We get asked all the time: “How should I clean my jewellery at home?” or “What is the best way to clean jewellery?” So we’ve decided to look at a few of the most common “at home methods” and give you our thoughts as jewellers.
So strap on your tinfoil hat, arm yourself with baking soda and empty that toothpaste tube -- it’s time to clean!
1) Cleaning jewellery with baking soda
It seems to be all over the internet -- "cleaning jewelry with baking soda and vinegar is the best homemade cleaner", right? But is baking soda actually good for cleaning jewellery?
Let’s look at this scientifically for a moment -- vinegar is an acidic solution and baking soda is an abrasive base substance. When combined, a chemical reaction takes place, which in effect leaves you with saltwater.
A few key things to note here: acidic solution, abrasive substance, chemical reaction and saltwater -- none of these four phrases work nicely with jewellery. If you place plated jewellery or soft and/or porous stones in this solution, it will not end well.
2) Cleaning jewellery with alcohol
Can you clean jewellery with alcohol? Of course! Open that bottle of scotch you’ve been saving -- it’s time to clean grandma’s jewellery! (We're just joking, please don’t do that!)
So, does alcohol clean jewellery? Yes, you can clean jewellery with alcohol; however, it needs to be a specific type of alcohol.
In a jeweller's workshop, it is common to use methylated spirits to clean diamonds, rubies, or sapphires as it does an excellent job of removing build-up.
If you would like to use this type of alcohol to clean your diamonds, rubies, or sapphires, then you will need the items below:
- Colourless methylated spirits
- A glass container
- A few cotton buds
- A container filled with clean water for rinsing -- warm to the touch, but not hot
- A brand new soft-bristled toothbrush
How to clean jewellery with alcohol:
Step 1 – Pour a reasonable amount of colourless methylated spirits into a small container (a glass jar works well).
Step 2 – Dip the tip of your cotton bud into the methylated spirits and apply to the exposed areas of your diamonds, rubies, or sapphires.
Tip: Remember to replace your cotton bud as soon as it shows signs of being dirty. If you keep using the same one, you will only be moving the dirt around rather than removing it.
Step 3 – Rinse your jewellery in the container filled with clean warm water, using a soft brand new tooth brush to work into areas you weren’t able to access with your cotton buds.
- DO NOT use methylated spirits on any gemstones or white stones other than Rubies, Sapphires, and Diamonds unless you are 100% sure you know how to properly treat them.
- DO NOT rinse your jewellery in the sink! Always do so in a container as stones can come loose during the cleaning process. We have heard a number of horror stories over the years of people losing gemstones and diamonds down the drain! Don’t let it happen to you.
3) Cleaning jewellery with toothpaste
"I brush my teeth twice a day to keep them bright and shiny so cleaning my jewellery with toothpaste will keep it bright and shiny too, won't it?"
We've heard this a few times: “Is it safe to use toothpaste to clean jewellery?” “Can I use toothpaste to clean my diamond ring?” “Surely it’s safe to use toothpaste to clean my jewellery!”
Again, let’s take a scientific approach to this. Toothpaste is an abrasive substance and when you apply it to your teeth with your toothbrush, you are effectively using the abrasive element of toothpaste to scrub the build-up off your teeth.
We're going to get a little technical here: tooth enamel has a Mohs hardness of 5 which is equivalent to steel or titanium. Gold and silver however, have a Mohs hardness of 2.5 which means they won’t respond well to toothpaste as they are too soft.
If you apply toothpaste to gold or silver jewellery, all you will achieve is a lot of scratches and a minty smell to your jewellery. If you apply toothpaste to softer gemstones, you may ruin the gemstone entirely.
4) Cleaning jewellery with vinegar
It makes a great salad dressing but is it really safe to clean jewellery with vinegar?
This one is similar to the baking soda method we reviewed above, except they’ve left out the baking soda this time.
