The best way to clean your jewellery is always to take it to an independent jeweller who has the equipment to really make it sparkle! However, if you need to give your jewellery a quick shine-up at home, here’s what to do and what to avoid.
The best way to clean jewellery at home
Make up a solution of warm water and a few drops of detergent. Soak your jewellery in that solution for around fifteen minutes. Then, gently scrub your jewellery with a baby toothbrush (these are softer than even regular soft toothbrushes, and small enough to get into little corners). Wipe dry with a soft lint-free cloth. Other items that may be helpful for cleaning include cotton buds and cotton balls (but watch that you don’t catch them in claw settings as they can leave fluff behind!).
Specialist silver cloths, polishes and dips are available for silver jewellery and other silver items, but these must be used with care. They are not suitable for silver plated items, precious or semi precious stones, or other metals apart from sterling or fine silver. If you are using one of these products, read the instructions carefully and follow them. If you are in any way unsure of the suitability of the product you have for the item in front of you, consult with a jeweller. They will be able to advise you.
Things to avoid when cleaning jewellery
The internet is awash with things to clean your jewellery with, both basic and a bit out-there (ketchup, anyone?). Most of these are not suitable for various reasons.
Acidic solutions of vinegar or witch hazel or the like can damage softer or porous stones, and wear away at plated metals. These should be avoided.
Baking soda is both alkaline and scratchy, making it doubly inappropriate for cleaning jewellery.
Salt or sugar rubs are sometimes recommended - we advise against these because they can be abrasive and leave scratches, and sugar can leave an unwanted residue.
Another tip that often circulates is to use an old toothbrush to clean jewellery. We recommend a dedicated jewellery toothbrush, a baby toothbrush is ideal, or the softest one you can buy. Old toothbrushes can be too firm, and they can contain toothpaste residue, which is abrasive and can scratch jewellery.
Toothpaste is sometimes recommended for cleaning jewellery. We advise against this as it is far too abrasive, and is very likely to scratch your jewellery.
Another tip that sometimes floats around the internet is to use chlorine bleach solutions to ‘whiten’ silver. This can be far too strong for sterling or fine silver, and may wear away plated silver.
Anything labelled a ‘life-hack’ that seems a bit out there, like using ketchup, beer, or Windex to clean your jewellery, should be avoided. These weird and wonderful methods may have some good ideas behind them, but often they can do more harm than good.
How does your jeweller clean your jewellery?
The ‘trade secret’ to cleaning your jewellery is a mix of things, but the most popular tool a jeweller uses to clean your jewellery is the ultrasonic cleaner. These machines are filled with a special solution and vibrate at high frequency, shaking the dirt and gunk loose. Other tools that can be used are steam cleaners and polishing wheels. Between these tools and your jeweller’s knowledge of stones and their properties, cleaning can be carried out very safely and effectively.
How should you care for your jewellery to lessen the need for cleaning?
There are a few things you can do to lessen the need for cleaning your jewellery.
- Apply all creams, lotions, and perfumes before putting your jewellery on, so they don’t clog up your rings or damage soft and porous stones.
- Don’t shower with your jewellery on, as soaps and shower gels can both damage and leave deposits on your jewellery.
- When you put your jewellery away, put it in its original box or in a soft compartment in your jewellery box. If your jewellery goes in a jewellery box, make sure each item has its own space.
- Give your silver jewellery a wipe over with a soft lint-free cloth before storing it, and wear it often.
- Never do chores with your jewellery on, particularly gardening and dishes. These two activities both leave a lot of dirt on your rings! Other chores can run the risk of knocking and damaging your jewellery.
- If you have a job that involves a lot of working with your hands, consider removing your rings for work. This will minimise both damage and dirt.
- If you don't want to take your rings off, you could consider wearing gloves while completing tasks that could get your rings dirty.