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Rio Pickle-It, and dicoloration


I have noticed that sometimes, but not always, when immersing sterling silver pieces, into heated Pickle-It, the pieces eventually develop a patchy grey discoloration.

I was wondering if anyone could explain why this is happening?

It is a blend of 100% non-toxic food grade materials (citric acid perhaps?)


Hi Julie,

It sounds like the dreaded fire stain. Once the oxides are removed from the surface of the sterling it exposes areas where oxides have developed and been trapped just under the surface.



Hi Pam,
hmmm…perhaps…it kinda scrubs off with pumice/ water…it kinda doesn’t look like typical firestain…

I failed to mention that this was a little bit if pickle, in a little jar, sitting in a water bath, in heated little dipper mini crockpot…

and this particular piece had a bit of broken drill bit stuck in a pilot hole…

but! it has happened during normal pickling as well…with only sterling silver involved…

I have also seen it discolor SS discs…where discs are in the pickle, overlapping, and the exposed part turns grey, leaving a partial disc shaped area clean…


I’m pretty new to all of this and have been flying by the seat of my pants for most of it, but I’ve always had a white/chalky appearance on any silver pieces I put into pickle. I’ve been using store-bought sodium bisulfate (pool pH reducer). I just assumed that this is normal and expected.

It polishes out easily enough so I never worried about it.

I call it the creeping grey grunge. I’ve only had it happen when using commercial pickles such as Sparex that contain sodium bisulfate. When left in the pickle too long, the silver develops a grey coating that has to be removed with an abrasive of some type. I’d love to know what causes it too.

I also left a sterling piece in the pickle over night - and cannot get rid of the grey. I was thinking of putting it into the tumbler? Any more thoughts??


it,s so weird, right? In my case it is a citric acid based pickle…

i wish I understood what was happening so I could resolve it…

it doesnt happen all the time…i have tried adding pickle to the existing pot…adding water to the existing pot…to affect the mixture concentration…

new pickle usually does the trick…

i wonder if residual ochre (iron) on my pieces has an effect

i try to clean it all off, but the burnt dark red doesnt always scrubb off…


It isn’t something I can prove, but I suspect sometimes there can be something included in a sterling alloy that really shouldn’t be there. Sterling must contain at least 92.5% silver. The rest, or most of the rest, is assumed to be copper, but that is undefined and can be anything.

When silver was $4.70/ounce (sigh) I bought a lot from Swest, and some went unused for a very long time. When I finally got around to using that, it was a very dull gray. Sanding didn’t help so I sawed through a piece and found it was dull gray all the way through. This was just from the sterling ‘hanging around’ a number of years. Pickling did not help. The sterling just turned a dull gray and that was that.

When the price of silver went to over $40/ounce I sent it all in to be refined and did very well so I’m not complaining! But the only explanation I can think of for graying like that, when fire stain is not a possibility, and which pickling can’t clean up, is something being in the alloy other than silver and copper that is causing the gray.

Neil A

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Thank you for the story - Will try using a black patina - on spots - after tumbling.