We’ve all seen the videos where the host soaks their silver jewellery in vinegar and moments later, it looks like new. There are two things to keep in mind here:
- If you look closely, you will notice that they never use this method on silver jewellery that contains any type of stone. Why? Because vinegar is an acidic solution and a reasonable amount of precious and semi-precious gemstones won’t react well to sitting in an acidic solution.
- There generally aren’t any clear instructions as to how long you should leave your silver jewellery in the vinegar (aka the acidic solution).
If you are desperate to use this method, please tread cautiously and definitely only use it on sterling silver jewellery without stones of any kind. The acidic solution is basically eating away the tarnish layer so DO NOT forget to keep checking the progress.
Most jewellers (if you’ve purchased the silver piece from them) will happily use their automated equipment to return your non-stone set piece of silver jewellery back to its previous luster at no cost to you.
Just ask your jeweller, we don’t bite and often we enjoy returning your jewellery back to you shiny and clean.
5) Cleaning jewellery with soap
This seems like it’s going to be the most accepted method by our jeweller, let’s see what he says.
Using mild soap for cleaning jewellery is one of the most common home methods and, if done correctly, can assist with keeping your jewellery looking its best.
Can you clean jewellery with hand soap? Absolutely. Below is our recommend method for cleaning jewellery with soap. We advise our clients to do this if they are unable to bring their jewellery in for cleaning on a regular basis.
- Palmolive antibacterial liquid hand wash -- we have been using this product for years to clean jewellery with no negative impact
- A large clean bowl, big enough for you to comfortably submerge your jewellery in and work with a toothbrush
- A smaller clean bowl for rinsing your jewellery
- A brand new soft-bristled toothbrush
- Soft unscented tissues
- A jewellery polishing cloth -- we use and recommend Selvyt which is made in England
How to clean your jewellery with soap:
Step 1 – Place all your items out on your table so that you can work methodically through your jewellery collection.
Step 2 – Place a few squirts of hand wash into your large bowl; fill it as required with warm water. You should be able to comfortably submerge your hands in the water. DO NOT make the water hotter than you are comfortable placing your hands in.
Step 3 – With your brand new soft-bristled toothbrush, lightly scrub your piece of jewellery. It is important that you apply your toothbrush lightly, as vigorous scrubbing can loosen stones in worn settings.
Inspect each piece of jewellery as you finish, ensuring that no stones have come loose while cleaning. If you notice that you have lost a stone, don’t panic! Simply take a moment to search the bottom of your bowl.
Once you’ve located the loose stone, place the stone and the ring it came from into a sealed bag or container. Your jeweller will be able to advise you on how to best repair your ring.
Step 4 – Use your smaller bowl to rinse your clean jewellery and apply a soft tissue to soak up any excess water.
Step 5 – We would suggest that you leave your jewellery outside of your jewellery box to dry thoroughly.
Step 6 – The final step is to apply your polishing cloth to the gold or silver part of your jewellery, once it is completely dry.
Complete the above 6 steps as required and you will have beautifully clean jewellery that will receive constant comments from admirers.
What do professional jewellers use to clean jewellery?
The answer to this question is not as simple as it may seem. Some people believe jewellers exclusively use ultrasonic cleaners to clean, however this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Ultrasonic cleaners can and will damage some gemstones, so the use of ultrasonic cleaners should be left to professional jewellers who are trained in understanding and identifying gemstones and how they react to certain methods of cleaning.
Prior to selecting which methods we utilise to clean your jewellery, we undertake the following inspections:
- Inspecting and identifying the gemstones
- Inspecting all settings for wear
- Inspecting and testing the jewellery to confirm that it is solid gold or silver
Once we have a complete understanding of your piece of jewellery, we then apply the most appropriate method to restore your jewellery back to its original condition.
If you have never had your jewellery professionally cleaned and restored by a jeweller, you will be shocked at the result which can be achieved.
So there we go, 5 ways on how to clean jewellery at home reviewed and explained by one of our jewellers.
We’d love to hear about which methods you’ve used to clean your jewellery and the results you achieved. Maybe you even have the best homemade jewellery cleaner that we are yet to hear about?