Sterling silver is a highly desirable material for jewelry and it has only grown in popularity over time. It is durable, elegant, and beautiful – but it isn’t without flaws.
One thing that people worry about is whether or not sterling silver is okay to wear in the shower. As you may already know, some metals are prone to tarnishing when exposed to water. This can cause your jewelry to become dull and dirty.
Today, we’re going to talk about sterling silver and whether or not the effect is the same when exposed to water, particularly in the shower.
Can sterling silver tarnish from shower water?
To put it simply – yes, sterling silver can tarnish if exposed to certain elements. This metal is more high-maintenance than others; you’ll have to be especially careful when going about your day with this jewelry on.
- Why does it tarnish?
Sterling silver tarnishes because it is an alloy, meaning that the material is made up of several metals. Pure silver does not tarnish easily, but the copper in a sterling silver alloy makes it more susceptible to this reaction.
- What tarnishes sterling silver?
There are a few things that will cause sterling silver jewelry to tarnish, including:
- Water (including humid conditions)
- Impure air
- Chemicals in household cleaners
When to avoid wearing sterling silver jewelry
Tarnish is not the end of the world. It won’t immediately destroy your jewelry beyond repair, but the effects will build up over time. It is best that you avoid wearing your sterling silver jewelry in the following situations:
- Taking a shower
To answer the question you have been waiting for, no, you should not wear sterling silver in the shower. By doing this, you expose the metal to a lot of moisture and humidity at once.
Moisture is the biggest enemy of sterling silver, and the effects will be apparent after doing so. In the shower, you also expose your jewelry to the chemicals in your body wash and hair products, which can be harmful to the metal even though it doesn’t damage your skin.
- Cleaning your home
When cleaning, you expose your hands to all sorts of abrasive chemicals and moisture. Your cleaning products are tough on dirt, which is great, but they are also tough on your sterling silver jewelry.
- Going to the pool/hot tub/beach
The same principle that applies to wearing sterling silver in the shower also applies to wearing it in the pool, the beach, or the hot tub. You are exposing the metal to too much moisture and in some cases, harsh chemicals.
For more information on caring for sterling silver jeweler check out this article that we wrote.
How to avoid tarnishing/damaging sterling silver
If you want to avoid tarnishing your sterling silver jewelry as much as possible, you can take a few simple steps to keep it looking shiny and undamaged.
- Take it off before encountering chemicals or moisture
If you know that you will be handling chemicals like cleaners or getting in a pool full of chlorine, take off your jewelry. Remember, your sterling silver can also tarnish when exposed to humidity. If you are enjoying a trip to the sauna, you need to pack your jewelry away first.
Even if you take off your sterling silver jewelry before getting in the shower, keep in mind that leaving it out on the counter exposes it to humidity as well.
- Store it properly
Your sterling silver jewelry will require more care when storing it than jewelry made of materials like stainless steel would. Leaving it on your nightstand or counter isn’t enough to prevent damage or tarnishing.
When storing sterling silver, be sure to:
- Keep it in a cool, dark place. Sunlight and heat will damage your jewelry. Placing it near a window, for instance, would be less than ideal.
- Place each piece into its own bag away from other jewelry to prevent scratching. You can prevent tarnishing by removing all air from the bags as well. Plastic bags will do. Put your jewelry in its bag and close it halfway, then push all of the remaining air from it before zipping it completely closed.
- Store the jewelry on a soft surface. Though the sterling silver jewelry will now be separated into Ziploc bags, you can take special care of it by storing all of the bags in a soft place like a jewelry box with velvet inlay. The metal can still get scratched by hard surfaces through the plastic if you aren’t careful.
- Wear it regularly
Though you should avoid wearing sterling silver in certain situations, you should wear it as much as you can safely do so. The natural oils from your body will protect it to some degree. Wipe the jewelry down after wearing it to keep it clean.
For even more information check out our article.
What to do if your sterling silver tarnishes
If you do tarnish your jewelry, don’t worry. It can be removed through polishing. There are several ways to go about polishing your sterling silver, all of them relatively simple. Let’s talk about that.
- Have it professionally cleaned
Don’t feel like polishing your sterling silver jewelry? That’s understandable, and you don’t have to. Oftentimes, you have the option to take your jewelry to a professional cleaner. All you have to do is drop off your piece, pay for the service and come back when it’s done. If you are lucky, you may not have to wait for a day or two.
- Use soap and water
This may be confusing because you have been advised repeatedly not to expose your sterling silver to moisture, but this method of polishing works well as long as you follow instructions carefully.
- Fill a cup or small bowl with warm water and add a small amount (2-3 drops) of mild dishwashing soap.
- Place your sterling silver jewelry into the cup of water and immediately begin gently hand washing it. (Do not let it soak; this does more harm than good.)
- Use a cotton swab and a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently scrub off any remaining dirt or tarnish.
- Remove the now polished jewelry from the cup or bowl and wipe it down with a soft cloth (tip: microfiber works well for this.)
- Let your jewelry dry completely before wearing or storing it again.
- Polish with lemon juice and olive oil
Lemon juice has been a popular cleaning agent for decades. It’s acidic enough to remove grime but gentle enough to clean most everyday objects with. Olive oil is used for this polishing method because it dilutes the acidity of the lemon and provides extra shine.
Here’s how to do it:
- Mix ½ cup of lemon juice with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil in a small bowl.
- Dip the corner of a microfiber cloth into the lemon and olive oil solution.
- Wring out excess solution and polish the sterling silver, cleaning off tarnish.
- Rinse the jewelry under warm water when finished, and dry it with another non-abrasive cloth. Leave it to dry completely before wearing or storing again.
Polishing tips for sterling silver jewelry
Before you jump into polishing your sterling silver jewelry, you must first learn how to do so safely.
- Use back and forth motions
You may be inclined to polish your jewelry by rubbing in small circles with your cloth or other cleaning material. Don’t do this. You could scratch the silver. Instead, rub back and forth to prevent damage.
- Only use non-abrasive items
When polishing your sterling silver, you should only use non-abrasive items and solutions. The following are approved polishing materials:
- Microfiber cloth
- Soft-bristled toothbrush
- Cotton swab
- Mild dishwashing soap
- Olive oil
- White vinegar
- Baking soda
Stick to using these or take your jewelry to a professional. Many guides recommend using toothpaste to clean with, but it’s better to avoid doing so if you can. You need a specific formula and only a tiny amount. The other methods are less complicated and will save you some money.
- Dilute acids
If you are using acidic solutions like lemon juice or white vinegar, be sure to dilute them. Too much acid can corrode your sterling silver jewelry.
Never store or wear your jewelry prematurely
One of the most important things to remember is that you have to let your jewelry dry completely after polishing and before storing/wearing. If you get impatient, you’re only doing your sterling silver more harm. Prolonged exposure to moisture will tarnish your jewelry again, defeating the purpose of polishing it in the first place.Always wipe it down
Though some amount of air drying is necessary, you should still wipe your jewelry down after polishing. Again, use a non-abrasive cloth to do so. It should be at least partially dry before you lay it out to finish.
In conclusion, it is ultimately not okay to wear sterling silver in the shower. While it will not destroy your jewelry completely, it does tarnish and only causes more trouble and work for you later. If you want your jewelry to sparkle and shine, follow this advice and treat it with care.