Sometimes we grow so accustomed to the gradual dimming of our jewelry’s sparkle that we don’t notice how much of the gleam has vanished. But that bling in your ring is meant to sing, and you don’t need to take it to a professional jeweler to get that sparkle back.
Now, the best way to keep your jewelry shiny is to not let it get dull in the first place. Soaps, lotions, perfumes, and oils should be avoided at all costs – anything that makes your skin shine is going to have the opposite effect on your jewelry. If it can be easily removed prior to bathing and showering, then take the moment to do so.
In fact, the best rule of thumb is to remove all jewelry when you arrive home and place it on a flat surface, preferably in a box to avoid any dust buildup. But let’s be real – our gems and stones are going to be worn in the shower, and sometimes worn to bed, and plenty of times will be tossed on the kitchen counter. They are meant to be worn after all, not locked in a vault. So here are the best ways to clean your jewelry once the realities of life take their toll.
1. HOW TO CLEAN SILVER
Depending on how much cleaning needs to be done and how much time you have to do it, all these methods have their own advantages. Keep in mind that many professional silver cleaners could dull or harm gold and gemstones, so be careful when cleaning mixed media pieces.
Professional Polishing Cloth
A paper towel or that old sock with the giant hole in the toe won’t do – you need a specifically designed, soft cotton polishing cloth. But if your piece isn’t overly tarnished, then a gentle massaging with a fresh cleaning cloth may be all you need.
Most quality cloths on the market come with two separate layers; one meant to clean tarnish, and one meant to shine. Just remember to start delicately to see how your jewelry responds before applying any elbow grease.
Connoisseurs Silver Jewelry Polishing Cloth has long been the most reliable cloth on the market.
Disposable Silver Wipes
Disposable wipes are the most convenient way to clean silver and can quickly remove excessive degrees of tarnish and grime. Usually composed of different alcohols, it’s an easy way to add a little extra strength without turning to something more abrasive.
Weimen Silver Wipes
Silver foam coupled with a fresh sponge is a great way to clean inside more delicate or intricate parts of silver jewelry. It can also be used as a regular after-use cleaner for silverware or other more regularly used pieces of silver. Using a polishing cloth after foam can be an ideal way to restore that original shimmer.
Hagerty Silver Foam
An industry secret for cleaning silver pieces with blackened accents is Kiehl’s coriander hand soap. The combination of natural extracts does a surprisingly perfect job of cleaning blackened silver. A gentle scrub and rinse are all that’s needed to get the grime off without removing that desired dark tarnish.
Kiehl’s Coriander Soap
DIY Homemade Silver Polish
Of course, you can use products already in your cupboards at home – what kind of online how-to article would this be otherwise?
Dish Soap – A couple of drops of Dawn and some warm water can go a long way. Apply and rub with something not too abrasive – a toothbrush is good, as long as it is used delicately and not too regularly. Rinse with cool water and buff with a cloth after.
Baking Soda – No, there is nothing baking soda can’t do. Three parts baking soda mixed with one part water makes a great, pasty concoction perfect for getting into those inaccessible crevices. Use boiling water and you can even let your jewelry soak in the mixture with potentially no scrubbing necessary.
Toothpaste – A baking soda toothpaste is best, but any white non-gel toothpaste can work for cleaning silver. Just apply a small bead to your finger and massage it into any difficult crevices. We highly recommend rinsing off with warm water after, rather than reusing it on your teeth.
2. HOW TO CLEAN GOLD
Gold is a far softer metal than silver, and as such, many of the products you would use to clean your silver would be detrimental to your gold. Gold is commonly mixed with other metals to make it stronger, so the purer your gold is, the softer it will be. There’s not a lot of room for error here, so treat your gold jewelry like a baby – it’s equally as precious and doesn’t require you to change its diaper.
Professional Polishing Cloth
Even more important than with silver, avoid grabbing that grimy rag you keep under the kitchen sink. You need a professional polishing cloth, and one specifically designed for gold. For casual maintenance, this can keep your gold in pristine condition.
Do keep in mind that a delicate touch is still needed when using a professional cloth and that yes, it is possible to go too far. In fact, too many frequent cleanings, as in daily polishings, will cause the gold to begin to dull far before it would naturally.
Connoisseurs does make a quality cloth, but Town Talk has long been the go-to brand for gold products.
Town Talk Gold Polishing Cloth
Baby-Sized Soft-Bristled Toothbrush
Remember: delicate, like a baby! While in many cases a simple soak in a homemade mixture will do the trick, frequently a brush is needed to access those intricate crevices.< You want the softest bristles you can find – still stiff enough to do the work, but gentle enough to not poke or scrape. If you think you may be applying too much pressure, then you probably are. It’s safest to err on the side of being too gentle.
