Why Do My Earrings Turn Black? (Answer and Tips)

Last Updated on December 30, 2023

The blackening of earrings is usually due to the oxidation of the metal or tarnishing. This is caused by exposure of the earrings to air and other factors such as moisture, cosmetics, and sulfur. 

When this happens, a blackish film forms on the surface of the metal. This is especially visible in earrings as they hang off your ears and constantly rub against them and pick up more oil.

While oxidation or tarnishing is a natural process, there are a few things you can do to help slow it down. Keep reading as we discuss some tips and answer the questions you might have, such as:

  • How do I keep my earrings from turning black?
  • Why do my earrings go black and smell?
  • How often should you change your earrings?
  • How to clean earrings that turned black?


Why Do My Earrings Turn Black?

The likely reason your earrings are turning black is the oxidation process or tarnishing. This is a natural process that happens when the metal in your earring comes into contact with air, moisture, cosmetics, and chemicals such as sulfur.

The moisture and oils from your skin will accelerate the oxidation process, which is why it’s more noticeable in earrings. The blackish film that forms on the metal is not harmful but can be unsightly and smelly. Cosmetics such as perfume, hairsprays, makeup, and lotions can also speed up the tarnishing process.

While tarnishing can happen to other metals, it occurs more frequently on sterling silver jewelry because silver has a higher reactivity to the elements. Copper, brass, and bronze earrings also tend to darken and quickly turn black.

On the contrary, alloys containing gold, platinum, and palladium generally do not tarnish. Gold is the least reactive metal and therefore does not oxidize or tarnish easily. However, if it’s mixed with other metals such as copper to create an alloy, it might still turn black over time.

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How Do I Keep My Earrings From Turning Black?

The best way to prevent your earrings from turning black is by keeping them clean and dry. You can do this by wiping the earrings with a dry cloth after each use. If your earrings come in contact with lotion, makeup, or other moisture, be sure to clean them off as soon as possible.

Another way is to store them safely where they’re not exposed to the elements. Keep your earrings in an airtight bag or container when you are not wearing them, and take them off while showering, swimming, or exercising to reduce oxidation.

You might also consider switching your earrings every few days and wearing a new pair. This will prevent the metal from becoming too worn down or damaged, resulting in early oxidation.

Why Do My Earrings Go Black And Smell?

The black color is actually a build-up of tarnish, while the smell comes from the mixture of skin cells and natural oils on your skin.

The reason for the blackish discoloration and smell on your earrings is oxidation or tarnishing. This happens when your earring is exposed to air, moisture, and other elements that cause a chemical reaction with the metal.

Over time, this build-up of tarnish will darken or discolor the surface of your earrings. It can also create an unpleasant odor, especially if left untreated.

How Often Should You Change Your Earrings?

Earrings do not need to be changed daily, but it’s a good idea to rotate them out weekly. This will give the metal time to dry and prevent it from becoming worn down. Moreover, you’ll want to avoid leaving your earrings on for extended periods to reduce the likelihood of oxidation or tarnishing.

How To Clean Earrings That Turned Black?

There are many ways to clean earrings that have turned black by using anything from baking soda to dish soap.

The best way to clean earrings that have turned black is by using a cleaning solution made with baking soda and water. In one part of water, add three parts of baking soda to create a paste. Wet the earrings and apply the paste with a soft cloth. Remove the tarnish in one area at a time, work it into the grooves, and turn the cloth as it collects tarnish. Rinse and wipe it clean with a new cloth.

Another stronger paste for heavy tarnish can be made using baking soda and vinegar. Add half a cup of white vinegar to two tablespoons of baking soda. Place the earrings in a bowl with the mixture and let them soak for three hours. 

This way, you can remove the tarnish from your earrings. However, if the tarnish remains, you might have to use a brush to get into all the crevices. Rinse the earrings after brushing, and then dry them with a soft cloth.

You may use soap and water for regular washing or a mild detergent, such as dish soap. Mix the soap with water in a sink or bowl and place the earrings inside. Gently rub them around with your fingers before rinsing off the suds and buffing them dry with a soft cloth.

If neither of these solutions works, a commercial jewelry cleaner may be necessary. Be sure to read the directions carefully as some cleaners are for use on gold or silver only. 

Jackie Palmer is a Houston-based coin journalist and fashion enthusiast. She joined Jewels Advisor’s content team after years of experience as a content strategist, managing blogs and social channels for local stores. Jackie mostly collects and studies US coins produced during the 20th century and over the years, published hundreds of articles for multiple coin publications.