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How to Clean Silver Bars and Coins

Although silver isn’t quite as popular among investors as gold, it can certainly be a valuable addition to a self-directed IRA. The fact that silver is more affordable and easily traded also makes it appealing to people looking to create stores of wealth at home.   

Keeping your investment safe is a crucial part of the responsibility you take on if you decide to store silver bullion at home. Beyond taking appropriate security measures, you may also wonder about cleaning your silver bars and coins.  

Should You Clean Your Silver Bullion?  

Silver is famous for tarnishing quickly. Tarnish is a layer of corrosion that builds up after contact with sulfuric compounds. Unfortunately, hydrogen sulfite and sulfur dioxide are naturally present in the air, so silver used on a daily basis tarnishes right before your eyes.   

It’s only natural to clean silverware and silver jewelry regularly. You want these objects to retain their aesthetic value, after all.   

Silver bullion, like coins and bars, is a different story. In the case of rare silver coins, the patina and tarnish can add aesthetic and historical appeal, and they can lose some of their numismatic value if you handle and clean them poorly. This is also true when it comes to silver bars, although to a lesser extent. 

When in doubt, it’s better to do nothing than to apply amateur cleaning methods that could damage your bullion. You can always consult a numismatist if you have questions — a step that can prevent you from causing irreversible damage.  

How to Clean Silver Bars and Coins  

Silver is actually a little softer than gold. This makes it easier to work with and bend, properties that can also pose a challenge when trying to clean silver bullion. You can choose from several relatively safe approaches to cleaning silver coins and bars, but never apply them to especially rare or valuable bullion!  

Don soft cotton gloves to protect your silver from fingerprints and the skin’s natural (but damaging) oils, and lay out a soft and lint-free cloth on a flat surface. From there, you can: 

Use a solution of warm (but not hot) water and a drop of mild dish soap to soak your silver bullion. Gently clean your silver with a very soft brush or a soft cloth. Rinse it thoroughly to clean off dish soap residue, and then carefully pat your silver dry with a soft cloth. 

Choose a silver-polishing cloth specially designed to clean silver and imbued with a gentle cleaning agent to remove the tarnish. Be gentle! Excessive rubbing can still scratch your silver. 

Use silver polish to clean your silver bullion. Add a small amount of commercial silver cleaner onto a soft cloth, polish your silver carefully, and rinse your coins or bars before drying them gently.  

Remember not to fall into the temptation of “shining” your old and valuable coins once you see how miraculously these methods can restore your silver. You could seriously devalue your assets in the process!  

What Else Can You Do to Keep Your Silver Bullion in Good Condition?  

Jewelry and silverware are typically in relatively frequent use. That’s not usually the case with silver coins and bars, which serve as a store of wealth and a long-term investment.   

The fact that you won’t be using your silver coins and bars on a daily basis offers some exciting opportunities to preserve their condition. Strongly consider storing your silver in airtight containers or special protective cases designed for silver. By reducing the rate at which your silver is exposed to compounds containing sulfur, you slow the process of tarnishing down, too.  

A home safe is an ideal storage option for silver bullion, but most safes are not equipped to protect your silver from the elements on their own. If you plan to store silver bars or coins in a safe without using another case, at least use cloth sleeves to separate them. This helps to prevent scratches.  

Cleaning Silver Coins and Bars: Common Mistakes to Avoid  

Want your silver bars and coins to retain their value over time? Avoid these absolute no-nos: 

Never use common household materials such as baking soda or household cleaners to clean your silver bullion (or, for that matter, jewelry). These materials may restore shine to your silver, but they’ll scratch and damage it, too. 

Never store your silver in high-humidity environments or in a place where it is exposed to direct sunlight. Those mistakes make silver tarnish more quickly. 

Never rub your silver too hard. Aggressive cleaning techniques in which you forget how soft this metal is can quickly turn into a world of regret.