Before getting into how to clean silver jewelry, let us figure out why silver jewelry needs cleaned in the first place. Silver, like most other metals, reacts with moisture. There is enough on your body, or even in the air for the process to work. This process is called oxidation. If it happens on your car, it is called rust. If it happens on your silver jewelry, it is called rust.
You can look up the topic of how to clean silver jewelry on the internet, and you will see a rash of advice about various home methods. Some of those methods will be explained to you in a few paragraphs. However, you need to know that all the home methods are dangerous to your jewelry. Some of them take off a layer of silver as they clean, and some of them will scratch it up as they work.
You should weigh the cost of professional cleaning against the cost of the jewelry, both real and sentimental. If it is an expensive piece, I would take it to the jewelers and get it professionally cleaned. You want it to both keep its value and to be in mint condition. If it is a cheap piece, use a method to be explained, and throw it out when it and if it is no good any longer.
No matter what method you use at home, you will need to be careful of any gemstones or non silver additions to the silver jewelry. Each method below will cause trouble with non silver. In those cases, any method involves some danger to the non silver components.
Your silver jewelry can be cleaned with toothpaste, and a cloth or very soft bristle toothbrush. Just work it in, and then rinse it afterwards. Do not use the toothpaste on most gems.
A variation of this method is to dip the toothbrush in lemon juice and then in salt and rub. Again, avoid the gemstones.
Baking Soda and Aluminum Foil
Take a jar and line it with aluminum foil. Place the jewelry inside, and then cover with baking soda or salt. Boil some water, and then pour it over the jewelry. Be careful of the fumes that will result. This will result in a chemical reaction that will attract the tarnish off of the silver and to the aluminum foil. If the silver is tarnished badly, you may need to repeat the process.
A variation on this one is to use a dentures cleaner tablet. Just put the jewelry in a cup, and drop in the tablet and let it sit for 25 minutes.
A couple of other variations involve the use of vinegar. You can soak the jewelry in brown vinegar. Others have told of a using ½ cup of white vinegar mixed with 2 tablespoons of baking soda.
The safest method is prevention. Wipe the jewelry with a soft cloth when taking it off to make sure it is dry. Let it sit in a safe place, upside down if there are any nooks and crannies that water can work their way into. When you are sure it is dry, place the piece in a specialized jewelry bag. These protect the jewelry pieces from rubbing against each other, and enable them to breathe so they do not sweat and tarnish. Some gemstones need air, and can be ruined if placed in airtight bags.
For a gentle cleaning, you can also wipe your jewelry with special silver polishing cloth to minimize the tarnishing, and the need for cleaning. Use a mixture of water and a few drops of a mild dish detergent to get off any of the oils or dirt that may have accumulated.
Knowing how to clean your silver jewelry and how to prevent a cleaning in the first place can save your jewelry and your money.