By Amy Hunt
Jewelry is often more than just a pretty accessory—it can define our style, symbolize a precious memory, and showcase our personality. So whether you find your new pieces at your favorite stores, or design your own, it's important to keep these valuable items in good shape by learning how to clean jewelry properly. Without proper care and attention, their shine can wear off over time due to oxidation, dust, and dirt buildup.
Luckily, with simple cleaning tools and methods, you can restore the sparkle to your favorite jewelry with ease. We've broken down the easiest ways for knowing how to clean jewelry, using seven effective techniques. Different types of jewelry require different cleaning methods, so it's important to use the right one for your precious earrings, bracelets, rings, and necklaces. And the best part is that you probably have everything you need for these cleaning techniques to hand around the house already!
How to clean jewelry—7 methods to know
Knowing the best ways to approach the task of how to clean your jewelry depends on what each piece is made of. For example, you can't clean gemstones, which are made of softer materials, the same way that you clean gold, which is a stronger metal.
To ensure you're taking the proper cleaning route for your items, divide your jewelry into separate categories depending on the material it is made from, and follow the method recommended for each type.
How to clean gold or silver
1. Use boiling water to clean hard metals
This is an easy and cheap way to clean jewelry made from hard metals, such as solid gold or silver. When using this method though, you'll want to make sure each piece is separate from the other to prevent them from sticking together. Bear in mind that this method is not safe for jewelry that is plated or contains stones or diamonds—so no engagement rings!
- Place your jewelry pieces into a big, flat-bottomed bowl. Boil some water and gently pour it over them until they are fully covered.
- Let the pieces sit until the water cools down. The heat and the steam will work to loosen any dirt and oils, making them easy to remove afterward.
- Once the water cools to room temperature, remove and gently scrub each piece with a soft-bristled brush. Don't scrub too hard or you risk damaging the item.
- Dry using a clean cloth.
2. Try toothpaste for mild stains
Toothpaste is a mild abrasive and can easily clean grime from silver and gold jewelry. Using a toothbrush with the toothpaste is great, but make sure to rub your pieces gently, so as not to damage them. This cleaning method is effective, but should not be used too often, as the abrasives in some toothpaste may dim the shine of your jewelry.
- Apply toothpaste to your jewelry piece using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Gently scrub the piece with a toothbrush or soft cloth.
- Rinse with warm water and buff the piece with a cloth until it shines.
3. Soak silver in a vinegar solution
There is an endless number of things you can clean with white vinegar, and jewelry is one of them. However, it's worth noting that pure silver is the best item of jewelry to clean using this method, as it is hardier than other pieces. Vinegar should not be used to clean plated jewelry or soft stones, as the acidic nature of it could damage or even corrode them slightly. If you are ever ensure, test a small area of the ring, bracelet or necklace first, before applying the below cleaning method.
- Put your jewelry in a clean bowl and pour over white vinegar until it is completely covered.
- Let the pieces soak for 15 minutes, swishing around after a few minutes to agitate the stains.
- Remove and gently scrub any stain residue with a toothbrush.
- Rinse using plain water and dry with a clean cloth.
Vinegar is also a key ingredient in our guides on to how to clean copper, how to clean grout, how to clean windows and how to clean blood out of carpet to name just a few. So while you've got it to hand, why not clean a few more items in your home?
4. Use a baking soda solution on metallic jewelry
As with vinegar, there really is nothing that baking soda can't do when it comes to cleaning—including restoring the shine to jewelry. This method works best with metallic jewelry, but it can also be used on gold, silver and faux gold items. However, as baking soda is slightly abrasive, it's best to clean your items with it gently—which is why we've suggested letting it soak in baking soda, rather than scrubbing with it.
- Put two tablets or a spoonful of baking soda in a cup of water and let it fizz.
- Add the jewelry to the cup and let sit for a few minutes.
- Rinse with clean, warm water and dry using a clean cloth.
And if you fancy cleaning some more household items with baking soda, there are plenty that it works fabulously on. See our guide to how to clean an iron, how to clean marble, and even how to clean a toilet with the multi-tasking ingredient.
How to clean diamonds and gemstones
5. Mix warm water and dishwashing soap for gems
Good old soap and water are great for removing stains, spots, and grime without damaging your jewelry. This method is best for cleaning mild stains on gems such as diamonds and rubies.
- Mix a few drops of liquid dishwashing solution with a few cups of water in a bowl or a cup.
- Soak the jewelry in the solution for up to 40 minutes.
- Remove the pieces and use a soft brush to remove any stains.
- Rinse each piece, buffing it with a soft cloth to restore the shine.
- Dry the jewelry using a clean cloth.
6. Apply ammonia to diamonds
A lesser-known ingredient in jewelry cleaning, ammonia works well in removing buildup from many pieces. Ammonia is great for cleaning diamonds, as well as gold and silver since this gem can withstand the use of a more abrasive chemical. Use this method very sparingly, however, as although it is effective it can cause damage if used too often. Do not use it to clean more delicate pieces too, such as those with gemstones or coated jewelry.
- Mix a quarter of a cup of ammonia with one cup of water in a jar or bowl.
- Put your jewelry in the bowl and let it sit for around 15 minutes.
- Once the time is up, wear gloves to remove the pieces, then use a soft-bristled toothbrush and scrub them to remove any stuck-on grime. Target the crevices where dirt might hide away and scrub these gently.
- Rinse with clean, warm water.
- Dry thoroughly using a clean, soft cloth.
7. Use vodka on diamonds
Vodka is a natural disinfectant, and so while it might be an unlikely cleaning agent, it actually works well at cleaning many household items. It removes tarnish from hard stones such as diamonds—but avoid using it on jewelry that contains pearls or has gemstones that are held in with glue, as it could degrade the item beyond repair.
- Soak your hard metal pieces in a vodka solution for about 10 minutes.
- Scrub gently with a soft-bristle toothbrush or a lint-free cloth.
- Rinse and air-dry your jewelry.
Final tips on how to clean jewelry safely
With our practical DIY methods, you will be able to learn how to clean jewelry with everyday ingredients from your home. However, there are a few important things to note before you get started cleaning your pieces to avoid damage.
Important things to remember when it comes to cleaning jewelry include:
- Remember to be gentle and don't scrub your pieces too hard as they can become scratched or tarnished.
- Take extra care with gemstones—for stones that are porous and soft, such as turquoise or pearls, stick to wiping with a cloth dipped in a soap and water solution.
- You should also do your cleaning on a large, clear surface so that if you drop it or a stone becomes dislodged, you can find it easily. If you do it over a sink, make sure you plug the drain just in case!
- A multipurpose antibacterial cleaner is an easy way to make your jewelry sparkle, and handily, it'll also disinfect it—a task that is often forgotten when it comes to our rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. This works well for most jewelry items, but if you are at all nervous about using it on some of your more expensive pieces, test out a small area first.
- If in doubt, take precious jewelry (such as expensive diamonds, engagement rings, or family heirlooms) to a professional for cleaning.
Amy Hunt is Life Channel Editor at womanandhome.com, having been with the brand since 2015. She began as the magazine's features assistant before moving over to digital as a News and Features Writer, before becoming Senior Writer, and now a Channel Editor. She has worked on either women's lifestyle websites previously too—including Woman's Weekly, Goodto.com, Woman, and Woman's Own. In 2019, Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards, for her work on womanandhome.com. She is passionate about everything from books, to homes, to food and the latest news on the royal family. When she isn't editing or updating articles on cleaning, homewares, the newest home gadgets, or the latest books releases for the website, she's busy burying her nose in a gripping thriller, practising yoga, or buying new homeware of her own.
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