You put on hand lotion and forgot to take off your rings. Your sparkly earrings have lost their luster. You’re getting ready for a big night out and want to make sure your necklace is polished to perfection. Just like you wash your clothes, you want to freshen up your jewelry once in a while.
Many jewelers include special cleansers with the purchase of a new bauble, but if you’ve run out or misplaced it, you don’t have to take a frantic trip to the jewelry store for more. There are plenty of everyday household items that you can use to clean your jewelry in a pinch.
Lemons are acidic, and that acid can remove the buildup of tarnish on your silver jewelry. This is especially good for sterling silver, which can become dull and gray over time due to oxygen exposure. If you have time, mix a tablespoon of lemon juice with one and a half cups of water, and let your silver jewelry soak overnight. If you’re in a rush, pour the lemon juice over your jewelry and gently polish with a soft cotton cloth. Don’t have any lemon juice? Lemon-lime soda will work, too – just drop your jewelry in and let it sit for an hour. Rinse, wipe down, and wear! Lemon juice works well for sterling silver, but do not use it on your white gold, gold, or pearl pieces, as it can damage them.
Mild dishwashing soap is safe for silver or gold jewelry (but not pearls!). Fill a bowl with warm water and add a few drops of mild soap, like Dawn. Drop in your jewelry and let it soak for fifteen minutes. Then, gently scrub with a soft-bristled toothbrush to get the dirt out of all the little nooks and crannies. Use a Q-tip to clean around the prongs of a ring, so you don’t loosen the setting. Rinse and let your jewelry air dry.
“But what about my pearls?” you may be wondering. Pearls are very soft and sensitive. They can even absorb the oil from your skin. Don’t use any detergents, powders, toothbrushes, abrasives, or ammonia cleaners to shine your pearls. All you need to do is gently wipe them with a dry, soft cloth after you wear them. Add a drop of olive oil to the cloth, and they will stay lustrous and shiny for months.
The next time you see jewelry cleaner at the store, take a look at the list of ingredients. Ammonia is often one of the primary components, and can thoroughly clean your diamonds and yellow gold jewelry when used properly. Simply create a mix of six parts water to one part ammonia, and drop your gold jewelry or diamonds in. Let them soak for no more than 15 minutes, rinse with water, and then air dry. Don’t use this method on your white gold, though; some white gold gets its color from a rhodium plating, which will be eroded by the ammonia over time.
A quick vinegar bath can clean your gold jewelry, as well. Place your gold jewelry in a container so that none of it is overlapping, and pour in white distilled vinegar until all parts are covered. Soak for fifteen minutes, rinse, and air dry. If you want to clean silver jewelry, do the same thing, but add in a bit of baking soda as well. Silver jewelry can soak a little longer: up to two or three hours.
A Moist Cloth
When in doubt, use a moist cloth. Some jewelry items, particularly those with soft, porous gemstones like pearls, turquoise, coral, and amber, should never be soaked. Just wipe them off with a moist or dry cloth. Your cloth should be soft and gentle; cotton works well, and so does chamois. If you want to moisten it, use warm water and let the jewelry air dry.
The Internet is full of at-home DIY methods for cleaning your jewelry, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Although several websites recommend certain abrasives like toothpaste, you should stay away from anything that might scratch your precious metal or gemstones. Plus, who wants to have toothpaste stuck underneath the prongs of their engagement ring?
If you’re not sure about a cleaning method, don’t risk it. Call your local jeweler and ask! Many jewelry stores will clean your items for free. Your jewelry means a lot to you, so you want it looking shiny and brand new. These techniques will make your jewelry dazzle – without the damage.