How To Clean Zinc Alloy Jewelry?

The most common and environmentally friendly methods to clean zinc involve using lemon juice, vinegar, toothpaste, or baking soda. Consider the use of acidic substances, the most effective for removing rust stains on zinc alloy jewelry.

Will zinc alloy jewelry tarnish?

Yes. Zinc alloy is a very common and popular material for jewellery components due to its versatility and low cost. Like most metals, zinc alloy can tarnish and discolor.

Corrosion resistance is one of the reasons why zinc alloys are popular in jewelry making. Zinc is essentially rustproof, but its alloys can tarnish and discolor because of various factors. These factors include:

  • Metal content
  • Finish
  • Exposure to chemicals
  • Exposure to harsh environments
Zinc Alloy feather pendant jewellery
Zinc Alloy feather pendant jewelry

Over time, your zinc alloy jewelry may turn brown, black, blue, or green. The color change is due to exposure to air, causing oxidation. The color change of zinc alloy jewelry is caused by the reaction between non-metallic compounds around the alloy. Oxygen is typically the culprit, but hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide can also cause your zinc alloy jewelry to discolor. This could happen quickly, or it could take months.

Zinc naturally forms a protective zinc carbonate layer. This barrier keeps out the moisture that speeds up the corrosion process. But, zinc alloys contain corrosive metals too. So zinc alloy jewelry may eventually rust at a meager rate, depending on its environment and contents. Today, Churinga will show you how to care for and clean zinc alloy jewelry.

How to protect zinc alloy jewelry?

Always store your zinc alloy jewelry in a dry place, or else you will be exposing it to conditions that can lead to corrosion or tarnishing. If you are not going to use your jewelry for a few days, keep it in a small and dry ziplock bag. When wiping your jewelry before storing it, use only a soft cloth. Using abrasive fabrics may create scratches on your zinc alloy jewelry, exposing certain metals that might react with air or moisture, causing it to rust.

How to clean zinc alloy jewelry?

Removing Tarnish

Clean the zinc alloy jewelry with toothpaste

The preferred method is with common household toothpaste (non-gel varieties). To clean a component, work the paste into a lather and then apply directly to the piece, you can use a soft-bristled toothbrush or similar to get into grooves or scrub at more stubborn tarnish (please note that sometimes, if the tarnish has been left for too long, the metal will remain discolored).
Once the component is clean, rinse thoroughly to ensure there is no paste residue, then dry.

Use a toothbrush to clean small areas
Use a toothbrush to clean small areas

Clean zinc alloy jewelry with lemon or vinegar

If you aren’t worried about removing the patina from your zinc objects, use lemon juice or vinegar to clean your objects. If you choose lemon juice, you will need one or two lemons cut in half. If you choose to use vinegar, use plain, white vinegar.

Moisten a paper towel or cloth with your cleaning agent of choice. Then, rub your cloth over the entire object. Some areas of the object might be dirtier than others. Focus on these dirtier areas by rubbing more of the cleaning agent on them. If you are using lemon as your cleaning agent, rub the lemon wedge over your zinc object while holding the rind.

Rub the zinc object with your cleaning agent of choice
Rub the zinc object with your cleaning agent of choice

Clean zinc alloy jewelry with a polishing cloth, metal wadding polish, and a clean cloth

Use a specially made cloth for polishing metals such as, zinc, steel, bronze, or silver, to polish your zinc objects. These polishing cloths can be purchased from your local crafts stores like Michaels or Walmart. A polishing cloth is usually used for smaller zinc objects like jewelry and coins.

Your zinc objects that have small areas of corrosion, uneven patination, or fingerprint marks can be polished using a metal wadding polish. Working in a circular motion, rub the object with the wadding polish. After polishing, let the object patinate naturally in the air, and avoid handling it.
You can buy a metal wadding polish online, at your local hardware store, or at a crafts store. Be sure to check the effect of the metal wadding polish on an unobtrusive area before polishing the whole object.

Use a clean cloth
Use a clean cloth

Use a clean cloth for outdoor objects with a whitish patina. These objects only need light cleaning and polishing. Rinse these objects with water, gently rub them with a light brush, i.e., a toothbrush, and thoroughly dry with a clean cloth.

Product Results ShowRemoving Tarnish
A tarnished fairy pendantA tarnished fairy pendant
after being cleaned with toothpaste fairy pendantAfter being cleaned with a toothpaste fairy pendant, and get shiny again
Removing Tarnish

Removing Black Finish

Many zinc alloy components have a black finish in order to highlight the design and give them an antiqued look. Sometimes there can be a little too much black residue, or you may simply prefer a cleaner or brighter finish for the component.

As long as the finish has been applied after the casting (and not the actual color of the metal, as you will often find with the vintage bronze and copper components), this can also be removed with another common household item, nail polish remover (I use an acetone-based remover).

If you just want to remove the excess black finish, a cotton bud dipped in the remover and wiped over the surface will usually do the trick. This tends to leave the wash in the finer grooves so that the design remains highlighted. If you’d rather try to remove all of the finish, you will likely need to immerse and soak the component completely in the nail polish remover in order to wet and thin the black finish in the finer grooves, using a soft-bristled brush to scrub.

Once you’re happy with the result, wash thoroughly and dry to help prevent chemical residue from affecting the metal.

Product Results ShowRemoving Black Finish
blackened dragonBlackened vintage dragon pendant
Dragon pendant removing black finishDragon pendant removing black finish, it seemed to burst with power
Removing Black Finish

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