If you own silver jewelry or silver dining pieces, you have probably been told that you need an anti-tarnish cloth to make sure the silver looks as good as it did when you purchased it. There are many different anti-tarnish products and homemade solutions out there as well that promise to get rid of tarnish if it starts to form.

While that is all fine and good, I wanted to know why I need an anti-tarnish cloth in the first place. Like most people, I had no idea what tarnish was and why it likes to form on silver so much. My curiosity got the better of me, and I started to look into the matter more. I looked at blogs and magazines to see if they would provide me with a clue. Here are some of the things I learned.

Did you know that pure silver is highly tarnish resistant? It’s true, which would be a great thing if we used pure silver for everyday jewelry. We don’t because pure silver is way too soft and would break very quickly. Instead we use sterling silver, which is an alloy that has a small amount of copper. This allows it to be durable enough to be worn or used for any application silver is typically used for.

Because sterling silver is made of other metals (about 7.5 percent of sterling silver is not silver), this is what causes it to tarnish. Copper does not the moisture and sulfur in the air, but there are other things that can cause sterling silver to tarnish quickly as well, including deodorant, perfume, body lotion, and hairspray.

If you live in an area that has a lot of humidity or air pollution, there really is nothing you can do about tarnish unless caring for it afterwards with an anti-tarnish cloth. However, if you can avoid chemicals that causes silver to tarnish, you may want to do that to ensure your jewelry maintains its luster.