The good news is you can clean some of your jewelry pieces at home — and it's easier than you might think.
From your everyday jewelry to unique pieces you only wear 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 that your rings, necklaces and bracelets need some attention.
The good news is you can clean some of your jewelry pieces at home — and it's easier than you might think. Jewelry made from gold and sterling silver are examples of jewelry that can be cleaned at home. However, gemstones such as opals and pearls should be done professionally.
As you see, some kinds of jewelry can be cleaned at home, while others are suggested to be done by a professional. But how do you distinguish between those kinds? Keep reading to learn which kinds of jewelry you can clean on your own, and which you’d better not risk to.
Take warm soapy water, or just use Dawn dish soap, and let it soak for a few minutes. Then take a soft-bristle brush or even a toothbrush. Be sure not to use old toothbrushes as many Internet sources recommend – old toothbrushes will have toothpaste residue, which will scratch the jewelry.
Use a brand new soft baby toothbrush to clean your jewelry, and gently clean your diamond and around it. Rinse and then pat it dry with a soft cloth. This will really help remove any residue from hand lotion and more that can build up over time.
The best way to clean tarnished silver pieces and keep them from re-tarnishing as quickly is with a good silver polish, like Good Housekeeping Seal holder Weiman 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 (like the ones below) 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.
Sterling silver is a very soft metal, so you have to be careful as it scratches easily. Use a polishing cloth or a clean sponge that is very soft to remove residue and polish it.
If you have untarnished gold jewelry, just mix in a few drops of mild dish soap with water and use a soft-bristle brush to clean.
If you have some tarnish on your gold, use ammonia (few drops), warm water, and mild dish soap. Let the gold sit in the water for a minute, and then carefully brush the jewelry until it comes clean.
Pearls are very delicate, so you have to be very careful with them. When your pearls are dirty, you will want to wash them with 1 teaspoon of Woolite laundry soap diluted in 1 quart of water.
Immerse your pearls in solution for just 10 seconds, and then wipe them off with a soft cotton cloth, and then lay them out to dry.
Sapphires, rubies, and emeralds
Grab a bottle of club soda and let your jewelry soak for ten minutes in the soda. Then use a soft-bristle brush if need be to wipe away any buildup.
Rinse in water and pat dry with a soft cotton cloth when finished.
Take warm water with a little bit of mild dish soap, and use that with a soft-bristle brush to clean.
Don’t ever submerge your stone in water, as this can seep into the pores and cause discoloration. Just wipe it clean, and dry immediately.
There are many types of small machines on the market that will clean, in a matter of minutes, any piece of jewelry that can be dunked in a liquid. They consist of a metal cup which you fill with water and detergent. When the machine is turned on, a high- frequency turbulence creates the cleaning action. Since each machine is slightly different, read the instructions very carefully before use.
Ultrasonic cleaners are useful for jewelry cleaning and removing tarnish. They use ultrasound waves and chemicals combined to create bubbles that "cling" to the foreign particles such as dirt, oil, and unknown substances.
The high frequency waves are sent out and pull the contaminants off the object. The bubbles collapse after they attach to the contaminants and move to the surface of the chemical solution creating what appears to be a boiling solution
However, some caution should be taken when using ultrasonic cleaners. Ultrasonic cleaners use high-frequency waves to release makeup grime and dirt from your jewelry. The process involves vibration. Before you decide to use an ultrasonic cleaner, check out for the following:
- Vibration causes erosion when two items are rubbing against one another or the side of an ultrasonic tank.
- Vibration can loosen stones, epoxy or glue.
- Vibration can shatter fragile materials such as amber and enamel.
- Vibration can change the color or remove surface enhancements on many of the novelty gems in the market place today.
- Vibration can dislodge fills from stones that have additives.
Once you have determined that your jewelry can be cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner, use only recommended ultrasonic jewelry cleaning solutions. Be sure that your items are positioned so that they do not rub on one another or the bottom and side of the ultrasonic tank.
And remember: never leave jewelry unattended in an ultrasonic cleaner for extended periods of time.
Some are not for home cleaning
Keep in mind that some hacks work best for certain types of jewelry. Soft gemstones, for example, can't stand up to the harsher cleaning methods designed for gold and platinum.
Experts recommend that all regularly worn gemstone jewelry should be cleaned and inspected every six months to ensure that the gems will remain in the settings. Frequently worn items mounted with gemstones should be viewed by a qualified jeweler and inspected for wear on prongs and closures in order to avoid the heartbreak of a lost stone.
Make sure you know exactly what materials your jewelry is made of. And if you have any uncertainty, err on the side of caution and have your jewelry examined by a professional.
Many materials should not be cleaned at home. Here are a few examples of jewelry that should be handled cautiously:
- Organic stones or materials such as pearl, ivory, bone, coral, wood, leather, cord, or string should not be exposed to harsh detergents or soaked in liquids or ultrasonically cleaned. These commonly used jewelry materials may absorb the fluids and be damaged or stained permanently.
- Antique or rare artist jewelry should not be tampered with at home. Polishing and jewelry cleaning can destroy the patina and integrity of some rare jewelry.
- Coins should never be polished and cleaned by a non-professional.
- Some gemstones are treated with or have natural oils that can be disturbed by detergents during jewelry cleaning. Some stones are porous and can absorb detergents or moisture. Here are a few gems to handle with extreme caution and care: emerald, opal, turquoise, lapis lazuli, and all of the organic stones and materials listed above.
- Chemical exposure can lead to disaster. Soaking jewelry in chlorine-based cleaners can completely dissolve a piece of jewelry, leaving behind only the stones. Likewise, constant exposure to pool chlorine can decay the solders used to make jewelry. A small bead of mercury from a broken thermometer will permeate gold and contaminate any other jewelry that it comes in contact with. This has been known to render entire jewelry boxes of valuable jewelry useless.
- As a rule, any corrosive household products containing acids, lye, or chemicals that you yourself should not be exposed to is probably not good for jewelry cleaning.
- Polishing plated metals with abrasive compounds can wear through the plating. The micron plating solution used on many pieces of costume jewelry is thin, and abrasive compounds can wear through to the underlying metals. Once the base metals are exposed, they may vary in color or tarnish with time.
Check with your jeweler
The Internet is full of at-home DIY methods for cleaning your jewelry, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Although several websites recommend certain abrasives like toothpaste, you should stay away from anything that might scratch your precious metal or gemstones. Plus, who wants to have toothpaste stuck underneath the prongs of their engagement ring?
If you’re not sure about a cleaning method, don’t risk it. Call your local jeweler and ask! 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.
Many jewelry stores will clean your items for free. Your jewelry means a lot to you, so you want it looking shiny and brand new. These techniques will make your jewelry dazzle – without the damage.