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How to Clean Tarnished Gold

Catherine Tramell
Catherine Tramell

Last updated 5. may 2022

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Gold is considered precious for its color, sheen, malleability, conductivity, reactivity, etc. Gold often gets passed onto generations and remains in the family. It’s also quite possible that the gold jewelry or piece of pure gold bullion you now own is made of gold mined decades or even centuries ago.

Because gold doesn’t oxidate or react to oxygen in the air, it doesn’t corrode or tarnish. The yellow metal assumes a “dirty” look only if it’s not pure gold or the particular piece is plated, filled, or mixed with other metals.

Since gold jewelry is rarely 24-karat gold and is usually alloyed with other metals such as silver, copper, nickel, etc., it’s not uncommon to see gold items losing their polish after a period. With adulterated jewelry, the issues become even more apparent.

If your gold item has lost its characteristic hue and you don’t know what to do, read on. We’ll also share some tips to keep your gold jewelry looking as good as new for the longest period.

Why Does Gold Tarnish?

To reiterate, solid gold doesn’t tarnish. When the precious metal teams up with other metals via gold plating, alloying, filling, etc., tarnishing concerns arise. Gold-plated and gold-filled jewelry, in particular, are at a higher risk of losing their yellowish looks since their gold content is minimal or superficial.

On the other hand, Gold alloys are a lot more resilient as they contain much more gold than plated jewelry, and the fusing of the different metals is also technical or more robust.

With gold-plated or -filled jewelry, the base metal (copper, silver, or iron) comes to the fore in due course of time and discolors, thanks to oxidation. The process causes the thin upper gold layer to disintegrate, causing the piece to lose its original look.

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Cleaning Tarnished Gold: The Different Techniques

To clean tarnished gold, you don’t need expert intervention. You can clean your tainted gold at home using regular household cleaning items. The following are the various items you need to clean gold jewelry and the steps:

Dish Soap

  • Grab a bowl with some warm water (250 to 500 ml) and add a few drops of mild dish soap to it. Mix the two well before completely immersing your gold item in the concoction. Ensure the soap is phosphate-free or without abrasive ingredients.
  • Drop your gold into the water and let it stay in for 15 to 30 minutes for the soap to loosen the grime and dirt effectively.
  • Once completely bathed, remove the gold, and scrub it with a soft towel. If the piece has tiny grooves or indentations, use a soft bristle toothbrush to reach those narrow spots. Be gentle with your motions to not damage the piece.
  • Rinse the gold piece with mild-warm water thoroughly to wash off the dislodged dirt and soap. Equally important is to dry the cleansed item with a soft cloth to avoid water stains.

Baking Soda

  • Fill a small pot with approximately 500 ml of water and place it on a stove. Let the water heat up to a boil.
  • Grab a glass baking dish and place an aluminum foil over it. Press the sheet against the plate to ensure it’s flush with the utensil, fully wrapping the bottom and edges.
  • Put your gold item onto the covered appliance and douse it in baking soda. If cleaning a gold chain, lay the piece flat so that the sprinkled soda covers all the links.
  • Gently pour the boiled water into the glass plate. The baking soda-wrapped gold piece must fully immerse. For the next five minutes, let the aluminum sheet assist the water and baking soda to their thing.
  • After that, take the gold out with a tong or fork and wash it using cold water. Make sure you scoop out the gold. Do not poke at it.  
  • Take a soft cloth to dry the gold and remove baking soda residue. Let the rejuvenated gold piece air-dry for a few minutes before you safely store it away.

Ammonia

  • Take a glass container and pour two cups (around 500 ml) of warm water. Add some dishwashing soap and stir the mix with a spoon.
  • Add 2.5 ml of ammonia to the container mix. Since ammonia has a striking smell and can irritate your skin, wear gloves, and ensure you’re in a properly ventilated space. Just unlatch the windows. Wearing a dust mask is also recommended. 
  • Drop your gold jewelry into the ammonia mixture, ensuring zero splashes. Let the gold stay in for around 10 seconds and remove it immediately.
  • Gently clean the gold with a soft brush to get rid of the marks. Your rubber gloves must stay on to prevent the ammonia from coming in contact with your hands.
  • Post-rubbing, cleanse the piece under running cold water for around 45 seconds. Rotate the piece during the wash to ensure all sides are properly cleansed. While at it, also wash the other items to remove ammonia from everything.

P.S. Ensure the gold pieces are devoid of glued semi-precious stones or any kind of embellishment since the adhesive can dissolve in the water, unseating the rocks.

Preventing Gold from Getting Tarnished

Like the age-old maxim, it’s wise to prevent gold from getting tarnished than toiling with a piece of tainted gold. Here are things to do to prevent gold from losing its sheen:

  • Remove your gold jewelry, particularly gold plated jewelry, when washing hands, cleaning the house, applying makeup or beauty products, etc.
  • Do not swim with gold on. Saltwater or chlorine can damage the gold. Avoid water contact as much as possible when you have gold on.
  • Some people spray perfume on their gold pieces. If you’re one of them, stop the practice.

Cleaning gold with a lint-free cloth (not polishing cloth) every few months or once a year (at least) will keep the shine of your gold jewelry intact. Besides not using a polishing cloth, also do not use paper towels or tissues as the fibers in them could scratch your gold item.

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Conclusion

To keep gold looking excellent is not an uphill task, or you need not fix an appointment with a professional jeweler or gold cleaning expert. With the household items mentioned above, you can easily make your dull and corroded gold pieces look new again. And then there are things you could do not to reach that point or delay the occurrence.