Clean Your Jewelry Properly

Clean Your Jewelry Properly

Keep your silver, gold, and precious stones sparkling with these tips from jewelry and cleaning experts.

fine jewelry on pillow ready for cleaning

From your everyday jewelry to the stately pieces you only wear on special occasions, there's a good chance all of your jewelry could use a good polish. But rinsing and rubbing fragile jewelry too much can cause unnecessary damage and premature wear—and cleaning too little can cause your beloved pieces to degrade over time. To find out exactly how (and when) to clean your jewelry the right way, we tapped experts for their tried-and-true techniques on cleaning everything from gold and silver to costume jewelry and gemstones.

How Often to Clean Your Jewelry

How often you clean your jewelry depends on how often it is worn, says Kathleen Plate, the founder of Smart Glass Jewelry. "Pieces that get dirtier more often, like earrings, can be cleaned as needed or bi-weekly, depending on how dirty they get," says Andrew Brown, a celebrated diamond expert and CEO of WP Diamonds. Otherwise, you should aim to clean all of your jewelry at least once a month. Without routine cleanings, "the jewelry becomes darker, less colorful, loses its luster and sparkle—and ultimately it's less hygienic," he says.

How to Care for Jewelry

While routine cleaning is necessary to keep your jewelry looking its best, you should also follow general care techniques. Consider these tips, as they will prevent you from needing to clean your jewelry as often and will also preserve their shine, says Gwen Beloti, the founder of her eponymous gold jewelry brand, Gwen Beloti Collection.

Don't Sleep or Shower in Your Jewelry

While it can be an afterthought, removing jewelry before bed and showering can preserve the life of your pieces. "When we sleep, there is a tendency to toss and turn. And when we shower, our pieces come in contact with liquids and maybe abrasive materials, such as washcloths and loofahs," says Beloti. "It's possible that our jewelry can sometimes bear the brunt of that." For that reason, she recommends removing jewelry before bed and showering to maintain their quality.

However, "think about investing in quality pieces that can withstand the few times that you forget to take off your [jewelry]," she says. "Or consider prioritizing the pieces that are a must to remove always (maybe it's your diamond jewelry or your really delicate chains)."

Keep Away From Substances

To prevent buildup, avoid applying oils, lotions, makeup, and sunscreen when wearing your jewelry. Abrasive chemicals, like chlorine, can also cause damage.

Store Pieces Properly

Store jewelry in a dry environment (in felt helps) to avoid moisture buildup and tarnishing. Silver, which is especially prone to tarnishing, should be kept in a jewelry organizer away from other jewelry and metals.

How to Clean Gold Jewelry

Your gold pieces are precious and need particular care, but they don't require many cleaning solutions. "Sometimes, mere water would do the trick," says Beloti.

Materials You'll Need

  • Gentle dish soap
  • Polishing cloth

Follow Beloti's tips for cleaning gold jewelry:

  1. If you need more than water to clean your gold jewelry, Beloti says to create a cleaning solution of lukewarm water and non-abrasive dish soap to remove oil or buildup.
  2. Soak your gold jewelry in the solution for a few minutes.
  3. If your gold jewelry still has residue, use a soft bristle brush to clean off the buildup, then soak your pieces for another few minutes.
  4. Remove the jewelry from the solution and air-dry.
  5. "Once dried, use a gentle polishing cloth to bring out the luster and shine of your piece," says Beloti.

How to Clean Silver Jewelry

To refresh your silver jewelry, you just need to round up a few household ingredients.

Materials You'll Need

  • Gentle dish soap
  • Soft cleaning brush
  • Microfiber cloth

Follow these steps to clean silver jewelry, according to Kathy Cohoon, the director of franchise operations at Two Maids:

  1. Mix up a drop or two of gentle dish soap into lukewarm water.
  2. Soak the silver pieces in the mixture for a few minutes.
  3. Use a small, soft cleaning brush or an old toothbrush to scrub away tarnish or stains using circular motions.
  4. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry with a microfiber cloth. Repeat as needed.
  5. If you're having difficulty removing tarnish, refer to the next section.

How to Clean Tarnished Jewelry

Here's how to clean tarnished jewelry using common household items.

Materials You'll Need

  • Shallow dish
  • Aluminum foil
  • Baking soda
  • Boiling water
  • Microfiber cloth

Here are Cohoon's steps to clean tarnished jewelry:

  1. Cover a shallow dish in aluminum foil.
  2. Once fully covered, spread a small scoop of baking soda across the bottom of the dish and lay your tarnished pieces out on the foil.
  3. Pour boiling water cover each piece and allow to soak.
  4. After a few minutes, remove the jewelry from the water and polish dry with a soft microfiber cloth.

How to Clean Costume Jewelry

Depending on the material, Cohoon says to avoid water when cleaning costume jewelry, as it can tarnish delicate metals and materials.

Materials You'll Need

  • Microfiber cloth
  • Cotton swab

Here are Cohoon's tips for cleaning costume jewelry:

  1. Wipe each piece down with a soft microfiber cloth.
  2. To get in the crevices of costume jewelry, wrap the microfiber cloth around a cotton swab and wipe down the piece.
  3. "For pieces that can handle being exposed to water (like gems, glass, and gold plating) you can use the same cleaning method as the silver jewelry," she says.
  4. Dry each piece with a microfiber cloth.
pearl lariat necklaces

How to Clean Jewelry With Pearls

Pearls are quite delicate, and even water that is too warm can easily damage them.

Materials You'll Need

  • Gentle dish soap
  • Microfiber cloth

Follow Cohoon's steps to clean jewelry with pearls:

  1. Mix together a drop or two of gentle, clear dish soap with lukewarm water. "Water that is too hot or too cold can damage pearls," she warns.
  2. Dip a soft microfiber cloth into the solution and wipe down the pearls.
  3. Wipe dry with another soft cloth. Repeat as needed.

How to Clean Jewelry With Diamonds

If you have jewelry with diamonds, Brown suggests using a small, specially made brush like the Connoisseurs 1050 Diamond Dazzle Stik. Use this tool to gently brush the diamond and remove buildup. The micro-fine cleansers and polymers in the brush help diamonds and other stones to regain their shine.

How to Clean Jewelry With Gemstones

Your fine jewelry with common gemstones like sapphires, amethyst, rubies, and topaz should be handled with particular care. Be mindful of cleaning gemstones made of natural or porous materials, like turquoise or raw stone, which could be damaged by chemicals and will need professional care.

Materials You'll Need

  • Gentle dish soap
  • Toothbrush
  • Non-toxic jewelry cleaner

Follow these tips from Plate and Brown to clean gemstones:

  1. While the experts note that most gemstones can be cleaned with a gentle dish soap and water mixture, Brown suggests using a non-toxic jewelry cleaner, like Brilliant Jewelry Cleaner, for the most delicate care.
  2. Apply this cleaner to the gemstone and scrub gently with a soft toothbrush. Delicate cleaning can still remove dirt, especially if you have soaked the pieces in this jewelry cleaning solution first, says Brown.

When to Use Professional Jewelry Cleaning

If you're worried about damaging any type of jewelry, like an antique or delicate piece, seek professional care, says Cohoon. "Also, if you have tried cleaning or de-tarnishing without the results you want, it's best to let a professional take a look and try to make your jewelry sparkle again," she says.

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