Stephanie - This can all be fixed. What you have done is add
abrasive grit to your steel and jewelry. It is the rough equivalent
of running an abrasive media in the first step of tumble finishing
your jewelry. The black stuff is the result of the abrasive scouring
the inside of your rotary tumbler as well as smoothing your jewelry.
Because there wasn’t enough liquid, the accumulation of grit and junk
from inside your tumbler created the black mess. Stainless steel is
harder than the abrasive so it is ok. Fixing your tumbler, steel and
jewelry is an iterative process.
First - open a can of regular Coke, and let it lose its fizz.
Heating it works well, or just let it stand. Then add the liquid to
your tumbler, jewelry and shot included. Run for 20 minutes. That
should cause most of the black sludge to go away.
Second - Wash everything very very well. Separate out your stainless
and rinse well. Set aside to dry.
Third - Examine the rubber liner of your tumbler. If the inside of
the tumbler is rough or deteriorating, you need to replace it.
Compare the interior with the edge that didn’t get abraded with the
aluminum oxide and see if there is a difference. If you can’t see or
feel the difference, proceed with caution. The potential problem is
that the liner is embedded with the abrasive and then you no longer
can get a high polish with that barrel. In any case mark it clearly
so that you know it might be a future problem with finishing. If your
lid is also rubber, check it too.
Fourth - If you have an ultrasonic cleaner, use it on your jewelry,
in small batches - so that you don’t further damage your jewelry. If
not, manually clean it as well as possible. If it still has embedded
black stuff, try to pick it out of crevices. If your jewelry is no
longer covered with gunk, you can proceed to polish it. If you still
can’t get it clean, try running it in a vibratory tumbler with
appropriate cleaning liquid. Triangle shaped media will help get the
gunk out of crevices. Then proceed to burnish with your steel and the
Finally - This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of such a problem. To
avoid it in the future, I strongly recommend using a solution
intended for what you are doing. Several of the jewelry supply houses
sell concentrates for burnishing. If you wish to keep using the
powder, put it in a container on which you tape the label of the
contents. Regular soap is not a good alternative. Steel needs a
different pH than abrasive media. It also requires a surfactant.
Because you run in a closed system, it is important to get all parts
of the process exactly right. The liquid burnishing compound is easy
to measure to get the correct concentration. With all the work you do
to make jewelry, do the last part as well as it can be done too.