If you’re big on life hacks, you’ve probably used toothpaste as a polish before. Toothpaste can be surprisingly effective at cleaning and polishing certain metals and plastics. But can it be used to clean and polish silver?
Toothpaste’s abrasive properties can help remove dirt and tarnish from silver that has a matte or satin finish. However, the abrasion can damage other types, such as antique silver jewelry. Better alternatives for polishing include metal polish, silver dipping, or a jewelry cleaning solution.
Let’s look at which types of silver can safely be cleaned with toothpaste, which alternatives to consider, and how you can keep your silver shining for as long as possible.
Can Toothpaste Polish Silver?
Toothpaste can be effective in cleaning silver jewelry and other silver objects. However, it shouldn’t be used to clean fragile silver objects, silver-coated jewelry, or highly polished silver.
While the abrasiveness of toothpaste is great for buffing metals like silver, it may also have the opposite effect and damage the silver in some cases.
If you aren’t dealing with highly polished or silver-plated objects, then you can use toothpaste as a polish. Toothpaste works best on silver that’s extremely tarnished and has a satin or matte finish. It buffs up the silver quite nicely and can restore your silver to its full glory.
However, you’ll have to be careful when polishing expensive metals with toothpaste. Always use a non-abrasive alternative for antique silver jewelry.
Things to Consider Before Using Toothpaste to Polish Silver
While toothpaste is great for transforming tarnished silver, it may also damage the silver over time. Toothpaste contains abrasive particles that may scratch delicate silver. The same applies to some types of stainless steel and gold. Avoid using toothpaste on highly-polished silver jewelry or antique objects.
Before you try polishing all your silver, check whether it’s actually meant to be polished. Sometimes jewelers will leave their silver jewelry with a slightly dull finish to give it a more antique look.
Also, avoid polishing fragile silver objects or silver-plated jewelry. Silver plated jewelry can get scratched easily, exposing the metal underneath.
So, unless your silver has a matte or satin finish, avoid using toothpaste to polish it. Antique silver should be polished by a professional jeweler if you’re worried about damaging it.
How to Use Toothpaste to Polish Silver
You’ll have to take extreme care not to damage the silver when using toothpaste as a polish. Toothpaste can easily dull or scratch silver if used incorrectly or rubbed too hard. Follow these steps to polish silver with toothpaste:
- Use a simple, unicolor toothpaste. Avoid using whitening toothpaste as it contains more hydrogen peroxide, which may damage the silver. Also, avoid using toothpaste with baking soda or tartar control. While gel-based toothpaste is less abrasive, it won’t have the same cleaning effect, so avoid that too.
- Wet the silver slightly and use a Q-tip to apply a pea-sized amount to its surface.
- Use a damp tissue to gently rub the toothpaste into the silver. You can also use a paper towel or Q-tip but be extremely careful not to grind the paste too hard on the silver’s surface.
- Use a soft toothbrush to clean the grooves. If the object has a flat or smooth surface, you can skip this step.
- Wipe the silver with a paper towel or tissue. If the stains don’t come off easily, you can let the toothpaste sit for about 5 minutes.
- Rinse the silver with warm water and dry with a towel.
Other Ways To Polish Silver
Whether you prefer to use DIY cleaners to polish silver or don’t mind spending extra on professional jewelry cleaners, there are many other methods to clean silver without damaging it. Some of the best silver cleaners that you can use as an alternative to toothpaste include:
Dish soap is a great cleaning agent if your silver has light tarnish and stains. However, it won’t be as effective with heavily tarnished silver.
Use a soft sponge or cloth to rub the dish soap into the silver. Don’t rub the silver too hard as dish soap can also be abrasive and scratch it.
Never put silver items in the dishwasher or wash them along with other utensils since silver scratches easily. If you clean your silver regularly, dish soap should be a very effective option.
Vinegar can also be used to clean some types of silver. If your silver is severely tarnished, you can soak it in vinegar for an hour or two to remove the dirt. While vinegar is effective at removing dirt from silver items, it may also cause them to become more dull.
Avoid using vinegar to clean expensive silver jewelry or other highly-polished silver items.
Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also quite effective at polishing silver and other precious metals. While it won’t work on heavily tarnished silver, you can use it along with another cleaning agent to polish the silver.
Use dish soap or toothpaste to clean the tarnish off the silver, and then apply alcohol-based hand sanitizer as a polish.
Silver dipping involves using a “silver dip” (on Amazon) to remove tarnish from the silver. Despite the name, a silver dip isn’t a solution of silver but rather a commercial cleaning solution that removes dirt from silver and other metals.
Avoid dipping the silver inside the solution, especially if it’s silver jewelry, as the solution can dull the silver.
Metal Polish or Jewelry Cleaner
Metal polish or jewelry cleaner is the best solution for cleaning and polishing silver. Jewelry cleaner is a specialized, non-abrasive solution that can be used to clean silver, gold, and many types of gemstones. It’s typically only available with jewelers and can be expensive, but it’s the best option for cleaning silver jewelry.
If you’re using general metal polish, look for one that’s not abrasive and doesn’t scratch the silver. Try using the polish on a stainless steel surface before testing it on the silver.
Tips for Keeping Your Silver Polished
While some types of silver will become tarnished even if they’re only exposed to air, you can keep your silver shining for longer with a little care. Store your silver properly, keep it away from water, and clean it regularly to prevent it from getting tarnished.
Here are some tips to help you maintain polished silver:
- Store the Silver in a Dry Place: Silver should always be stored in a cool, dry place. If you’re storing expensive silver jewelry, keep it in an airtight container if possible, as humidity will cause it to tarnish sooner. You can also add an anti-tarnish strip or a silica gel pack (on Amazon) to absorb the moisture from your jewelry box.
- Keep the Silver Away From Water: Sweat and water will cause your silver to tarnish much faster than usual. If the silver gets wet, use a tissue or soft cloth to dry it immediately. If you live in a humid climate, you’ll have to polish the silver more often to prevent it from getting tarnished.
- Polish the Silver Regularly: If you polish your silver regularly, you won’t have to worry about it getting badly tarnished. However, if you let the silver sit in a jewelry box for several months, you’ll have to polish it thoroughly before wearing it. If your silver gets dirty from frequent usage, clean it with a mild abrasive like dish soap.