Although ultrasonic cleaners are great for removing gunk on jewelry, they do a poor job when it comes to removing tarnish…and that’s where ionic cleaners come into play. They use a small electrical current to clean metal, quickly whisking away any tarnish, patinas, and oxidation. If you don’t have one, they’re easy enough to make.
You’ll need a wall wart (which is that little black box that plugs into portable phones, chargers, and other small devices), a couple of small alligator clips, a 1-inch by 3-inch strip of stainless steel or copper, and a cleaner such as trisodium phosphate or Citrusil.
Begin by cutting off the wall wart’s barrel connector plug and separating 6 to 8 inches of the wire. Often you can just snip a little nick between the two wires after you cut off the plug, just enough so you can get a grip on each wire, and then pull them apart. Then, strip the wire insulation back far enough to crimp an alligator clip onto each wire.
Next, dissolve some of the cleaner in a cup of warm water, starting with 1 teaspoon and increasing it as needed. The solution should feel soapy but not take a lot of work to rinse off your fingers. Clip one wire to the metal strip and drop it into the solution. Clip the remaining wire to the tarnished piece of jewelry and drop it in as well. Plug in the wall wart.
If bubbles rise from the metal strip but not the jewelry, unplug and switch the clips. You want the silver piece to be the negative (the cathode) and the strip to be the positive (or the anode). Once bubbles start rising from the jewelry, it will be cleaner and brighter in just seconds (though larger metal pieces may take a little longer). It’s such an easy and fast way to brighten your jewelry, you’ll feel like you’re cheating!