Yesterday, I embarked on a household experiment for the greater good, by which I mean the greater good of my jewelry. See, our bedroom is a humid swamp during the summer months despite the thrumming of the dehumidifier, and since this was our first summer in the house, I didn’t anticipate the toll that would take on my not very large selection of sterling silver jewelry. Let’s just say that it wasn’t pretty.
Initially, I tried what JG’s mom called a foolproof method. She told me to “line the sink with aluminum foil, put in some baking soda, and then pour hot water in.” Uh, that’s it? What quantities of all of these things? How hot is the water? Does it matter that I’m trying to de-tarnish jewelry and not silverware? I surmised from the lack of details that quantities didn’t matter too much, so I started in my own fashion. I lined a cake pan (I was wary of my jewelry in the sink) with foil, shook in some baking soda, and then added hot tap water. I followed the directions, right? Wrong. My jewelry stayed as stubbornly tarnished as before, and I had a feeling that the solution was loosing its efficacy as the water quickly cooled off. Forget this – to the source of all knowledge, the internet!
A quick look on Google and eHow turned up a whole variety of solutions. They all had the water/baking soda/aluminum combination, but all other details were all over the map, like temperature of water (hot from the tap vs. boiling), quantity of baking soda (2 tablespoons on up to “one to two cups”!), time (as little as 5 minutes or as much as a half hour), and after-cleaning treatment. Some tipsters said to wrap the silver in plastic wrap, others recommended mylar bags, and still others preached of moisture-grabbing strips. Again, I mentally protested, “What if it’s jewelry and not forks?!” No one heard my cry.
Finally, after hearing me hem and haw about the variance in these methods – seriously though, why hasn’t anyone debunked the numerous and obviously wrong methods here? – JG put a pot of water on to boil and dumped in a cup of baking soda. Well, that shut me up. I was committed. We were going for the gusto.
The white mixture started to pop and fizz all over the place, and we dumped it into my foil-lined pan. I dropped in my jewelry, trying to maximize my available space, and watched with bated breath. Sure enough, the some of the tarnish started to fall away, and I took the “watched pot” reasoning and stepped away from the somewhat smelly pan.
Fifteen minutes later, I fished out my jewelry from the baking soda cakiness, and well, it kind of worked. Some pieces were totally clean, but others were kind of patchy. The solution wasn’t very comprehensive, to say the least, but I have no idea why. Too much baking soda? Not enough time? Bah. I wiped everything off and put each piece in a plastic snack bag, in spite of the few dire warnings against doing so, and made a mental note to consult my local jeweler. Which could have saved me some time and a whole lot of baking soda.
So much for being all Mr. Wizard.