How to Clean Jewelry: 4 Methods to Try at Home

Skip the tarnish and get your gold and silver sparkling like new with 4 practical jewelry-cleaning methods.

how to clean jewelry

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It’s easy to forget when you’re drooling over a glittering gold ring that you’ll need to know how to clean jewelry to keep it shining. Jewelry doesn’t typically take too much upkeep, but that doesn’t mean it can be set aside and forgotten.

Regular cleaning removes body oils, smudges, and dirt, but it also provides a heads-up to a loose setting and other structural issues. Our guide includes four methods for different types of jewelry—silver, gold, gemstones, and pearls.

Related: The Best Jewelry Organizers and Stands for Your Collection

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

Examine the jewelry to determine the type of metal and stones in the jewelry. Silver and gold, for example, require different cleaning solutions. Baubles with delicate gemstones or materials like pearls, emeralds, shells, cameos, and opals need extra care and caution because they easily scratch or crack.

Cleaning frequency matters, too. Most fine jewelry only needs cleaning every other month or so. Too much cleaning can ruin finishes or weaken settings. Too little, and it won’t maintain its appearance over time.

how to clean jewelry

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How to Clean Silver Jewelry

You can prevent tarnish by storing silver jewelry in felt away from jewelry made of other metals. Felt can help prevent tarnish and moisture build-up. When it is time to clean, follow these steps.

Supplies

  • Tinfoil
  • Pan
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Boiling water
  • Lint-free cloth

STEP 1: Line a pan with tinfoil, shiny side up. 

Line a pan with tinfoil with the shiny side facing up. Choose a pan that’s on the small side because you’ll fill it with water in a later step. (A smaller pan requires less water to cover the jewelry.)

STEP 2: Place jewelry on the tinfoil.

Make sure silver touches the tinfoil.

STEP 3: Sprinkle baking soda and salt on the jewelry. 

Sprinkle baking soda and salt on top of the jewelry. You’ll need 1 tablespoon of each for every 1 cup of water that you pour into the pan.

STEP 4: Pour boiling water into the pan.

Pour boiling water into the pan, covering the jewelry. The baking soda and salt will dissolve in the water, creating a solution that removes tarnish.

STEP 5: Let the jewelry soak in the solution. 

The tarnish will disappear as the jewelry soaks in the solution. Once it’s gone, take the jewelry out and pat it dry with a lint-free cloth.

Tip: You can use a good jewelry cleaner or silver jewelry cleaner, but check the ingredients. Avoid solutions that contain ammonia or other harsh chemicals that could damage sensitive metals and gemstones in the silver. Silver polish is another option and can also leave behind a protective layer to slow the development of future tarnish.

Related: The Best Home Safes of 2021

how to clean jewelry

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How to Clean Gold Jewelry

Gold jewelry can lose its luster from contact with body oils, lotions, and makeup. It doesn’t tarnish as quickly or easily as silver. However, if gold jewelry is worn often, it may need cleaning once a month. Avoid wearing gold jewelry in chlorinated water and take it off when it could get exposed to sulfur compounds or acids.

Supplies

  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Warm water
  • Soft cotton cloth
  • Bowl (large enough to hold the jewelry
  • Soft-bristled toothbrush or brush

STEP 1: Mix the cleaning solution. 

Fill the bowl with enough warm water to completely cover the jewelry. Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid. (You may only need a couple of drops if the bowl is small.) Mix the water and soap together.

STEP 2: Add the jewelry, and soak. 

Gently place the jewelry in the solution and let it soak for at least 20 minutes. For the best results (and to prevent scratching), only soak one piece of jewelry at a time.

STEP 3: Gently scrub, if needed. 

Carved or highly embellished jewelry might need extra help to return its shine. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush or brush to gently scrub inside any hard-to-reach, recessed areas.

STEP 4: Rinse with water and dry.

Remove the jewelry from the solution, rinse it with water, and dry it with a soft, cotton cloth. Use the cloth to buff the gold as it dries. Do NOT use a paper towel. Paper towels can scratch gold jewelry, especially high karat gold.

If the jewelry is still dull, take it to a professional cleaner. Do not use baking soda (it can scratch), toothpaste (it can scratch too), or commercial jewelry cleaners because they can damage gold.

how to clean jewelry

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How to Clean Gemstone Jewelry

Know the gemstone before beginning. Various gemstones respond differently to exposure based on their unique properties, even those gemstones known for their hardness.

Supplies

  • Small bowl
  • Warm water
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Soft-bristled toothbrush or brush
  • Lint-free cloth

STEP 1: Mix the cleaning solution.

Fill a small bowl with warm water, and add a drop or two of dishwashing liquid. Mix the solution. You also can use a commercial solution. However, any solution that contains ammonia or chemicals has the potential to damage sensitive gems.

STEP 2: Let the jewelry soak. 

Place the jewelry in the solution, and let it soak for a few minutes.

STEP 3: Gently brush in any recessed areas.

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush or brush to reach into any recessed areas. Be patient and gentle. After you’re done brushing, put the jewelry back in the solution.

STEP 4: Rinse and dry. 

Rinse the jewelry in tap water that’s approximately the same temperature as the warm water used in the cleaning solution. Drastic temperature changes can cause cracks. Use a lint-free cloth to pat the jewelry dry.

Related: The Best Floor Safe for Keeping Your Valuables Secure

how to clean jewelry

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How to Clean Pearl Jewelry

Pearls are sensitive, natural stones that scratch easily. The visible part of the pearl is a natural nacre that’s applied in layers by the creature that made it. Improper care or cleaning can leave chips and gaps in the pearl’s surface.

Supplies

  • Bowl
  • Warm water
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Two clean cloths

STEP 1: Mix the cleaning solution. 

Mix warm water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid in a bowl that’s large enough to hold the pearl jewelry. The water should not be too warm or cold. Extreme temperatures can damage the pearl’s surface.

STEP 2: Dampen a cloth and gently wipe the pearls. 

Dip a small area of a clean cloth into the solution, and use it to gently wipe the pearls. You can submerge a pearl ring but not a necklace. Submerging a pearl necklace can weaken the thread.

STEP 3: Wipe and dab the pearls with a clean cloth. 

Using a dry, clean cloth, wipe and dab away any remaining soapy water.

Tip: Store pearl jewelry separately from other types of jewelry to prevent scratches.

how to clean jewelry

Photo: istockphoto.com

Final Thoughts

These gentle cleaning methods can safely remove oils, dirt, and other substances that naturally find their way onto jewelry. Make sure you know what kind of metals and gemstones you’re working with to find the best way to clean jewelry. The right method and cleaners will ensure that the jewelry doesn’t get damaged during the cleaning process. When you’re done, your clean jewelry will gleam, shine, and last for years to come.