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by Jesús Zabala - 3 min read

Does Rubbing Alcohol Tarnish Sterling Silver?

Sterling silver is a popular material for your favorite piece of jewelry. However, over time or due to improper storage, tarnish can reduce the shine of this material. So, alcohol is one of the many materials used for tarnish. But does rubbing alcohol tarnish sterling silver? Is it a safe option to use?

Stay tuned as we analyze alcohol as a possible option for cleaning sterling silver. We will look at the reasons behind tarnish and its effect on silver quality.

Does Rubbing Alcohol Tarnish Sterling Silver
Source: shutterstock.com/ Photo Contributor: Aziz Karimov

Tarnish Formation on Sterling Silver

So, what is the background behind the tarnishing of sterling silver? Tarnish is a type of oxidation that occurs when silver comes into contact with sulfur-containing gases that may be present in the air or emitted by other substances. This reaction produces silver sulfide, which can be seen on the surface of the silver in the form of a black, thin film.

Does Rubbing Alcohol Tarnish Sterling Silver?

Well, it depends. Rubbing or isopropyl alcohol is a common household solvent known for its dissolving and disinfecting properties. 

When used to clean sterling silver jewelry, rubbing alcohol might remove tarnish. However, if you use it for a long time to clean your favorite jewelry, it might damage the surface and the quality of the sterling silver.

If you have materials and cleaning solutions at home, we recommend using a weak ammonia solution with water. Yet, if rubbing alcohol is your only option, you can use it to clean the tarnish.

Effects of Rubbing Alcohol on Sterling Silver

As you know, rubbing alcohol is a solvent that can react with some of the metals in sterling silver and dissolve them. This reaction can weaken the quality and cause breakage of the jewelry. Also, using rubbing alcohol can dull the finish of the silver and lose the shine of the jewelry.

Therefore, if your jewelry, especially sterling silver, has been exposed to sweat or perfume, it is best to use weaker solutions and soap. But if you use rubbing alcohol, make sure it is diluted with water for a more effective effect.

How to Clean Sterling Silver With Rubbing Alcohol

As we mentioned earlier, cleaning with rubbing alcohol can help remove tarnished metal or mild spotting. If you decide to use rubbing alcohol to clean your jewelry, we will indicate several steps that can help you.

  1. Create a cleaning solution: To create a cleaning solution, mix four parts of water with one part of rubbing alcohol. You can use a plastic container or a regular bowl.
  2. Apply to the silver from the solution: You will need a clean cloth to dip into the container. Gently buff the sterling silver and go over the entire surface until you have removed the tarnish and tarnish.
  3. Rinse and dry well: Use a microfiber cloth to clean the surface once your jewelry has regained its luster. After completing the procedure, leave the jewelry in a safe place.
How to Clean Sterling Silver With Rubbing Alcohol
Source: shutterstock.com/ Photo Contributor: Mr. Rutchinakon Chaihan


Does rubbing alcohol tarnish sterling silver? Is it OK to clean silver with alcohol? As you have read, rubbing alcohol might clean your favorite sterling silver jewelry. 

However, we recommend that this cleaning option not be your first option. Instead, use weaker solutions that do not react with the metals of sterling silver and cannot degrade the quality of the jewelry.

Jesús  is the founder and designer of JewelryLab. He is the Head of Design and also oversees production, quality control, and precious metal sourcing.