Does Salt Water Tarnish Sterling Silver?

Does salt water tarnish sterling silver? In this post, we will examine if salt water has any effect on silver jewelry, particularly whether it can tarnish it. Let’s find out. 

Since time immemorial, the topic of what will or will not cause jewelry to corrode or change color has always been debated. With so much information out there, especially from brands who try to present their products as indestructible, it can be hard to know what really works or what to do. 

Sterling silver is commonly used to make everyday jewelry, and it’s known for its classic look, durability, and hypoallergenic properties. 

However, it is not exactly clear how it will perform when exposed to certain mediums, such as salt water. 

Does Salt Water Tarnish Sterling Silver

The question then arises, does sterling silver corrode or discolor when it comes in contact with salt water? 

Does salt water tarnish sterling silver?

Yes, it does. When sterling silver is exposed to salt water, it tends to darken and oxidize faster. This might leave a residue on the jewelry or item. Besides discoloration, tarnishing causes the jewelry to lose its lustre and strength, which may lead to breakage. 

What is silver tarnishing?

The word “tarnish” is often used to describe something that has become discolored or dull. It is a layer of corrosion formed over silver, copper, aluminum, and other metals when they undergo oxidation.

Silver tarnishing is the discoloration or darkening of a silver piece caused by exposure to sulfur-containing gasses in the atmosphere, such as hydrogen sulphide (H2S) or moisture. Silver tarnishing is a chemical change as it’s caused by a chemical reaction.

NB: A chemical reaction is a process whereby one or more substances are converted into one or more different substances. This process is what leads to a chemical change. A chemical change occurs when two or more substances combine to form a new substance. Examples are burning of paper, boiling an egg, oxidation, fermentation, combustion, rotting, and of course, silver tarnishing.

Why does sterling silver tarnish?

Silver tarnishing is inevitable, but there are certain things that can accelerate the process. Some of these include:

  1. Moisture: When sterling silver is exposed to moisture, it can tarnish faster. Just as metals rust when exposed to moisture or air-dried, the silver piece starts to tarnish. So, if your silver piece is wet or damp, rather than air-dry, buff it dry using a soft cloth.
  1. Oxidants: Certain household oxidants like bleach cause silver to tarnish. So, it’s advisable to keep your silver pieces away from them. If you need to do the laundry or you need to use bleach for some reason, take off your silver rings or bracelet before proceeding.
  1. Items containing sulphur: Certain materials like rubber, paper, latex, and cardboard are known to contain high amounts of sulfur. If you use paper to wrap or store your silver piece, it can speed up the tarnishing process.
  1. Food containing sulfur: Certain food ingredients like spinach, onion, garlic, and eggs can also accelerate silver tarnishing. That is because these foods contain sulfur. So, if your silver piece comes in contact with any of these, make sure to clean it properly before you store it. Generally, it’s better not to handle these items while still wearing your silver jewelry. 
  1. Perspiration: Human sweat contains salt and moisture, which makes it capable of corroding silver. Always clean your jewelry of sweat before storing away. 

Can you wear sterling silver in the sea?

Sea water contains a high concentration of salt, so it’s not recommended to wear your sterling silver jewelry when you’re in there. Otherwise, if you do it often, your jewelry can get darkened and discolored. 

In other words, exposing your sterling silver to seawater will cause it to tarnish and oxidize more quickly. 

So, while it’s possible to wear your silver jewelry in the sea, it’s better not to do so. Not just the sea but also water in pools and hot tubs. These contain even harsher chemicals that can degrade your sterling silver jewelry. 

How to remove tarnish from sterling silver?

If your silver piece is discolored or tarnished, don’t panic. There are various ways you can restore its bright and shiny form.

Using lemon-lime soda

Soda has the ability to remove tarnish very quickly. All you have to do is – get a bowl, fill it with lemon-lime soda. Then place your silver piece into the bowl and let it sit for at least one hour. Take it out, rinse it and buff it dry using a soft cloth.

Using vinegar and baking soda

  1. Get a bowl and fill it with 2 cups of lukewarm water. 
  2. Measure 1/2 cup of white vinegar and pour it in the bowl. 
  3. Then, add 2 tablespoons of baking soda into the bowl. Mix properly. 
  4. Place your silver piece into the bowl and let it soak for 2 to 3 hours. 
  5. Rinse under water and buff dry with a soft cloth.

Using hand sanitizer

  1. Get a dry piece of cloth. 
  2. Squeeze a few drops of hand sanitizer onto it.
  3. Then begin to polish it until the tarnish comes off. Rinse the silver piece and buff dry with a soft dry cloth.

Using Ammonia

  1. Get a bowl and pour 1 cup of warm water into it. 
  2. Next, measure 1/2 cup of clear ammonia and pour it into the bowl of warm water. 
  3. Mix properly, then, place your silver piece into it and let it soak for 10 minutes. 
  4. Remove the silver piece, rinse it properly and buff it dry using a soft dry cloth.

Using Toothpaste

Toothpaste has been known to do a lot more than just clean the teeth. You can also use it to remove tarnish. 

  • Get a plain or gel toothpaste. 
  • Apply a bit onto a soft-bristled toothbrush or a microfibre cloth.
  • Then use it to brush or rub the silver piece until the tarnish is removed. 
  • Rinse the silver piece with warm water and buff dry using a clean soft cloth.

Using dish soap

You can also use mild soap to remove tarnish on sterling silver. The steps are as follows:

  • Get a bowl and fill it with warm water. 
  • Pour a few drops of dish soap into the bowl of water and mix it slightly. 
  • Get a microfiber cloth and dip it into the mixture. 
  • Next, use the soapy cloth to rub the silver piece until the tarnish is gone. 
  • Rinse the silver piece with cold water and buff dry with a soft dry cloth.

Using silver polish

You can find a couple of these online. To recommend a few, you could use Wright’s silver cleaner and polish cream, Weiman silver cleaner and polish, and Goddard’s silver polish liquid

Does sterling silver turn black?

When sterling silver tarnishes, it usually turns black. The black substance formed is called silver sulphide (Ag2S).

It is absolutely normal for your silver piece to tarnish over time. The black color is what indicates the tarnish. If your silver is tarnished, it can be restored. You can either use a silver polish and tarnish cleaner or use one of the home remedies mentioned earlier.

One of the best silver tarnish remover available is Wright’s Silver Cleaner and Polish Cream. It doesn’t only clean but also polishes tarnished silver jewelry without scratching. And it’s odorless. 

In Conclusion: Does salt water tarnish sterling silver?

Salt water causes sterling silver to corrode and tarnish. This happens as the metal in the silver begins to oxidize. This speeds up the process of tarnishing.

I highly recommend removing your silver jewelry anytime you go swimming in the open or want to use a pool, hot tub, and similar equipment. 

You can get rid of the tarnish using ammonia, dish soap, white vinegar, hand sanitizer, toothpaste or lemon-lime soda. You can also get rid of tarnish using silver polish.