewelry in it. Let them soak in the soda overnight for a bright sheen. This cleaning method is perfect for pieces made with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires.

3. Beer


Beer has been found to be able to remove tarnish from solid gold. However, do not use it on any jewel with gemstones. Just pour a small amount of beer onto a soft piece of cloth and rub it gently over the jewelry. Then dry the pieces with a clean piece of cloth. This method gives solid gold back its perfect shine.

How to Store Costume Jewelry Safely to Avoid Tarnishing

Many people don’t know that how they store their costume jewelry determines their longevity. No matter the quality of your jewelry, these tips will help you to store your pieces properly so that they do not get tarnished.

1. Separate Metal Pieces from Other Jewelry

Always do an inventory of your costume jewelry, separating metal from other pieces. This prevents metal pieces from getting tarnished when they come into contact with other materials.

2. Clean and Dry Your Jewelry

Before you store your costume jewelry away after use, make sure it is thoroughly cleaned and dried. Moisture and dirt are the main reasons why metals become tarnished and degrade faster.

3. Use Protective Spray

You should also treat your costume jewelry with a protective spray before storing it away. This spray will prevent your expensive pieces from becoming tarnished and also protect you from allergic reactions like skin irritation, hive, rashes, and itchiness.

What Not to Do with Your Costume Jewelry

1. Don’t Expose Your Pieces to Direct Sunlight

Never place your costume jewelry where it is exposed to direct sunlight because the excess heat can cause some gemstones and pieces of pearl to crack. Harsh sunlight also causes silver and gold pieces to tarnish.

2. Don’t Wear Your Jewelry to the Gym, Shower, or Swimming Pool

Try as much as possible not to expose your expensive jewelry to salt water, chlorine, harsh detergents, sweat, and any other greasy stuff because it will lead to serious corrosion. These substances also cause faster deterioration of the finish on your jewelry by speeding up oxidation.

3. Don’t Remove Jewelry Over an Open Drain

Never remove your jewelry when you are standing over an open sink or drain, especially when washing your hands, face, or dishes. Otherwise, you will end up losing your precious jewelry.

4. Don’t Store Dirty or Wet Jewelry

If you do not clean and dry your jewelry before storing it, it will get discolored very easily. In most cases, you just need to use warm water, mild soap, and a clean piece of cloth to keep your jewelry clean.

In Summary

If you didn’t have a clue as to how to clean tarnished costume jewelry, I believe this article has given you the right ideas on how to keep your precious jewels looking clean and new. The good thing is that you don’t have to purchase expensive cleaning products or hire an expert to clean your jewelry; you can get the job done with simple everyday household products.

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