How to Safely Clean Your Jewelry at Home
Updated: Jul 23, 2020
(This article has been updated on 3/31/2020 to offer relevant information during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Today, more than ever, googling at-home "life hacks" can lead you down a rabbit hole of information that may or may not be good advice. And this holds true for cleaning your jewelry as well. In these uncertain times, everyone has their own "hacks" on how to keep things clean and sanitized but it turns out, some of the most widely recommended at-home cleaners can actually wreak havoc on your precious heirlooms.
Remember, new jewelry is expensive, and old jewelry is often one-of-a-kind, so while we also like to save money, consider the value of your great-grandmother’s brooch before you dunk it in that bowl of ketchup or try to steam it with your home coffeepot.
Not only can some of these “life hack” tactics ruin your jewelry, they can cause you serious harm in the process.
The good news is nearly all jewelers will clean your jewelry free of charge, just for stopping by. We certainly do! So, if you have time to plan ahead, let a pro do the work for you.
However, stay-at-home orders are upon us, and we know you won’t be able to swing by a jeweler before you wear your special item. Don’t worry. There are at home solutions that work.
Here’s our two cents on how to safely and effectively clean your jewelry at home:
Two cents are actually more than you need to spend to safely clean your jewelry at home. That’s because we give out jewelry cleaning solution and polishing clothes for free, so there is really no reason not to use products specially designed for cleaning jewelry. While we know you can't stop by to take advantage of these items, we can ship them to you as soon as our stores re-open! Just contact us to request these items and we will get them in the mail asap.
A formulation that is especially made for jewelry will be gentle enough to use on plated metals and soft stones, and this is really important because all too often, people don’t know the exact makeup of their pieces, especially if the piece is heirloom.
For anyone who isn’t an expert, distinguishing between a garnet and a ruby can be near impossible, and yet, every stone has its own properties and durability.
Some can scratch easily, losing their luster, while others can actually begin to disintegrate in harsh chemicals. Plated metal can’t always handle as much scrubbing as solid metals.
There are a ton of variables, and only a cleaner designed to be used on jewelry will be gentle enough to safely handle all of them. For this reason, we really can’t in good conscious recommend anything but jewelry cleaner for at home cleaning.
A touch of dish soap and warm water is one of the Internet's most widely recommended jewelry cleaning options, and while that formulation might be okay for your engagement ring, if that water is even a little too warm, it can actually damage your pearls, and that is not a risk worth taking.
So, when it comes to cleaning your jewelry at home, perhaps it’s easier to talk about what not to do…
Put away the ketchup, vinegar and ammonia. These will all be too harsh for soft stones or plated metals. They can permanently dull luster and shine, and equally as gross… once ketchup is in small crevasses, it will congeal, turn brown, and sour on the ring. Eeeeeeuw.
Don’t use an old toothbrush. The bristles will certainly contain trace amounts of old toothpaste, and toothpaste is designed to polish away stains from the veneer on your teeth. In other words, it’s abrasive, and can definitely put scratches into your gold, silver and softer stones. Furthermore, bristles not specifically designed for cleaning jewelry can actually be too rigid, loosening stones in their mountings.
For the same reason, avoid baking powder. Mild abrasives aren’t okay for jewelry. Instead, consider investing in an ultrasonic cleaner. These can be pricey, but they vibrate ever-so-gently so there’s no need to scrub. Instead, this vibration actually loosens residue and debris that has built up between stones, beneath stones, and under the crown of your ring. They are truly great for at home cleaning.
Don’t try to steam jewelry on your own. There are life hacks that recommend using your coffee pot or espresso steam wand to clean your jewelry. Don’t do this. If you use a coffeepot, you will likely burn yourself and force tiny particulates of gritty coffee beans up into your ring. These grits can damage the ring and compromise the mountings, especially around smaller side stones. If you use an espresso wand, you will very likely put trace amounts of milk onto your jewelry. Milk will leave a film on your jewelry, and if there is any buildup in the steam wand, it can actually shoot out with enough force to damage your ring.