DIY Homemade Gold Soak
Similar to what you would do with silver, you can fill a bowl with warm water, add a few drops of Dawn dish soap and a pinch of baking soda. A specific ratio would be one cup of water, one teaspoon of dish soap, and one teaspoon of baking soda.
Ammonia can be substituted for baking soda, but make sure to use lightly – a couple of drops of ammonia can go a long way. If the smell of the ammonia is too strong, then you’ve probably added too much; pour it down the drain and start over. If the odor is strong enough to smell, then it’s potentially strong enough to irritate your skin.
Let your jewelry soak for a while, 20-30 minutes, and then use the soft-bristled toothbrush to get into those fine spots. Rinse off thoroughly in warm water afterward.
DIY Homemade Gold Paste and Vinegar Rinse
Other than bringing it to a professional, this is the strongest method of attack on that extra dirty piece of gold jewelry. It’s the same recipe as with silver: three parts baking soda to one part water. Use room temperature water, and you should get a thick paste after mixing it together well.
Use a sponge or cotton swab to cover every part of the gold with the paste. It doesn’t need to be too thick of a coat, but it should cover everything.
Next, take the coated jewelry and place it into a small bowl or container. Using only distilled white vinegar, pour the vinegar over the gold piece until it is completely submerged. Let it sit for five minutes and then rinse under warm water.
Make sure to dry thoroughly but gently after rinsing – you don’t want any lines or smudges left from resting water. If the paste doesn’t fully clean the gold, then go back at it with the toothbrush/baking soda method.
3. HOW TO CLEAN GEMSTONES
The first and foremost part about cleaning gemstones is making sure you know what your stone is. Harder stones like diamond, emerald, and sapphire will react completely differently to cleaning solutions than organic gemstones like pearl, coral, or amber.
If you are uncertain about what kind of gem a piece of jewelry is, always make sure to consult a professional. You may love your partner, but don’t trust them to remember what’s actually in that jewelry they gave you for Valentine’s Day.
Dish Soap and Warm Water
Yes, that bottle of Dawn really can do all of this. Add a teaspoon of soap to a dish of warm water, and let your gemstone sit in the mixture for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a polishing cloth.
Like with gold and silver, a soft scrubbing can do wonders when combined with the soap/water mixture. The hard gems should be more resilient to pressure, but it’s always best to start gently and increase strength as needed.
Dish Soap with Seltzer
Make sure it’s just plain seltzer. Anything with added sugars or ingredients is only going to add a new layer of grime to your gem. The carbonation in plain seltzer will help to loosen any dirt or fine debris encrusted in your stone.
You can let your jewelry sit in the soap/seltzer mix just as you would with a water mix but stirring it around occasionally will cause more of that carbonation to work its way into every spot. Make sure to rinse extra well before drying.
An ultrasonic cleaner transmits high-frequency sound waves through water to strip grime off jewelry. The waves agitate the water and cause it to cavitate around the surfaces of the gem. Cavitation is just a fancy way of saying that microscopic bubbles form around the jewelry and then pop, causing whatever grime is attached to dislodge.
There are plenty of expensive ultrasonic cleaners on the market, but the Magnasonic Professional Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner is far and away the best bang for your buck, and all anyone should ever need outside of a professional cleaning business.
Magnasonic Professional Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner
A quality steam cleaner will run a little deeper in your pockets than an ultrasonic cleaner, but depending on how much jewelry you have, it could be well worth the cost. In terms of time and efficiency, it’s easily the best option.
The best thing about a jewelry steam cleaner is that it can easily reinstate that glimmer to your gemstone when grime isn’t necessarily the culprit. Sometimes a quick polish is all that’s really needed, and steam can be all you need.
There are a lot of jewelry steam cleaners on the market in various sizes and prices, but we’ve found the Steamfast SF-1000 JULE Steam Jewelry Cleaner to be the most affordable, quality steamer out there. Do keep in mind that as long as you’re careful, a quick rotation in the steam from your whistling tea kettle can do the same job.
Steamfast SF-1000 JULE Steam Jewelry Cleaner
4. HOW TO CLEAN PEARLS AND ORGANIC GEMSTONES
How? VERY carefully. Organic gemstones are gems formed from biological processes, such as pearls, coral, or amber. A gentle wipe-down with a soft, damp cloth is all that is recommended for most of these, but since nobody can be the belle of the ball without glimmering pearls, there are a couple more options to keep them pristine.
