How To Clean Your Jewelry Like a Pro
From your everyday jewelry to unique pieces you only where on special occasions, chances are, all of your jewelry could use a good polish. Lotion, soaps, and everyday dust and dirt are just a few things that can clog jewelry settings and make stones, chains and pearls appear dull and lifeless. And it’s usually not until you’re getting ready for a night out on the town that you notice your rings, necklaces and bracelets need some attention.
The good news is you can clean your jewelry at home and it’s easier than you might think. Here, the experts at the Good Housekeeping Cleaning Lab explain exactly how to shine up all the jewelry in your box so you can keep it looking beautiful longer.
Homemade Jewelry Cleaners
Witch Hazel, Tea Tree Oil & Baking Soda
One popular site specializing in do-it-yourself natural remedies recommends the following:
- Put the jewelry in a glass mason jar.
- Cover with 1/2 cup of vinegar or witch hazel. Add one drop of tea tree oil and swirl to mix.
- Allow jewelry to soak in the mixture overnight.
- The next morning, coat with baking soda and scrub with an old toothbrush, then rinse with water.
Our Advice: Every element in this method has the potential to damage your jewelry. Both witch hazel and vinegar are slightly acidic and won’t agree with soft or porous stones or plated jewelry.
Baking soda is also slightly abrasive, which could scratch softer stones and metals.
Finally, using an old toothbrush is not the best recommendation either. Old toothbrushes will have toothpaste residue, which will scratch the jewelry.
Salt, Baking Soda & Dish Detergent
A prevalent resource for everything from fashion to food proposes the following to clean your jewelry at home:
- Line a bowl with aluminum foil and top with salt, baking soda, and dish detergent.
- Add hot water and drop in your jewelry, letting it sit for 10 minutes.
- Gently scrub with an old toothbrush.
- Rinse and pat dry with paper towel.
Our Advice: Again, there are potential issues with both the ingredients and methods in this suggestion.
You have abrasive baking soda, plus the instruction to scrub with an old, potentially contaminated, toothbrush. Steer clear of this method.
Hot Water & Baking Soda
A top cleaning resource suggests a simpler recipe:
- Let your rings sit for a few minutes in one cup of hot water with 1-2 tsp baking soda.
Our Advice: At least this recipe calls for fewer ingredients and no damaging tools. However, we still have the issue of abrasive baking soda, even in this simple solution.
Cleaning Gold Jewelry
Use a cleaning machine
Ionic cleaners and steam cleaners may be used to clean gold jewelry that doesn’t respond to the soapy water treatment. Jewelry is inserted into a slot or box in the machine, and the machine works to clean it over the course of a few minutes.
Have your gold polished
Gold jewelry that is very old and tarnished doesn’t respond to steam or ionic treatments. Take it to a jeweler and have it professionally polished. This process is done in stages with lightly abrasive papers that are rubbed over the surface of the jewelry. The polished gold should look good as new.
How to clean silver
The best way to clean tarnished silver pieces and keep them from re-tarnishing as quickly is with a good silver polish,, which contains ingredients that dissolve and remove tarnish while leaving behind a protective coating to prevent new tarnish from forming.
Liquid polishes can be a bit messy to use, especially if you’re in a hurry, so wipes can be a more convenient alternative. Specially treated multi-layer cloths, which have one side to clean and remove tarnish and a second one to shine, are also a good option.
Use salt and aluminum foil
The tarnish that accumulates on silver jewelry can often be removed with a solution made from salt, water and aluminum foil. The salt and aluminum foil act as a magnet that draws the tarnish from the silver.
Silver Cleaning Hacks
If you don’t have silver polish on-hand and you need to clean silver ASAP, try one of the DIY methods below. Just know that these treatments won’t keep tarnish from returning, and silver experts caution against using them too often (if at all). For silver-plated jewelry, avoid excessive rubbing to keep from wearing away the finish.
- Use dish soap: Mix a few drops of dish soap, with warm water. Dip a soft cloth in the solution and use it to rub the silver to remove the tarnish. Rinse with cool water and buff dry with another soft cloth.
- Try baking soda: For heavier tarnish, mix three parts baking soda to one part water. Wet the silver and apply the paste with a soft, lint-free cloth. Work it into the crevices and turn the cloth as it picks up the tarnish. Rinse well and buff dry.
- Reach for toothpaste: In the same way mild abrasives in toothpaste remove stains from your teeth, they can also remove tarnish from silver. Apply a dab of white paste toothpaste (not gel) to tarnished silver and rub very gently with your finger or a soft cloth. Then, rinse well with warm water and buff to a shine with a soft cloth.
Cleaning Gemstone Jewelry
Clean diamonds with soapy water
Mix water with a few drops of mild detergent in a bowl. Place the diamond jewelry in the bowl and let it it for about 5 minutes. Remove the jewelry and use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently scrub around the grooves of the diamond until it is clean.
Clean pearls with baby soap
Using a pH neutral soap such as baby soap is gentler on pearl than dish detergent and other soaps. Make sure the pearls are secure in their setting, then gently rub them clean with a soft cloth dipped in a solution of water and baby soap.
Have soft gemstones cleaned professionally
Gemstones like opal, lapis and many others have soft, porous surfaces that are easily damaged by soap and household cleaning techniques. Take soft gemstones to the jeweler and have them cleaned using a professional technique.
How to clean costume jewelry
Dab a cloth into a sudsy solution of dish soap and water and gently wipe any smudges or grime. Then rinse with a cloth dampened in plain water. Pat dry and lay the pieces upside down so moisture won’t soak into the setting. Because stones are often glued on rather than set, don’t soak costume pieces in water or the glue could loosen and the “gems” could pop off.
Visiting Your Jeweler
While dish detergent and warm water is the best homemade jewelry cleaner, there’s no substitute for visiting your jeweler for a cleaning.
Skip the DIY cleaning entirely if your gem isn’t red, white or blue. (That’s rubies, diamonds and sapphires.) Many other gemstones have fickle properties that require specific care.
Your jeweler will know the proper procedures depending on the specific type of gemstone and metal, as well as check the item over for any damage beforehand.
How to properly care for your jewelry
- Remove rings when washing your hands, applying beauty products, cleaning the house, or applying lotions to keep the settings grime-free.
- Don’t wear jewelry while swimming chlorine and salt water can damage it.
- Wipe pearls with a soft cloth after each wear to remove body oils and perfume that can yellow them.
- Don’t let silver sit in your jewelry box wear it! It becomes shinier the more it’s worn (the friction slows down tarnishing). When you’re not wearing it, store pieces in an anti-tarnish bag.
- Get valuable jewelry checked regularly by a reputable jeweler to make sure the stones are in good shape and the settings are secure.