Inevitably, your pins may tarnish a little over time. This is a temporary condition and is resolvable. Depending upon the metal used for plating your pins, some may tarnish a little faster than others. Generally, I have noticed copper plated pins and rose gold plated pins tarnish a little faster than other metals. Silver tarnishes a little bit faster than gold plated pins and I have yet to see a duochrome plated pin tarnish, but these are pretty new to the market at the time of this writing.
Do not polish soft enamel pins and use a soft cloth or non-abrasive polishing cream on hard enamel pins. You may risk damaging the enamel on a pin by being too rough while polishing it or using abrasive polishing agents.
It is probably easiest to remove the clutch or pin back from a pin while polishing it. However, be careful while you are handling the pin as the pin back can be very sharp.
I recommend using a jewelry polish to remove the tarnish from the metal parts on your pins. You can purchase inexpensive polishing cloths for less than $5 that can be used to polish hundreds of pins and remove the tarnish from them while being minimally abrasive. I still would not recommend polishing a soft enamel pin and being very careful polishing your hard enamel pins.
There are also tubs of jewelry polish cream available for a little bit more money, but you also get a lot more polish. There are a lot of polishes available and many of them are non-toxic and environmentally friendly. Look for polishing creams that are non-abrasive and gentle.
Most hard enamel pins come out shiny and beautiful after a polish, but the key is to be gentle and to test any polish on a small part of your pin before polishing the whole thing. To test a polish on a small part of your pin, I recommend getting a small amount of the polish on the end of a cotton swab and gently apply the polish to a small area.
If you are in a pinch or can't get ahold of a polishing cloth or polishing cream, I have heard some people polishing their pins using toothpaste with good results. I haven't tried this myself, but it may be an option for you so long as you test it on a small portion of your pin before doing the whole thing.
There are some things you should probably avoid using on your pins because they are too harsh or can damage various parts of your pin. The following are some of the things you should avoid...
- Do not use a polishing machine or a polishing bath on your pins. This can damage the enamel and ruin your pins.
- Do not use a chemical cleaner or household cleaner to clean your pins. These tend to be harsh on the enamel and may damage it.
- Do not use a citrus or vinegar solution to clean your pins. This will damage the enamel too.