If you watched Mr. Wizard in the 80’s or the subsequent reruns, you might recognize this easy peasy science experiment that cleans your silverware for pennies. What you might not know is this can clean all of your jewelry just as well as the pricey, acid based cleaners, with less chance of damaging your precious metals, without any scrubbing or buffing.
What you’ll need:
A non-conductive container (glass or plastic)
Place a strip of aluminum foil into your non-conductive container. I used this glass measuring cup. Add aproximately 3 cups of boiling water, add 2 tablespoons of baking soda, and your jewelry. Make sure the metal you want to clean is touching both the foil and the solution. Wait 30 seconds to 2 minutes and remove the jewelry.
Before and after, silver & gold earrings.
This example picture isn’t the best, in fact the left earring had already been dipped once, and you can see the gold rings are pretty clean, but I forgot to take before images of the other jewelry and most of it was already pretty clean after the first dip. These however needed to be wiped down, so I took the chance to take a quick “before and after” image. Your results will be better.
Does the water have to be boiling?
Not really, near boiling/really hot water works just as well. Boiling water seems to work a little faster, and if you plan to leave it in there for an extended time, keeping the water hot might help. I used a kettle to boil my water, it’s by far the fastest way, but stovetop or microwave work as well, just make sure you take the foil out before microwaving! Also, make sure you use a container that won’t melt or shatter from the high heat, a regular glass bowl will break! Disposable plastic bowls will melt!
Are the measurements exact?
Not in the least! A little more or less water or baking soda makes no difference. More foil is helpful though, as it gets dirty.
How do I know if it is working?
The water will go from a foggy white color to grey and you will smell a tarnish scent coming from the container. The top picture shows you what grey water looks like.
Can I dip all of my jewelry at once? even different metals?
Sure, but keep in mind, the more you put in, the more times you may need to repeat the process. Also, I had no issues with different stones, including diamonds, but I have no idea what stones may or may not be sensitive to this process.
Will this work on all precious metals?
I don’t own any platinum to try it on, but it’s pretty likely. If you do, and it works out, let me know and I will update this. It does work perfectly on silver, yellow, white and rose gold, as well as some semi-precious and non-precious metals. If there is dirt or tarnish on it, it will probably work.
Will this work on non-precious metals?
Yes and no. I have seen some non-precious metals improve and others not. It seems to work okay for brass, nickel silver (aka german silver), but does require you to wipe it down after the dip. Generic jewelry wire does not improve at all, regardless of how many dips or wiping unless it has tarnish from silver on it. This is a pretty good way to find out if those etsy “silver earrings” are actually silver. Stainless steel cleans up beautifully, but doesn’t really get that dirty in the first place.
I see a spoon in there, do I need to stir it?
Nope, it’s just human nature to want to be part of the process, it won’t hurt anything unless you keep it from touching the foil. You might need to flip the jewelry, to get it clean on both sides. I just stirred it half way through the cause the jewelry to move around.
What if my jewelry is REALLY dirty?
If you have a lot of tarnish on silver, black color on other metals or a large piece, then dip the items one at a time and extend dipping times.
What if it is still dirty after the 1st dip?
First, wipe your jewelry with a soft cloth, the solution loosens tarnish and dirt, some pieces may need to be wiped down to remove it entirely. If it is still dirty after wiping it off, repeat the process with new water and baking soda. You can reuse the foil until it appears dirty. Foil used five times on the left, foil used once on the right.