How to Clean Jewelry

How to Clean Jewelry

I love a multi-tasker. To me, having a cupboard full of “specialty” cleaners is just a waste of space (and money). But some things, like your precious metals, deserve special attention. That doesn't mean you should go out and buy a dedicated "jewelry cleaner." Far from it. You can use your everyday products to clean almost every type of jewelry. Be careful, though: Some commercial household cleaners and sanitizers can do more harm than good. Make sure to use gentle, plant-based cleaners to avoid damaging the finish.  

Earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and especially things you wear daily like rings and watches get caked with body oils, sweat, sunscreen, and plain old dirt. I like to give my little treasures a clean now and then, and I only use my products. Mostly.  

How I Clean My Jewelry

How to Clean Gold Jewelry

Solid gold is my favorite noble metal because it's the easiest to clean. It never tarnishes, but it does get dirty. When it does, you can just plonk gold jewelry into a bowl, add some mild dish soap and warm (almost hot) water and let it soak. I use a Pyrex measuring cup for this and am always careful not to leave it soaking in the kitchen just in case some well-meaning housemate dumps the contents down the gurgler!   Let it soak for about 30 minutes before gently scrubbing it with a soft-bristled brush. Finish by rinsing it under warm running water and wipe dry with a lint-free cloth.  

can you use dish soap to clean jewelry

How to Clean Silver Jewelry

I like the look of tarnished silver...up to a point. When it starts to look more tarnished than silver, I break out the silver polish. This stuff is highly toxic, so use it sparingly, and for goodness’ sake, please use gloves! Once I’ve given it a good clean, I also drop it into a sudsy bowl for a good soak to get those nasty chemicals off. Wipe dry and buff with a plant-based, universal polish to prevent oxidation. It's made with food-grade vegetable oil, so you don't have to feel weird about it next to your skin. 

How to Clean Jewelry With Pearls

People tell you not to wear makeup, sunscreen, lotion, or perfume with pearls because they are porous and it ruins the finish. I ignore those people. I mean, where are you going in pearls without makeup or fragrance? To bed? Honey, please!  

Every once in a while, (like when I'm cleaning my makeup brushes or my other jewelry) I spray a little All-Purpose Cleaner onto a clean, lint-free cloth and gently run it down my strand of pearls. After that, I use the same cloth and a small dollop of Leather Cleaner to condition them. Done! DO NOT let them soak in water. Pearls hate that and the string will break, which is amusing in movies, but not so much IRL.  

how I clean my jewelry

How to Clean Semi-Precious Stones

Clean them the same way you would pearls, but you can be a little rougher. They’re semi-precious! Mostly, I just use that same cloth I used on the pearls, add more Leather Cleaner, wipe them down, and call it a day.  

How to Clean Diamonds & Gemstones

This is not a problem for me, since I don’t have any. When my engagement ring was stolen 15 years ago, I traded it for a solid gold signet ring and a bone cuff from Tiffany’s! I’m told, that you can clean gemstones just like gold, but replace warm tap water with seltzer (presumably, not the flavored kind). Apparently, the bubbles help to loosen dirt trapped around the setting. If you do this and it works, please let me know!  

rinse jewelry with a colander

How to Clean Costume Jewelry

I love a bold, statement piece, so good costume is my favorite kind of jewelry. "Costume" could be anything from gold-plated brass to crystal to glass or wooden beads, so it covers a broad area. Proceed with caution and be gentle. I would avoid a brush in this case and just give it a standard spray + wipe. A good rule of thumb is this: If it's porous (wood or bone) use Leather Cleaner. If it's all metal, you can soak it in dish soap (but not for long)! And if it's a mixed material situation, just spray a cloth with APC and wipe it gently.  

Good Advice:

  • Never sleep or swim in your jewelry. I always take off my rings, watch, and earrings when I sleep, but I do love to swim in a pool (never the ocean) with my gold necklaces. Just make sure the clasp is secure! 
  • ALWAYS use a colander when rinsing your jewelry. I learned that one the hard way.  
  • Jewelry goes on last. Put your body oil, lotion, sunscreen, makeup and fragrance on before your jewelry, not after.  

Try and make a monthly (or so) habit of it to keep everything looking sparkling.  

Xx, mlk