Chains are some of the most difficult pieces of jewelry to polish. Delicate cable chains like the one pictured have many tiny hard-to-reach surfaces that make it impossible to hand polish them. Chemical dips are expensive and toxic.
This method is easy, inexpensive and non-toxic. In about 1-2 minutes, you can clean all of your jewelry. Boil some water, and line a small dish (just large enough to hold your jewelry) with clean aluminum foil. Put about a tablespoon (it’s not necessary to measure) of baking soda in the dish along with your sterling silver jewelry. The jewelry must be in contact with the foil, and be sure it’s free of dirt and oils by washing it with soap and water first. Pour in the boiling water. You’ll see bubbles right away. They’re carbon dioxide, just like in carbonated water. As the bubbles slow down, you’ll notice that the jewelry is brighter. In less than a minute it should be free of tarnish. If the water becomes cool before all tarnish is removed (this might be the case if your jewelry was completely black) repeat the process with fresh boiling water and baking soda. You can re-use the same piece of aluminum foil over and over for this purpose. It will eventually turn dark. This is the tarnish from your jewelry. It’s been transferred to the foil!
How does it work? It’s an electrochemical reaction. Aluminum has properties that allow it to attract the tarnish from the silver. The hot water and baking soda are an electrolyte- a very weak current runs through it, which lets the reaction to take place. Hydrogen sulfide is released, which would create a slight sulfur smell, except it reacts with the baking soda to form sodium hydrosulfide, water, and carbon dioxide (the bubbles). You shouldn’t notice any smell, or be able to feel the current in the water. The chemical reaction is mild and involves tiny amounts of chemicals, but its effects on tarnished jewelry are dramatic!