Stainless steel jewelry is beautiful, with its silver-like luster. It’s also far more affordable than silver, palladium, and platinum and more hard-wearing. But does it tarnish or fade? Let’s find out.
Stainless steel isn’t prone to corrosion and tarnish. The chromium content in stainless steel makes it corrosion-resistant and the absence of copper makes it tarnish-proof. However, prolonged exposure to harsh environments and corrosive substances will eventually cause stainless steel to tarnish and even rust.
- What Causes Tarnish on Stainless Steel?
- How to Clean Stainless Steel?
- Does Stainless Steel Fade in Color?
- Does Stainless Steel Scratch Easily?
- Does Stainless Steel Turn Your Skin Green?
What Causes Tarnish on Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel does not tarnish like copper alloys such as brass and bronze, but they may lose their luster over time. What causes tarnish on stainless steel is the continuous exposure to moisture, heat, chemicals, and wear and tear. This is why your once shiny cookware looks dull now. The stainless steel cookware is regularly exposed to heat, moisture, and abrasion (when you clean) resulting in losing its shine.
Does Stainless Steel Turn Green?
Stainless steel doesn’t turn green since it doesn’t contain any copper. When copper is present in an alloy, it can react with the oils in your skin, the salt in your sweat, or other environmental factors to form a green tarnish, which will, in turn, cause your skin to turn green.
Does Stainless Steel Tarnish When Wet?
Stainless steel is highly resistant to tarnish, discoloring, and corrosion. You can safely swim or shower with your stainless steel jewelry as long as you dry it off again. Prolonged exposure to moisture, paired with the oils on your skin and salt in your sweat, could lead to tarnishing in extreme cases.
How to Clean Stainless Steel?
Cleaning stainless steel jewelry is simple and easy. Unlike other types of jewelry, cleaning doesn’t involve a trip to the jewelers – you can do it yourself with items you probably already have in your pantry.
Mild Detergent and Water
You can clean muck and grime off your stainless steel jewelry using mild soap, warm water, and a soft cloth. Prepare warm, soap water, soaking your jewelry for a few minutes, then gently wipe it with a soft cloth. Soaking helps soften the dirt and grime that probably built up on your piece over time. This softened dirt is then easily removed by wiping it. You could use a soft bristle toothbrush to clean hard-to-reach areas.
When you’re done, wipe your jewelry dry using a soft, lint-free cloth. This will return it to its shiny, pristine condition.
Ensure that the soap you’re using is mild since harsh chemicals could cause corrosion, damaging your jewelry. Similarly, don’t scrub the piece with abrasive cloths or scouring pads since this would damage the surface, eventually leading to corrosion.
Baking soda is a gentle cleaner, reacting with dirt and grime to remove it from metal. To use this, mix baking soda and water to create a thick paste. Gently rub this onto your jewelry and slowly brush it using a soft bristle toothbrush. You will notice that the baking soda starts to foam and turns brown – this is a sign that it’s reacting with the dirt on your jewelry. Once you’re satisfied that the piece is clean, thoroughly rinse off the baking soda and dry the jewelry with a soft, lint-free cloth.
If your jewelry is very dirty, you could repeat this process a few times to remove all the dirt.
Baking soda is a mild oxidizing agent. If you leave it on your jewelry for too long, it could attack the steel, causing corrosion. For this reason, you mustn’t leave the jewelry to soak in the baking soda. Once you’re done cleaning it, rinse in clean water and wipe it off immediately.
Toothpaste famously cleans those hard-to-reach areas in your mouth. Similarly, it cleans all the nooks and crannies in your jewelry. So, if your stainless steel jewelry is looking a bit dull or picked up some grime and scaling over time, gel toothpaste is a good cleaning agent to use. As with baking soda, apply the gel toothpaste liberally and gently brush it using a soft-bristle toothbrush until you’re satisfied that the piece is clean. Beware of toothpaste with whitening agents, though, since these could be abrasive or harsh, damaging your jewelry. Once you’re done, rinse and dry the jewelry properly, and wipe it down using a soft, lint-free cloth. This ensures that there are no spots of toothpaste left that could eat away at your jewelry over time.
There are various jewelry cleaning chemicals commercially available. These are excellent at removing tarnish, dirt, and grime from jewelry and are usually very easy to use at home. Take care to choose one compatible with stainless steel, though, since some of these cleaners are abrasive and could damage stainless steel. In some cases, the cleaner is so abrasive that it could scratch the stainless steel, causing it to rust.
Does Stainless Steel Fade in Color?
While stainless steel is highly resistant to tarnish and corrosion in all forms, it can fade in color when exposed to harsh environments. If you wear your stainless steel jewelry while working with harsh chemicals, or if it is continually exposed to seawater without regular cleaning, it is likely to fade. Luckily, this is easily remedied through thorough cleaning, as outlined in the previous section. Suppose the piece is too damaged to clean at home. In that case, you could take it to a professional jeweler who has ways and means of restoring your jewelry to pristine condition.
The quality of your stainless steel piece is another factor that could affect discoloration. The higher the metal’s quality, the greater the resistance to tarnish and corrosion. If your jewelry is made from low-quality stainless steel, it is likely to fade, tarnish, and corrode over time.
Does Stainless Steel Scratch Easily?
Stainless steel is famously hard-wearing, and as such, won’t get scratched or dented easily. You might have noticed that your stainless kitchen knife has hardly any scratched even after continuous use. However, the kitchen knife is heat-treated and hardened stainless steel. Most stainless steel jewelry, watches, cookware, etc. are not hardened. This means they could scratch if you rub them against hard and sharp objects such as stone or concrete.
You could take steps to prevent scratching, though, maintaining the shiny, pristine surface finish for longer. To this end, it is essential to store your stainless steel jewelry away from sharp objects and harsh environments. When you store your stainless steel jewelry in a jewelry box containing other pieces, especially stud earrings with sharp ends, they could rub against each other and cause scratches. It is better to store stainless steel jewelry in a dry place, individually packed in velvet-lined bags. This soft packaging prevents scratches. If your stainless steel jewelry does get scratched, moisture will exacerbate the problem, causing corrosion. To this end, it is good practice not to store your jewelry in the bathroom, where steam could cause corrosion or tarnishing.
Does Stainless Steel Turn Your Skin Green?
Jewelry that stains skin green contains copper. The other metal that can turn your skin green is nickel; but only if you are allergic to it. Since stainless steel doesn’t contain copper, it will not turn your skin green. If your stainless steel piece causes any discoloration on your skin, you’ve been duped since it’s not actually stainless steel. Most probably, this is plain steel or even a tin alloy.
If you have severe nickel allergy you may feel itchy and in such cases, it may be better to avoid wearing stain steel earrings since the alloy usually contains a small percentage of nickel.