How to clean jewelry: Tips for keeping your glitter glossy

Are there little dark spots on your bling? Is that beautifully shimmering shine long gone? Well, don't fear, we're here to help you clean and polish your jewelry - whether it's cheap and cheerful or insanely expensive. Here's how to clean jewelry of all different types.

You should be very careful when cleaning valuable jewelry.
You should be very careful when cleaning valuable jewelry.  © 123RF / Kaspars Grinvalds

Jewelers aren't the only people who can clean your jewelry, so there's no real reason to spend hundreds on a professional cleaner just to make your accessories shine again.

It ain't witchcraft, jewelers ain't wizards, and there are tons of different ways to clean jewelry simply by using household goods and items.

No one wants their jewelry to lose its luster. After all, who loves to see a tarnished silver chain, a diamond that no longer shines, or a gold ring that has become dull and boring?

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Indeed, soiled jewelry can look unsightly, but it's unnecessary – considering that cleaning jewelry takes little-to-no effort.

How do you clean jewelry? In this guide, we take you through bringing the gloss back to jewelry of all different shapes, sizes, types, and prices. Let's dive in.

Don't have much time? Here's a quick TL:DR:

  • When cleaning jewelry, only use mild soapsuds or pure water. Don't use harsh cleaners or detergents.
  • Use aluminum foil to make tarnished silver shine again.
  • Never use soap to wash pearl jewelry.
  • Different types of jewelry need to be cleaned differently.
  • Keep cleaning regularly and practice good jewelry care to keep its lifetime lengthy.
There are a variety of great home remedies to help clean jewelry.
There are a variety of great home remedies to help clean jewelry.  © 123rf / Kwangmoo

Best way to clean jewelry

There are a variety of different ways to clean jewelry, and they are dependent somewhat on the type of bling you're cleaning, whether you want to pay for its treatment, and if you're looking to polish it as well.

In the end, there are three main ways to get your jewelry cleaned:

  • Have it cleaned by the jeweler
  • Use a special ultrasonic device
  • Use home remedies to clean your jewelry

The first commandment of all jewelry cleaning is, of course, "proceed with caution". If you clean jewelry in the wrong way, you can cause a lot of damage, potentially ruining a somewhat expensive item. Even jewelers struggle sometimes, especially with pieces like knotted pearl or coral necklaces, so be very careful if you decide to go ahead with a home remedy.

In the end, the most important tips are to use only mild cleaning agents, change your strategy based on the type of jewelry, and always be very careful. When in doubt, take it to the jeweler.

Best jewelry cleaner - What can I use to clean jewelry?

You need to be very careful about what you use to clean jewelry. Don't use any seriously invasive or acidic chemicals like bleach, and instead, opt for cleaning agents that are mild and won't damage the surface of the jewelry.

Only use mild cleaning agents, such as:

  • Mild dishwashing detergent
  • Mild or pH-neutral liquid soap
  • Shampoo for babies

Pick up the right ingredients for the right type of jewelry, and make sure that you have good, clean polishing rags.

How to clean jewelry at home

You need to be careful when cleaning jewelry at home, as you can cause a lot of damage by using the wrong method for a particular type of jewelry. Make sure to reach out to a professional for more specific advice if you are unsure, and be especially careful with expensive pieces, as you don't want to ruin them.

Water is the single most important ingredient to use when cleaning jewelry, with other ingredients including:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Salt
  • Baking soda
  • Mild soap
  • Detergent
  • Lint-free polishing cloth

Remember that certain jewelry will be scratched by certain cleaning agents. For example, never clean gold or silver with baking soda or flour.

This aluminum foil trick will help to clean jewelry, but it's not a magic cure.
This aluminum foil trick will help to clean jewelry, but it's not a magic cure.  © 123RF / Vejaa

How to clean silver jewelry

The first thing you need to do when looking to clean silver jewelry is to buy the right items. Most important among these is a silver cleaning cloth, which will allow you to polish the silver when used in gentle, circular movements.

Alternatively, a lightly soapy solution will help to remove dirt from the silver. Mix together a small amount of mild soap with warm water, wash the silver in this solution, and then polish until shiny with that fantastic lint-free silver polishing cloth we just mentioned.

Here is a great method for cleaning silver jewelry:

  • Step 1: After mixing the mild soap with the water, place your silver jewelry in it for a number of minutes.

  • Step 2: Moisten the silver polishing cloth.

  • Step 3: Rub the jewelry with the cloth in gentle, circular motions.

You can proceed the same way when cleaning satin silver, but you should add a small amount of sodium bicarbonate to the cloth before rubbing. Once you have cleaned the silver jewelry and it is free of dirt, rinse it with water and dry it with a soft cloth.

Here are a few more tips to clean tarnished silver:

  • Step 1: Wrap your silver jewelry in aluminum foil and place it in a bowl.

  • Step 2: Pour boiling water over the package.

  • Step 3: Add one-to-two tablespoons of salt.

  • Step 4: Leave the packet to infuse for a few minutes.

  • Step 5: Carefully lift out and unwrap, without burning yourself.

  • Step 6: Rinse off the salt residue under running water

The aluminum foil method can be very effective at cleaning tarnished silver, or silver jewelry in general, but don't expect any miracles. If you are unsuccessful, take the piece to a jeweler.

How to clean gold jewelry

Feel free to use a soapy solution when cleaning gold jewelry, but always make sure to only use mild dishwashing detergent and lukewarm water. You must make sure that the water is not too hot and that the detergent is not too strong, as it could destroy your jewelry.