It doesn’t matter whether your pearls are natural or cultured, they require the same level of delicate care. Since they are a porous material, they can easily lose their luster over time and can also be critically damaged with inappropriate care.
Pearl Care Kit
Comprised of moist wipes and a pearl polishing cloth, the biggest takeaway from one of these kits is the reinforcement that less is more. Not only will most chemicals irreparably damage pearls, but even hot water could also cause a pearl’s outer layer of nacre to decay. Sometimes it’s handy to have a package to remind you to not go too far.
Town Talk Pearl Care Kit
Dish Soap and Warm Water
The tried and true arises once again. In contrast with cleaning other jewels, warm water is essential with pearls. Any extreme of too hot or too cold could damage the porous layering of the material.
Add a few drops of dish soap to a bowl of warm water, and then use a soft cloth to dip into the mix and gently apply to the pearls. AVOID SOAKING AT ALL COSTS. Increased time in full saturation can cause damage to the nacre of the pearl, and if cleaning a string of pearls, soaking could cause the string itself to weaken.
Use another damp cloth to wipe any residue from the soap off, and then let the pearls air dry on a soft towel. The least amount of contact that can be made with the pearls, the better.
Warm Water and Mild Cleaning Agent
Moderation is key, but there are some household cleaners that can be used to clean pearls. A mild laundry detergent, gentle dishwashing liquid, or even mild shampoo can be added in a minute ratio to create a safe pearl cleaning mix. Add a teaspoon of the liquid soap to a liter of warm water, and then use either a soft makeup brush or a sponged paintbrush to apply a thin coating to the pearls.
Rinse with a damp cloth and let air dry.
Avoid clutching one’s pearls out of dramatic offense and they can last for generations.
5. HOW TO CLEAN COSTUME JEWELRY
Just because jewelry may not be “real” doesn’t mean it can’t hold value. What a person treasures is theirs to decide alone, and sentimental value has no relationship to the quality of the material.
There are varying degrees of craftsmanship with costume jewelry, but it’s common for gems to be glued together rather than set in a metallic casing. This leaves soaking out of the question, and also means that pieces should be dried as quickly and thoroughly as possible after cleaning. Any extra moisture could weaken bonds.
Before involving any liquids or other substances in your costume jewelry cleaning, try wiping it down with a soft microfiber cloth first. Even a cotton swab could be all that’s needed to wipe off any surface abrasions.
Dish Soap and Water
Dunk a soft towel into the soapy mix and immediately ring out after. You want the amount of liquid being applied to be as minimal as possible. You’re looking to gently apply moisture onto the jewelry, not a thick wash and scrub.
A small dab on your fingertip can go a long way. A simple, white, baking-soda-based paste works best and can be applied with simply your finger. For more serious bouts of grime, a soft-bristled brush can be used, but only with the deepest concern for a delicate touch.
6. HOW TO CARE FOR AND PROPERLY STORE JEWELRY
The first and most important line of defense in keeping your jewelry clean is to make sure it’s properly stored and cared for. I know that sometimes at the end of the night, gently putting away your earrings is the last thing on your mind. But it’s the small acts of care that can make the difference between a broken heart and a lifetime of enjoyment.
Have specific places for all your jewelry.
- A drawer with individual storage cubbies
- A full armoire for a huge collection
- A jewelry tree for large earrings and necklaces
- Individual cloth pouches for more valuable pieces
- Put away all jewelry immediately after use.
- Frequently dust any exposed pieces of jewelry to avoid any buildup of dirt and grime.
- Inspect pieces of jewelry both prior to and after wearing for any damage, no matter how minute, that could have been incurred while being worn.
- Inspect the integrity of set stones. Try to catch any loose fixtures before they become too loose and cause gems and stones to fall out.
- Avoid excessive cleanings with products and/or watery mixes. A bi-monthly inspection and cleaning are ideal. A daily cleaning could use rapid and severe damage.
- Store silver items in tarnish-resistant bags.
7. WHEN TO HIRE A PROFESSIONAL TO CLEAN YOUR JEWELRY
Despite all the tips and insights we’ve listed above, sometimes it’s best to leave it in the hands of a professional. Most quality jewelers will offer cleaning services for reasonable prices, and if you’re returning to the point of purchase, they’re likely to do it for free. Here are the times when you need to go to a pro:
- A loose, wiggly stone or a stone has completely fallen out.
- Surface scratches too deep to be polished away by your own means.
- A broken clasp or chain.
- A deep tarnish that can’t be cleaned by any home methods.
- When a piece of jewelry needs to be resized.
- Any moments of uncertainty in your own abilities.
Disclaimer: this article contains 0 sponsorship. All opinions are based on the author's experience.