Your 101 Guide To Cleaning and Caring for Your Jewelry

How long a virus can live on your jewelry will shock you.

We often don’t realize just how dirty our jewelry is until it’s cleaned and sparkles from a mile away. While a professional deep clean is wonderful, it isn’t actually necessary for next level sparkle – though it is recommended at regular intervals.

“Every day a customer comes in with  ‘I never take my ring off.’ Can you imagine the bacteria that builds up on something you NEVER take off?” says Robin Williams, vice president at  H Tim Williams’ Jewelers, adding that the COVID-19 virus can live on metal for five days. “We highly recommend cleaning jewelry you wear regularly as often as possible and having it professionally cleaned and inspected every six months. “Keep in mind that jewelry also includes your watches. You don’t need anything fancy to clean your jewelry, you will have what you need at home.”

What to use to clean jewelry?

“When home cleaning jewelry we recommend mild, gentle cleansers like Dawn dish soap, which is famously gentle and effective,” says Kristy Cullinane, the co-founder of Plum Diamonds. “There’s something in the formula that cuts through grease but is still very mild. Use a soft baby toothbrush and warm water.”

Alternatively, Williams suggests mixing a solution of dishwashing detergent (one or 2 drops) and water. “If needed, you can add ammonia or Windex or 409 or a similar cleaner to break down heavy build up.”

To clean your watch-use the toothbrush to remove buildup and rinse using a damp cloth. “Be careful not to immerse the watch in water unless it is waterproof. If in doubt, don’t immerse. It’s okay to immerse metal watchbands,” says Williams.

Your 101 Guide To Cleaning and Caring for Your Jewelry

If all that doesn’t sound like something you would actually do on a regular basis, consider Shinery. They make a hand soap designed to double as a jewelry cleaner, so you can clean without actually removing your rings/bracelets.

What not to use to clean jewelry?

Cullinane notes to never use anything that might be abrasive or contain harsh chemicals. “Keep your fine jewelry away from bleach and household cleaners, which can damage precious metal alloys. Also, be careful of ultrasonic cleaners if you’ve got small diamonds set in your jewelry – ultrasonics vibrate, which can cause loose or lost diamonds. Better to use your warm water and dish soap mixture with a soft toothbrush.”

Also, Williams underlines to never use toothpaste or baking soda as they are abrasive and can scratch metal and gemstones, and don’t use anything other than soap and water on costume jewelry (plastic, beads, crystals) or pearls. Lastly, despite what your grandmother may have suggested, don’t use Coke as it will leave a sticky residue and contribute to future build up.

How often should jewelry be cleaned?

As long as you’re using mild cleansers, Cullinane says you can clean as often as you like. “Our rings get dirty at different rates, largely depending on skin oils, lotions, soaps and other products we use. I usually clean my rings once a week when I see lotion buildup or whenever they start looking dull. Diamonds attract lots of oils and don’t sparkle like they should when they’re soiled.”

Your 101 Guide To Cleaning and Caring for Your Jewelry
Image: Kwangmoozaa for Getty

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