Place the jewelry in the warm soapy water and allow it to soak. After soaking for a little while, rinse it in cool water and then dry and polish it with a lint-free cloth. Repeat this process until the desired result is achieved.

Warning: Using toothpaste and a toothbrush to clean your gold jewelry is not as good an idea as many people think. The grains of the paste and the little fibers of the toothbrush could scratch the gold. Denture cleaners can also damage gold jewelry.

Use lightly soapy water to help get stains out of jewelry.
Use lightly soapy water to help get stains out of jewelry.  © 123rf / Kwangmoo

How do you clean tarnished jewelry?

When a piece of jewelry begins to wear down, becoming a little bit discolored and dull, it is considered tarnished. This is a natural process for jewelry, but also one that can be reversed using the right cleaning methods.

A couple of options for cleaning tarnished jewelry include:

  • White vinegar and water: Mix together equal parts vinegar and water, and place the tarnished jewelry into the mixture. Scrub the piece with a soft toothbrush and then soak for a few hours. Rinse in water, dry, and then polish with a lint-free cloth.
  • Use the aluminum foil method: Use the aluminum foil method described above to clean tarnished jewelry.
  • Soak in mild, soapy water: Use the mild soapy water method described above to clean tarnished jewelry.
  • Lemon juice does the trick: Combine equal parts water and lemon juice in a bowl. Soak your tarnished jewelry in the bowl for 10-15 minutes before rinsing and polishing.
  • Shampoo: Mix together a small amount of baby shampoo with water and then rub it directly onto the jewelry. Again, rinse and polish.

Tarnishing is a normal process for jewelry, but can be a serious shame when it degrades the look of your favorite necklace or ring. Hopefully these methods will help reduce the problem!

How to clean stainless steel jewelry

Stainless steel jewelry is best cleaned with a microfiber cloth and small amounts of very mild soap. Rinse off any dirt that may be on the surface, before simply rubbing with a little bit of this magical ingredient. Wash off this soap and allow to dry before polishing with the cloth.

Make sure that you use a cotton cloth when polishing, but don't press too firmly onto the surface of the jewelry to avoid scratching it.

How to clean pearl jewelry

You need to be seriously careful with pearl jewelry, as these little stones are extremely sensitive to soap and chemicals. As a result, no soap or other cleaning agents should be used on pearls, as they can destroy the shine and luster of these beautiful little balls and ruin your necklace.

Use lightly warm water to wash off any grit or dirt. After this, use a soft lint-resistent cloth to carefully shine and polish the pearls and return them to their previous beauty.

You need to be very careful when cleaning real pearls.
You need to be very careful when cleaning real pearls.  © Unsplash / Tiffany Anthony

How to clean fake jewelry for costumes and kids

When you're dressing up for a Halloween haunt, or perhaps getting your kid something special, you're not going to want to buy expensive jewelry. That doesn't, however, mean that your imitation jewelry doesn't need to be cleaned.

It actually needs to be cleaned just as regularly, as the cheaper material will start to wear out much quicker than the real deal.

Here is how to clean fake jewelry, depending on the material:

  • Fabric jewelry: Use a soft brush to get rid of any dirt, and wash in warm, soapy water to get rid of grease.
  • Pure glass jewelry: Use warm water with a drop of mild liquid soap. Wash it thoroughly and then dry and polish with a lint-free rag.
  • Single glass beads or elements: Simply polish with an appropriate cloth.
  • Other materials like plastic and small rocks: Use mild soapy water and a lint-free polishing rag to shine them up.

Make sure to clean your fake jewelry regularly so that it stays looking nice. This sort of jewelry will often degrade much faster than the more expensive stuff, so you need to be especially careful.

How often should you clean your jewelry?

While it of course depends on how often you wear your jewelry, and what kind of bling it is, we would generally suggest cleaning your accessories at least once a month. This especially goes for silver jewelry, which can become tarnished very quickly when not cared for properly.

How regularly you should clean gold jewelry, though, truly depends on the alloy. If it is 333 gold, regular cleaning will be necessary if you wear it frequently. If it is 585 or 750 gold jewelry, though, it will take years for it to lose its luster, and as a result does not need to be cleaned as regularly.

How to take care of jewelry

Along with regular cleaning, it is important to take proper care of your jewelry to avoid its quality and cleanliness degrading over time. If you take the following jewelry care tips to heart, it will stay beautiful, shiny, and clean for far, far longer:

Tip 1: Always make sure to take jewelry off before going to bed.

Tip 2: Never store gold and silver jewelry in damp rooms like the bathroom.

Tip 3: Clean and care for all jewelry regularly.

Tip 4: Store pearl jewelry in soft velvet.

Tip 5: While doing basic household activities like cleaning and washing the dishes, always take off your jewelry.

Tip 6: Try to avoid your jewelry coming into contact with body lotions or sprays

If you take care of your jewelry, you will be more successful in keeping it pristine and gorgeous. Combine that will regular cleaning and that beautiful bling can last you a lifetime!

Cleaning jewelry isn't actually that hard

You should clean your jewelry often, especially if you wear it frequently. If you leave too long between cleaning sessions, you may find that your jewelry will become irreversibly damaged. This is not good, so make sure that you are using suitable agents to clean your jewelry and are doing it regularly.

Make sure to keep your jewelry stored in a safe place that won't introduce it to unnecessary sunlight, moisture, or dust. It's easy to keep your jewelry polished and clean if you simply stay consistent and careful.

Cover photo: 123RF / Kaspars Grinvalds

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